• VO Phan My Tra

How I am building my thesis – The perspective of a third-year seminar student

Long time no see, FAFA fellows! I’m Myze from Vietnam – a third year APS student majoring in Culture, Society and Media. With a craving for more knowledge to further pursue my studies at a graduation school in Europe, I decided to register for two seminars this semester. One is a main seminar from Professor Kojima titled Comparative Study of Inequality and Globalization in Contemporary Societies and the other is a sub-seminar from Professor Rothman titled Strategic Decision Making Applied and Diplomacy. Although both are seminars meant for APS students, each is from a different major (Culture, Society and Media and International Relations and Peace Studies). What have I learned from taking these seminars for a quarter? Let me explain!

1. Group discussion:

A seminar is vastly different from a regular lecture at APU, especially when it is conducted online. Usually, professors will give a reading as homework each week, and that reading will then be the theme of discussion at the next class. You might also be required to submit a summary of the topic beforehand. In this way, you are ready to actively participate in the discussion as you have already prepared your material. Some professors even ask students to take turns presenting academic articles or their personal research interests.

Since a seminar is made up of only 10 to 20 students, everyone has an equal chance of participating and expressing their ideas. If you are relatively shy about raising your voice in large lecture classes (like me), joining a seminar could be a good chance for you to get familiar with speaking up. Besides, by asking more questions, you can also understand the issue on a more in-depth level.

2. Self-study:

Besides finishing your assignments, you will also need to find your research interests and documents related to your desired research topic. It might sound like a lot of work and feel somewhat overwhelming, but trust me – you are sure to discover a better version of yourself during the process. The more I study, the more holes I find in my knowledge – but I also find intriguing information, and all of it is absolutely valuable for my research. Without a doubt, this self-studying skill will be an asset in many other aspects of my life.

3. Building relationships:

With such a small seminar circle, it is much easier for everyone to get to know each other. Not only will you get more chances to discuss in academic issues, if we were studying in-person, many seminars would also have 'gohan-kai '* for bonding. However, this does not mean online seminars are nonchalant. You still get chances to connect closely with your professor and peers via your computer. For APU-ers who want to continue their studies after graduation (like me!), opening up to your professors is essential since that is the model for graduate schools. Plus, having more friends is never a bad thing, right?

*Usually, universities in Japan will have ‘nomi-kai,’ or social gatherings with drinking. However, since APU is a multicultural culture with many religious beliefs, some of which prohibit the consumption of alcohol, we usually have ‘gohan-kai’ (social gatherings with food) instead.

Joining a seminar can be a challenging yet delightful experience. Aside from the vast amount of knowledge you will acquire, seminars also offer profitable opportunities in many other aspects of your life. If you are still wondering whether to join a seminar or not, I hope this article provided some points for you to take into consideration. One last note: This is a learning journey for you as well as for me, so don't be afraid, and seize your chances!

P.S. I think it is a good idea to also understand the viewpoint of someone who has finished their thesis, so if you are interested, check out this article: https://www.apufafa.com/single-post/2020/06/19/apu-alumni-interview-vol-3-writing-a-successful-thesis-and-making-use-of-opportunities-at

*Some images: Unsplash.com

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