“Coming to University of Tokyo was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I can not only devote myself to research which I am interested in but also enjoy exciting and colorful activities. I experienced a new life here and feel every day is meaningful and worthy.”
It has been one and a half years since I came to Japan, but I can still remember clearly the application experience. Before I decided to apply to the IPADS Program, I searched through the Global 30 Project which lists degree programs offered in English by the top 13 universities in Japan. The University of Tokyo and IPADS impressed me with its outstanding history and with the diverse research topics of its faculty, so I decided to apply. I still cannot believe that I passed the interview and was admitted. In September 2014, I flew to Tokyo alone. It was my first time going abroad for long term study and I could not even speak any Japanese. I was a little nervous about my new life while on the plane but I knew I didn’t need to worry once I saw my tutor at Narita airport. My tutor took care of almost everything for me including setting up a bank account, enrollment and accommodation. To help me adjust to the new environment as quikcly as possible, he introduced a lot of Japanese friends to me and we even drove to Hakone the first weekend I came to Japan. I felt that he was the best tutor in the world!
The first semester in IPADS Program was full of classes, lectures, seminars and field experiments. Here I had classmates with different background including America, Taiwan, Hong Kong, India, Myanmar, Australia, Columbia and Vietnam. The multicultural communication gave us an opportunity to exchange global perspective and experience different cultures and foods. Although we needed to finish comprehensive coursework, give many presentations and pass difficult exams, I learned a lot of new things which strengthened my backgrounded and broadened my horizons. The IPADS Program not only provided theoretical knowledge from textbook and research papers but also contained practical experience like hands-on field work at the Institute for Sustainable Agro-ecosystem Services. In addition, our program collaborated with the University of Bonn so that we could take classes with their students and professors.
After one semester’s classes and study, I finally decided to enter a plant biotechnology laboratory which focuses on molecular biology and genetics in plants. Currently, I am researching iron related genes in rice and the characterization of a novel protein kinase gene. Iron plays an important role in the proper growth of the human body and plants. It is an essential component for photosynthesis, respiration, metabolism, hormone biosynthesis and enzymatic processes. Although iron is one of the most abundant elements on earth, it is hard for plants to utilize it because of it insoluble in neutral and basic soils. Therefore, I want to explore the functions linking genomes, genes and proteins and figure out the mechanisms of iron uptake and transportation in crops to provide further improvement in the iron bioactivity and content of crops. Although my project was full of challenges, I have not found my enthusiasm for life science deterred, on the contrary, some promising results always stimulated my interest to explore my research more deeply. Thus, I would like to pursue PhD studies in the IPADS program and continue working on fundamental principles of biology here.
The lab work was full of repeated experiments, reading related papers and participating in academic seminars, but the University of Tokyo provided excellent entertainment facilities and colorful activities and associations. I went to the gym two or three times a week, I did yoga, played badminton or went swimming. The dormitory of University of Tokyo was also awesome. I usually cooked with friends and played table tennis, piano and mahjong in party room. Sometimes, we IPADS students hung out together, went on picnics under cherry blossoms, held birthday party for each other and traveled around Japan together. When there were no experiments, I would take Japanese classes. They taught not only Japanese, but also held some traditional culture activities like making Japanese traditional tea matcha (green tea) and wearing kimonos and yukatas (summer kimono). I was also a member of the foreign students supporting club. We climbed Mt. Fuji together, visited the grand festival of the Meiji shrine, traveled to the emperor’s palace garden on the emperor’s birthday and went to see a live football game. I also loved travelling solo. I went to some Tokyo suburbs, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya and Hokkaido for sightseeing. Solo travel let me enjoy attractive scenery, taste delicious foods and experience local history.
Coming to the University of Tokyo was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I can not only devote myself to my research, but also enjoy exciting and colorful activities. I experienced a new life here and feel every day is meaningful and worthy.