By DHRITI MEHTA
The PEAK program started in October 2012 as an attempt to attract bright young minds from across the world and to internationalize the environment of the University of Tokyo. Since its inception, PEAK has fostered intellectual debates and cultivated global thought. It has succeeded in not just being an excellent academic program, but also a close-knit family which continues to grow. Almost five years since the program started, it is time for the second batch of PEAK students to graduate.
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Caption: Decision time for PEAK students
Source: https://pixabay.com/ (modified by author)
This conclusion of the PEAK journey raises the simple yet pertinent question in the minds of current students, faculty and even prospective applicants, What is life after PEAK like? Students from the graduating class of PEAK (Class of 2017) were interviewed to find out more about their destinations after graduation and future plans.
The discoveries were intriguing, especially because of the diverse paths the students plan to take.
While Japan in East Asia (JEA) may sound like a degree course specific only to Japan, the liberal arts structure of the PEAK program gives you the opportunity to design your course in a manner similar to most International Relations courses. Thus making ‘Global Affairs’ a popular field for JEA students.
“Academically, I had such a wide variety of interests before I came to PEAK and that has definitely multiplied, but I was able to decide that what I enjoyed studying the most was really about global networks, the effects of globalization on culture and people and what it means to be truly global,” says Manasa Sitaram, a JEA major. Owing to this interest in globalization studies, Manasa took many classes related to the field during her study-abroad semester in the U.K. all of which eventually helped her in selecting her specialization at the graduate level. Manasa will be pursuing an MA degree in Global Thought at Columbia University starting this fall, and couldn't be more excited to move to New York!
Like Manasa, Sam Brustard (JEA) realizes the importance of the global education he received at PEAK. While he has been admitted to an MSc in the Global Politics program at the London School of Economics and Political Science, he is also exploring options for working at the British Embassy in Tokyo or doing governmental work at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and choosing to defer his LSE offer for a year.
A point on which a lot of graduating students agree is that the freedom to diversify, coupled with the opportunity to specialize, is amongst PEAK's strengths.
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Caption: PEAK: The brainchild of the University of Tokyo
Source: The University of Tokyo
Marina Kondo (JEA) is one such student who realized her passion lies in studying political science in East Asia, which she intends on pursuing further at Yale University starting this fall. She says, “I was never interested in politics until I took a class on Japanese domestic politics during my second year. I have also been able to take classes on Japanese history, culture, language, economics, and sociology. Although the classes may not cover as much material as many American university classes do, it is a great way to explore different subjects and find your passion!”
Erin Kawazu knew from the beginning that she would like to specialize in Environmental Sciences (ES) and although she admits that the PEAK ES program did not give her substantial specialized knowledge in one field, she was able to discover her own area of interest from a wide range of topics she studied during her time here. Erin is heading off to Columbia University to pursue a Master’s in Public Health in Environmental Health Sciences starting this fall, where she hopes to develop more specialized knowledge in the relationship between human health and the environment.
A big misconception most people have when they look at the two majors PEAK offers, Japan in East Asia (JEA) and Environmental Sciences (ES), is that they would be restrict to only these specific areas of study in their future. However, that is far from the truth.
Bipasha Kaur Chatterjee (JEA) has been accepted to a Master’s program in Gender Studies at LSE. While she acknowledges that the structure of PEAK classes left her wanting more, she is thankful for the academic and supportive environment her professors created at the University of Tokyo which helped her follow her dream of studying Gender Studies and contribute to society by attempting to find solutions for gender inequalities.
Similarly, Helen Chang, an ES student, also chose to switch to a completely different area of study and has decided to go to Yale University to study International and Development Economics at the graduate level. Her advice to students is straight-forward,“I encourage people to challenge themselves and get some intern experiences. Interning at a company really makes you realize what you want in life.”
And interning may even get you a job! Or at least it did for Hyeyoon Sung (JEA) who has decided to accept the offer of a full-time employment made by the International IT start-up company she interned at.
Kotoe Kuroda (ES) and Marie Hayashi Strand (ES) are two other PEAK students who decided to take a more conventional path and like most Japanese university graduates underwent the intense Japanese shūkatsu (job hunting process). Their hard-work paid off and both have secured jobs at Japanese development/construction consulting companies in the environmental and international consulting divisions respectively. And although going to graduate school in a few years is on the cards for all three, they are happy to be getting the opportunity to get practical work experience before doing so.
While many of these students have achieved their lifelong dreams after graduating from PEAK, some like Sherry Zheng have carved new dreams to follow. She says, “I’m one of the few people that decided from the beginning of fourth year that I wasn’t going to go to grad school, not for another good three, four, five years. On top of that, I’m one of the even fewer people who has not run the shūkatsu race and secured myself a spot in a company already.”
In fact, Sherry has bigger plans.
Since the end of her second year she became interested in film/video and since her third year she became even more interested in photography. As a result, she is looking to start working in video/photography and will be trained as a multimedia journalism intern in Japan after which she plans to narrow down her options further with the work experience she will gain. Originally from Australia, she is still open to the idea of going home or staying or moving on to another country, as long as there’s something for her to do with a camera!
While interviewing these PEAK senpai (upperclassmen), I was impressed, proud and inspired all at once, when I heard about their future plans. A fairly new program, PEAK has been successful in carving an identity for itself because of the highly-qualified and motivated graduates it produces. As a current first-year student, I have only just begun my journey at PEAK but already feel extremely determined and optimistic after witnessing the amazing feats of the classes which have graduated.
As a final thought from the PEAK Class of 2017, Sam Brustard says, “PEAK gives the students many opportunities to succeed but doesn't really give us a roadmap for how to achieve them, so it's all on you at the end of the day.”
And indeed, while PEAK students may take different paths, it is evident that all of them have reached the final destination of achieving their goals, fulfilling their dreams and reaching their PEAK potential!
Best wishes to the PEAK Class of 2017 from the entire PEAK family.