What motivated you to study in Japan? How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and interesting career?
Before I came to Japan in April, 2007, I studied electrical and electronic technology and also physics at a university in India for a year. I began thinking about studying in Japan after a professor who was teaching Japanese at the university told me about a scholarship from the Monkasho (the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology). Japan is a leading nation with excellent strength in the fields of electrical and electronic technology. I decided to apply for the scholarship with hope to study such cutting-edge technology in Japan.
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How did you overcome the language barrier?
To tell you the truth, I knew only hiragana and katakana when I applied for the scholarship. Japanese language classes at my university in India were open to sophomore or upper students, and since I was a freshman then, I couldn’t take them. After I came to Japan, I took Japanese language courses and studied entry-level specialized subjects at the Japanese Language Center for International Students of the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies for a year. I was accepted to the present university according to my grades at the Japanese Language Center as well as the scores of the exam I took in India. I lived in a dorm within the college campus when I was studying Japanese language. I am a senior undergraduate student and am feeling more comfortable with my Japanese now. But there are still moments in which I encounter difficulty in language, especially when I hear unfamiliar phrases at presentations at the lab.
Can you tell us how you feel about living in Japan, such as financial situations, differences in customs from India, and so on.
As for my financial situation, the scholarship covers the tuition, and I am able to use the rest of the scholarship money for living expenses. I spend about 40,000 yen for the rent, about 40,000 yen for food, and about 10,000 to 15,000 yen for transportation which can vary month to month. Other expenses include a cell phone bill and insurance. I had one problem about food. Because I am Hindu, I don’t eat beef. When I first came to Japan, I had a hard time finding food that doesn’t contain beef. One of my senpai students taught me how to write “no beef” in kanji, and I showed a piece of paper saying “no beef” at stores and restaurants to find food I could eat. I gradually became used to reading kanji and conversing in Japanese, and after that, I haven’t had to do this anymore.
This March, the Great East Japan Earthquake hit the country and brought devastating damage mainly to the Tohoku area. What did you do when the disaster happened?
On March 11, I was at the immigration office in Shinagawa to renew my visa when the earthquake occurred. I had a hard time going back to my dorm in Bunkyo City because all the transportation services had stopped. After watching the news about the disaster, my parents called me and insisted that I come back to India right away. So I went home on March 17. I soon learned that the situation in Tokyo was fine for everyday living, so I came back to Japan in April. I don’t think anyone would have predicted accurately that such a powerful tsunami would come and hit the country. It is not an easy way to recover from the disaster, but I don’t want anyone in Japan to give up.
What are you currently studying? How is your student life?
My area of research is nanophysics, and I am currently studying about the principles and systems of phenomena that occur at nanoscale levels (one-one hundred thousandths millimeter). The result of the study can be used for developing microminiature electronic parts. As a senior student, I take some classes but spend most of my time at school in research work. I went to India every summer until my junior year but didn’t go home this summer because I had to prepare myself for an exam for graduate school. I will continue experiments until December to collect data and finish writing my thesis in the following January. One of the challenges I had at the University of Tokyo is that students are required to get more course credits than at other universities. You just have to take as many classes as possible to achieve the required credit hours. For freshman and sophomore students, there is also a limit to the number of students who can get an “excellent” grade, so I had to work really hard on my exams to do better than other students.
Please give your advice to those who are considering studying in Japan.
Japan is a great place to study while living safely and enjoying fun student life. If you are not comfortable with your Japanese, keep working on it, and once you get over the language, it will make your life here much easier and more fun. To make your experience of studying in Japan successful, it is important that you keep a good balance between schoolwork and fun stuff.