22 August 2019

Finding the right university course using ikigai

Arina Aizal
Malaysian undergraduate student

I remember leaving high school with so many questions - what do I do now? What course do I want to pursue? Is this the right path for me? I was desperately seeking for inspiration from my mentors about finding the right university course. That was when I came across the word ‘ikigai’.

Ikigai is a Japanese word for ‘a reason for being’. The Japanese have used this term to motivate and remind themselves of the reason for waking up in the morning. Using this method has proven to make people productive in their lives. Your ikigai is the spot that overlaps 4 essential aspects of yourself and is personal to you.

There are 4 steps to find your Ikigai.

Step 1: The first question to ask yourself is “What do I love?”

“What are my passion and interests?”

“What makes me happy?”

For me; I love art, travelling, journaling, being inspired and inspiring others, blogging, creating content, connecting with people, psychological thrillers, learning about different cultures, diversity, inclusivity, feminism and the idea of empowering oneself. List all the things that make you feel content.

Step 2: The second question is “What am I good at?”

Here is when you list all your gifts, skills and talents.

I found that my strengths were writing, listening, communicating and expressing my art through journaling and blogging. I’m great at organising and using a planner that I can never leave home without one.

Step 3: The third question to ask yourself is “What can I be paid for?”

Look into the skills you have and think of the things that people would pay you to do. This requires some brainstorming and visioning!

I could be paid to write articles on international education promotion or get a job that requires organising and planning! In the future, I could be paid working with organisations for children and women empowerment. There is so much the future may offer, and there is no harm in dreaming.

Step 4: Lastly, have a think of what the world needs.

Think of ways you can help to contribute to society!

To me, I believe that the world needs more young people who are passionate about student wellbeing. The society also needs more organisations for sexual violence prevention, shelters for women and children, and people who are proactive in women empowerment.

Next steps

Now that you’ve got the four aspects, the spot that overlaps in the middle is your ikigai. Learning about myself and finding my ikigai made it easier for me to find the path I was hoping to pursue at university. I began to appreciate how unique and personal my ikigai was to me, and how different it would be for other people, which is the beauty of it. We are all different individuals with unique gifts to share with the world.

With your ikigai, you can choose the right university course that fits your passion, profession, mission and vocation!

In New Zealand, students can choose the course and university to pursue. Being an international student in New Zealand has changed my perspective on education. Students should be able to have the freedom to choose the courses they want, and the choice in creating the path for their future.

As a student at the University of Otago, I find that the flexible degree structure eases the process of choosing the right course. There are hundreds of courses to choose from. I listed out all the ones I was interested in based on my ikigai, which were; Psychology, Gender Studies, Criminology, Sociology and Human Sexuality.

For a bachelor’s degree, we’d be choosing a major subject to specialise in, a minor subject as an option and other extra papers of various subjects to fit into our degree. The combination of subjects is limitless, which makes it favourable for students who have an interest in different areas. Being a student also means trying things out and finding our path along the way.

The university also provides course and career advice services for students who are unsure and still figuring out their path. These resources are readily available for students, you can simply book appointments with course advisors on campus. I find talking with the course advisors is important to ensure your intended degree pathway will fulfil your goals for the future!

There are more methods to use in choosing the right course, but for me, learning about my ikigai was the first step. My ikigai might change over time. As for right now, I feel at ease, knowing that I’m in the path that would lead me to my current goals and aspiration. Finding your own personal pathway is a journey for students, and I wish you the best in finding yours.

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About the contributors
Arina Aizal
Malaysian undergraduate student

Arina Aizal is a Malaysian student at the University of Otago. She studies Psychology and Gender Studies with interests in Sexual Violence Prevention. She is a Kiwi Ambassador for Education New Zealand and an Otago Ambassador. She has published articles on her perspectives as an International student and collaborates with global education agents for promotional content on social media. Instagram: @arinaaizal Website: www.arinaaizal.com