Ritsumeikan Student Ayu Kawashima
Ritsumeikan University student Ayu Kawashima (courtesy photo)

Student Spotlight: Ayu Kawashima

Ayu Kawashima, an undergraduate at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan, envisions starting a Model UN team at her university. After completing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Global Seminar, Kawashima is determined to play a role in shaping the future of Japan by promoting SDGs and working toward a more equal society. 

SDGs were developed by the United Nations to address the world’s biggest challenges. They include 17 initiatives designed to improve health and education, reduce inequality and ensure a sustainable future for all. The SDG Global Seminar is a remote course offered in partnership with UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education International Programs and Ritsumeikan University.

About the SDGs Global Seminar

This remote, four-week custom program was developed by UC Davis International Programs and is currently offered at Ritsumeikan University. Students receive academic credit while enhancing their global competencies and improving their English-language abilities. To learn more about this seminar or how to set up a similar program at your school, contact Nari Fujita at nfujita@ucdavis.edu

“I did not have a clear goal before participating in this seminar and didn’t know much about SDGs. This seminar gave me the opportunity to learn about the importance of achieving SDGs and think about my future goal,” said Kawashima.

Kawashima says that SDGs have been drawing attention in Japan, and there’s been an increase in activities and advertisements dedicated to them. “I didn’t know enough about SDGs or what I could do to help achieve them, so I was fascinated by this program,” she explains. Because of the program, she increased her understanding of SDGs and how important they are for building a more sustainable future, and she learned ways to make a difference. 

A Multicultural Experience

Kawashima also benefited from her interactions with the UC Davis Model UN Team—a key component of the program curriculum. “Sometimes it was difficult for me to express my opinion clearly, but the UC Davis Model UN team listened patiently,” she explains. “I learned that respecting others is essential and plays an important role when it comes to understanding each other, especially when people come from different cultural backgrounds.” 

The opportunity to engage with UC Davis students also helped improve her English proficiency and broaden her awareness of the differences between Japanese and American culture. “This program helped me achieve one of my dreams,” she says. “When I entered Ritsumeikan university, I decided to study abroad, but because of COVID, I did not have the opportunity to study overseas. When I found this program, I was eager to participate.”

Committed to Change

The most valuable thing Kawashima has learned during the seminar is that change isn’t always easy. “Some issues are historical and have been inherited from generation to generation. For example, gender equality is one of Japan’s goals, but Japan has made little progress in achieving it,” she says. “I think change is difficult, but this does not mean change is impossible. If we try to solve problems little by little, achieving all Sustainable Development Goals is possible in the future.”

Since completing the seminar, Kawashima has continued to expand her knowledge of SDGs and seek out ways she can be involved in helping achieve them. “I do not have definite plan, but I would like to join an organization related to SDGs and play a part in realizing the world where everyone can live safely and happily.” 

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