Class of 2023: An eye-opening university experience

For Class of 2023 undergraduate Reika Shimomura, studying at Duke Kunshan University has been an eye-opening experience that has helped her to develop new interests and career goals.

Majoring in global health with a focus on biology, she has also been able to pursue a growing fascination with technology and education, driven by the university’s multidisciplinary study and research opportunities. Now with graduation on the horizon, she has a job lined up with one of the world’s largest financial information providers, and plans to someday combine her various passions through work or personal projects.

Duke Kunshan Class of 2023 student Reika Shimomura

“I came to Duke Kunshan with an idea of where I wanted to end up and that goal hasn’t changed, but it has expanded as I’ve learnt more about other areas,” she says.

“I feel like I’m leaving with both depth and breadth to my skillset, well equipped not only to follow my career path, but also to bring something more to it,” she adds.

Shimomura was born in Pittsburgh in the United States, but raised mostly in Japan until age 13, when her family moved to Accra, Ghana, where her father had taken a job as a medical officer for the Japanese embassy. It was her experience living there for three years and witnessing reaction to the Ebola outbreak in several neighboring countries that first sparked her interest in global health. Ebola is a potentially deadly disease that was first discovered in parts of central Africa.

Reika Shimomura presenting to a Center for Disease Control camp

She recalls health information posters that were plastered around Accra and was also brought close to the outbreak through her father’s work.

“I saw frequent communication and information sharing among different embassies and public health institutions,” she says, which led her to develop a fascination with the “different layers of work and communication that goes on for public health”.

When she came to apply to university it was natural that she should pick a place with a strong offering in global health, but she was also attracted by the close-knit international community that Duke Kunshan could provide.

“I liked the smaller and tight community that my middle school and high school offered, where I got to know everyone and could spontaneously have deep conversations with members of the community. I think DKU gave me that impression and never disappointed me in offering that kind of environment as well,” she says.

Reika Shimomura (second from left) with friends on the Duke Kunshan University campus

Once at Duke Kunshan, Shimomura immersed herself in that close academic community, which she says created an environment where she felt she could try anything.

She took Mandarin Chinese classes, passing the HSK 5 Chinese exam before she completed her studies. HSK (Hanyu Shuiping Kaoshi) is China’s official language proficiency test for non-native speakers and level five is considered very advanced. She also found joy in exploring the diversity of Chinese culture, with its unique customs and cuisines across the different provinces.

She excelled in her global health studies and took full advantage of the research opportunities on offer. Her projects included co-leading research looking at ethics in public health, funded by Duke Kunshan’s Humanities Research Center, and an award-winning Signature Work project examining how DKU handled the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Signature Work is independent research that all Duke Kunshan students undertake with the support of faculty.

Reika Shimomura with her father in Accra, Ghana

She also developed an interest in technology and education through Duke Kunshan’s multidisciplinary curriculum, which encourages students to take classes in a diverse range of subjects, and that led her to get involved in several activities. They included a medical English project with the Young Leaders in Global Health Club, which saw her teaching English to doctors and nurses, and a chemistry education research project, which led to her presenting their findings at the American Chemical Society’s spring 2023 conference. She was also a member of the MediHealth team, a podcast which brought attention student research, interviewed professors and people working in the healthcare sector, and served as a platform to teach about and discuss global health issues.

Reika Shimomura (fourth from left) with other Duke Kunshan students

The diverse range of activities Shimomura found herself involved in at Duke Kunshan set her up well for leaving university and pursuing a career. She already has a job lined up in the analytics department at the Tokyo office of Bloomberg LP, having interned there last summer, where she will be helping to analyze data sets covering a wide range of areas including healthcare industry finances and health hazards.

She also hopes to combine her passions for global health, technology and education through personal projects.

“There are many crossovers between these areas, and that’s something I hope to pursue and continue learning about,” she says. “I would like to have some personal projects ongoing whether inside or outside of work where I get to pull these areas together for public health or education.”

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