Eugene Junik Song
Home country: USA
The Global Information and Communication Technology and Governance Academic (GIGA) Program
Keen to pursue his interests in technology and internet studies while at the same time experiencing a "vastly different" university life, Eugene Junik Song took the plunge of leaving his home country, the United States, to study abroad in the Global Information and Communication Technology and Governance Academic (GIGA) Program at Keio. As well as pursuing his academic interests in internet policy and management through hands-on research, Eugene plays an active role in the student community, scaling new heights with Keio Alpine Club and taking every opportunity to immerse himself in Japanese language and culture.
How did you find out about the GIGA program and what attracted you to the program?
I first discovered the GIGA program by looking into English-instructed programs offered at various universities in Japan. My father, an alumnus of Keio University (Faculty of Law 1984) initiated my exposure to Keio University in particular. When I researched further and discovered the GIGA program, which included comprehensive coursework directed by some of the most prominent professors in their fields, Keio became a very high priority for me. Although I did not have a specific major in mind at the time, I did know that I wanted to focus on my interests: technology and internet studies. Another contributing factor was my desire to have a vastly different undergraduate experience than what most students traditionally experience in the United States. The prospect of studying in another country altogether and gaining another culture, language, and experience with people was even greater incentive. The GIGA program more than satisfied all the requirements I had for my undergraduate studies.
What area of the program particularly interests you?
I have become increasingly interested in Internet Policy and Management after I took a course which reviewed and studied the development of the internet. After taking this course, I was able to further pursue my interests by joining the professor's "Global Internet Policy" research seminar, known as kenkyūkai, a smaller group of students who share a similar interest in a particular field of study. Our current project is to launch a website to serve as a "virtual research institute" for Keio's Global Internet and Society. The concept behind kenkyūkai at Keio is quite distinct from other universities, allowing me to work with other classmates as well as professors who share the same interests. I have found that this policy allows for a strong support network and more efficient problem solving through the collective of people involved.
What are some of your favorite things about Shonan Fujisawa Campus (SFC)?
I am very pleased with SFC's curriculum and academic quality. It allows me to take any class I have an interest in and gain access to top researchers in that field of study. SFC really emphasizes a motto of "study what interests you" and accordingly allows its students to pursue diverse interests. This creates a freer environment of study which is reflected in the students' eagerness to learn. Conveniently, SFC's campus is located a short distance from Shonandai Station via bus and offers a great environment to spend time with other students.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
One activity that I enjoyed in the United States was rock climbing, however I was unable to go frequently due to limited access. When I found out about Keio Alpine Club, I contacted the team members and immediately joined. Keio Alpine Club is a part of the Keio University Athletic Association and I was able to learn about Keio's sport culture through it. My team members constantly push me to do my best and it has motivated me to become a stronger person, both physically and mentally. Commuting from Shonandai to Hiyoshi three days a week for practice has helped me develop dedication and commitment, while the climbing locations I travel to with my team members on the weekends have shown me how beautiful Japan can be. When I am not climbing, I am also a member of Link Up Records, a "circle" (student group) at SFC that centers around street culture such as music, art, and fashion. Like my climbing team members, the members of Link Up Records have become close friends of mine through our shared passions.
Please tell us about a challenge that you have faced since coming to Keio and how you overcame it.
Unlike other students within Keio's GIGA program, I had relatively little experience in the Japanese language prior to coming to Japan. This was especially difficult for me to overcome due to the fact that this was also the first time living by myself. However, being completely immersed in Japan with no real alternatives to language or culture, I have been able to exponentially increase my language skills. I have made an additional effort to only speak Japanese with my friends, even if they can speak some English themselves. My friends have been very helpful in this manner and even though I am still struggling with the language, I can only get better!
Think back on yourself before coming to Keio. How do you think you have changed as a result of coming to Keio?
Prior to coming to Japan, I had never lived by myself, let alone in another country. The thought of living by myself in another country was daunting to say the least. I was nervous at first but when I actually arrived, I quickly realized that Japan and the Keio community in particular is an extremely welcoming environment. I was able to make many friends quickly who understood that I was not only a new student to Keio but also a new individual to this country. Although I am still discovering new things every day, I believe Keio helped to create the ideal conditions for a foreign student.
What would you like to do after you graduate? What do you think you will take with you from the program and your experiences in Japan and at Keio?
My current plan is to continue my studies and pursue graduate school in the United States after completing my degree at Keio. Of course, this plan is subject to change given potential opportunities in the future. My experience at Keio and in Japan thus far has been so enjoyable that I will never forget it and will take it with me wherever I decide to continue next. Even as a first year student, the friends and connections that I have already made with students from all parts of the world will continue as we are now all bound as Keio University students.
Do you have any advice for students who are considering studying the GIGA program?
My advice is to most certainly go for it! The GIGA program has allowed me to find and pursue my field of study in an environment unlike anywhere else and I wouldn't have wanted to experience it any other way. There is literally a new world to discover here, one that can offer nearly every opportunity as long as you are willing to look for it.
(This interview is from March 2013.)