My experience on the Japanese Government Scholarship

Daibutsu (Great Buddha) at Kamakura.
By Roda Nur

 Roda Nur is studying for her Master’s Degree in the department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Tokyo.

The Japanese Government Scholarship is a wonderful opportunity to obtain international experience by studying at a Japanese University. I was fortunate to get this opportunity to study at the University of Tokyo in Tokyo, Japan. I am currently studying in the department of Electrical Engineering where my research area is in the field of Wearable Electronics. Tokyo is a very dense, yet lively city with endless activities and sites to visit and enjoy. I have had the pleasure of exploring Japanese culture and history with fellow international and Japanese friends such as exploring the history of modern Tokyo at the Edo Tokyo Museum and visiting the Daibutsu (Great Buddha) statue and surrounding temples in Kamakura.
A view of Mt. Fuji from Lake Ashi on a cloudy day.
I had previously studied the Japanese language prior to going to Japan; however, after arriving, I realized just how little of the language I truly understood. One of the benefits of living in Japan is the opportunity of full language immersion. I had found that I was able to significantly accelerate my knowledge in the language through attending language school, interacting with my environment, and practicing with friends. It is amazing how one day you may see a word at a train station that you cannot read; however, just after a few hours in class you can finally read and understand what the signs are saying.

Another great experience is the fellow international students that you meet from around the world. You are able to make great friendships as you all learn how to acclimate, pass the university entrance exams, share your daily/interesting experiences, and of course explore the country together. A memorable experience I had was after a month of being in Tokyo, I took a trip with a group of friends to Hakone. It was a nice break from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. We stayed at a modern Japanese house for a few days during Golden Week and spent our days exploring the greater Hakone area. We did a variety of activities such as riding the Ropeway where we got to see an aerial view of the area, visited local museums, went hiking, and dined at local restaurants. Overall, it was a great experience and a chance to relax and enjoy Japan’s great beauty.
The University of Tokyo, Hongo campus in November.
When it comes to research, I found Japanese research labs to be very impressive as they have world-class state-of-the art facilities. Typically in American research-oriented universities, there are common shared facilities for the use of specialized equipment and tools where your lab has to rent its usage. In Japan, it is common for each lab to own their own equipment/tools and even an entire clean room, which is very convenient for long-term use.

You also get to develop great professional relationships with students, post-docs, and staff members while further grooming and enhancing your research skills. Depending on your department, there are weekly mandatory research seminars where students present their own research progress and also give a brief overview of different research areas. As a presenter, you get the opportunity to learn and practice your presentation skills (both oral and written). All of the Professors and students attending your talk will give you a written evaluation of your presentation, so you get direct feedback from everyone on where you can improve for your next presentation. Another great benefit of this seminar is that you get exposure to other research labs in your department and can learn new ideas from other student presentations that you can apply to your own research project.

As for attending academic research conferences, you have the opportunity to attend both domestic and international conferences. For the conferences in Japan, if your language skills are advanced or if you are looking to develop and improve, you can choose to give your presentation in Japanese. Overall, there are plenty of opportunities to practice Japanese in an academic and professional setting, which you would not get back in your home country.

In general, the first year as a MEXT scholar is very busy with acclimating to the country and preparing for the university entrance exams; however, after transitioning into a degree course, you will have plenty of time to enjoy the beauty of Japan as a country.

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