Minami Yamauchi

UWC attended: United World College of Dilijan (Armenia)
Class Year: Class of 2022

I am a Japanese born and raised in Tochigi, a peaceful residential area near big urban areas, in Japan until the age of 17. I have recognized my identity as a Japanese, and I didn’t have much doubt or dissatisfaction against the life I used to have in Japan; I loved the environment and culture. However, because I also was greatly interested in linguistics and foreign languages including English for a long time, soon I became curious about the world, which has always been seas apart from me. Though it meant that I had to give up the old satisfying environment, I still chose to leave and dive into the unknown possibility across oceans.

Thus, I specifically chose to study in UWC Dilijan in Armenia for the last two years, a place where almost everyone back at home asked me to repeat the country’s name, as it is a totally unfamiliar and faraway place.  

However, the fear of throwing myself into the unknown was no match for the excitement of exploring new things in the world as well as within myself.

UWC Dilijan exceeded all my expectations. The many interesting opportunities in one of the most special and rare environments, where 83 nationalities share one common place to live and learn together, were amazing. While I, as well as every other Japanese student, used to be told to be equal and alike in the community regardless of our interest or talent, UWC Dilijan allowed all of us to be unique and free. I learned so much, from the different religious practices to eating habits of my friends, teachers, and community. Among those, I was especially intrigued by the different educational systems and their aims in a variety of countries and regions in the world, listening to many stories and various backgrounds of how my friends were educated in their home countries. I still remember the moment I realized how strong an impact a country’s social, economic, and political situations have on its educational styles over time, after talking to my friends from Vietnam, Armenia, and Latvia. I stored all of those diverse first-hand experiences as my knowledge deepened my thoughts and plans for my future ambition: to change English language education in Japan and the educational systems themselves on a larger scale. This experience is, and will be forever, one of the most valuable factors that changed my life.            

Going through the unique experiences at Japan and UWC Dilijan, and crystallizing plans for the educational reformation, and what I need to achieve that over two years, I was looking for some place that could give me the experience and the knowledge that I need to meet my future ambitions. Then, I found out that Lewis & Clark has exactly what I want. The broad choice of courses and the supportive and flexible faculties in Lewis & Clark were one of the first things that drew me to the school. Also, for me, location was an important factor when choosing school, as I have lived in Dilijan, a little tiny village in Armenia, which is very small country. After learning many valuable things from the experiences of living in Dilijan, I would like to experience the opposite, and live in a convenient place near a big city to find opportunities, where I can impart the thoughts that I got from the rural lifestyles as well. Portland suits me perfectly; moreover, its distinct “weirdness” was what makes it really special to me. I am ready to contribute to “keep Portland weird”. In addition to this, Oregon is blessed with abundant nature such as lakes, the Pacific Ocean, and waterfalls. As I am very into outdoor activities such as sailing and skiing, this condition was very attractive for me. Lastly, the plentiful opportunities for study abroad programs in L&C were outstandingly fascinating for me. As I learned Spanish ab initio at UWC Dilijan, I am very eager to study in Spanish speaking countries, utilizing the programs to improve my own Spanish and engage with the local community.         

Ultimately, I want to learn Education in the future, probably in a graduate school. However, for the 4 years at Lewis & Clark, I would like to learn Political Science to achieve my future ambition. My final goal is to change the English language education and the general educational systems in Japan. I define Education as “the investment through human resources for the ideal future society”, and I have realized that I have to crystallize the direction that the future society should go first, in order to improve education. Therefore, I would like to first learn more about the international societies from many aspects in Political science to find out the appropriate direction that I believe future society should aim for to improve the Japanese education eventually.

Outside of the classroom, I always love music; it means a lot to me. Beside listening to it, I have played some musical instruments: piano for 14 years and guitar for about 2 years. Music is something I have close to me, as it “translates” my emotion both when I play and when I listen. Whenever I feel emotional, I go to the piano and put all of my feelings into a piece. Beside music, I also play sports. I am especially passionate about kendo and sailing. Kendo, the Japanese martial arts with bamboo swords, has taught me the essential respect and traditional values of martial arts, which shaped the philosophy of my life. In addition to this, sailing has given me many new, interesting experiences. Although I already had been very familiar with other marine activities such as snorkeling, wind-surfing, parasailing, and canoeing in Japan, the very first time I tried sailing was (just recently) in Lake Sevan, Armenia in 2016. It was fascinating to cooperate with people from different aquatic backgrounds as it was not similar to any other marine activity I had done before; this gave me interesting perspectives about diversity within a cooperative activity. Thus, I organized a 5-day Sailing Project Trip to Lake Sevan as the lead organizer for 2 years in Armenia.          

One special thing I have always been passionate about, ever since I can remember, is spicy food. Though traditional Japanese food is originally not spicy at all, I had been trying different spicy foods such as Thai, Indian, or Mexican food in Japan. At UWC Dilijan, I made many friends through spices and even became a champion of the Annual Chili-eating Competition, beating many other participants. This summer, I am excited to travel to South East Asian countries like Thailand to finally explore authentic spicy food by myself.        

My biggest academic interest right now is educational policy, However, my encounter with linguistics also meant a lot to me, specifically psycholinguistics, comparative linguistics, and language acquisition. I spent about 2 years on my own independent research and gave a presentation in the UK on that topic. The knowledge and experiences from this research formed the very basis of my future ambition of changing education in Japan, and the knowledge still helps me to deepen my thoughts for development of language education.   

I love travelling and exploring new things in different cultures. I have travelled to almost every prefecture in Japan, from north to south and from east to west, ever since I was little. That is why it was natural that I started to wish to travel abroad someday. By chance, this came true as I got an opportunity for a summer study program in Australia for 2 weeks, and I experienced uncountable culture-shocks there, which eventually led me to the journey to Armenia. I still remember how each of my travel experiences impacted me; I have travelled around France, Germany, Czech Republic, and Italy during winter break, home-staying with my friends at UWC Dilijan and experiencing distinct, local cultures. Besides, because I came to Armenia for UWC Dilijan, I also got to visit neighboring countries such as Turkey and Georgia, and explore the beautiful cultures of Caucasus; this actually gave me the chance to see Armenia very objectively from its neighbor’s point of view. Moreover, I travelled the UK to make a presentation on my independent research, Indonesia for a family trip, Vietnam to see my best friend, and Thailand to explore spicy food.       

My top aim to accomplish in my life at Lewis & Clark is to gain as much knowledge and as many experiences as possible for me to evaluate the future society I would like to create and elaborate the actual plans to achieve. Not only studying theoretical part but I also would like to organize some classes by myself, engaging with schools in the local community, which helps me to learn practically and experientially beside the class-room theories. I will still be eagerly searching for the better way with many trials and errors to make the ideal education I believe to help the rising generations see the world that nobody has seen yet.