The Philippines/College of Arts and Sciences (AIKOM)/Undergraduate Exchange Student/I’m Catherine, an exchange student from the University of the Philippines. I’m studying elementary education, with a major in language and literature. I enjoy traveling,
I’m Catherine, an exchange student from the University of the Philippines. I’m studying elementary education, with a major in language and literature. I enjoy traveling, eating, cooking and reading books. I’m really interested in Japanese literature and music.
What attracted you to Komaba, UTokyo?
Everyone knows that UTokyo is the top university not only in Japan but also in Asia. Aside from that, Komaba, UTokyo is really beautiful from the buildings to the whole atmosphere. It’s very conducive to studying. It has all the facilities that a student needs for studying. Also, it offers a lot of interesting liberal arts courses.
Describe your transition to Komaba, UTokyo.
It wasn’t really hard to adjust to this university because everything is so convenient. However, I faced some problems at first due to the language barrier. It was hard to convey my problems because I’m not really fluent in Japanese at all. However, people in the offices at the Komaba Campus are always ready to assist us whenever we have questions and problems.
Describe the adjustment to Japanese culture.
Japanese culture is really different from Filipino culture. So it was really difficult for me at first. One of my major adjustments was to the silence in this country. Filipinos are generally loud and happy people but here, wherever I go, it is always silent. It was quite unnerving at first but then I just got used to it. One thing that I’ve noticed is that Japanese people are generally polite. There’s been a lot of times when random people have greeted me with “konnichiwa” and I really think that it’s nice. Also, I especially like the work ethic of Japanese people. Whenever I go to restaurants and shops, I’m always satisfied with their service.
What have been your best experiences at Komaba, UTokyo so far?
I’ve only been here for 2 months but I have had a lot of awesome experiences at Komaba, UTokyo already. Aside from all the welcoming parties and school trips, what I really enjoy in Komaba, UTokyo now is the classes in general. I’m currently taking 2 classes that are both about literature. As I said, I’m really interested in Japanese literature and I’m glad I finally have the opportunity to learn more about it. Both of my professors in these 2 classes are good and the discussions are really fun and interesting. Also, since my classmates are not just Japanese but from many different countries, there are a lot of different ideas that come up in class. Therefore, we don’t just learn from professors but also from one another.
Describe the friendships and connections you’ve made at Komaba, UTokyo.
When you don’t really speak the language fluently, it’s really hard to make friends. However, it’s good that there are a lot of activities for exchange students, because they really help in making friends in the university. Everyone is usually friendly since we’re all in the same situation. Also, it’s nice that it is easy it is to make friends because I think that not being able to make friends is one of the fears that any exchange student has. Aside from fellow exchange students, everyone from the Globalization Office is also nice and very accommodating.
What’s your favorite thing about Shibuya and Tokyo?
I have a lot of favorite things about Shibuya and Tokyo! Thanks to the efficient transportation system, it’s so easy to go to different places. Also, you will never run out of activities to do, places to visit, and restaurants to eat at in Tokyo. Basically, everything that I love doing is in Tokyo, so I enjoy it very much. You will never ever be bored here. It’s also very convenient that Shibuya is 2 stops away from Komaba campus by train. So whenever you want to unwind from schoolwork, it’s so easy to go there.
How did you prepare for your journey to Komaba, UTokyo?
I tried to study Nihongo as much as I could but I think the most important thing was preparing myself psychologically. I knew I would be experiencing a lot of things that are different from what I’m used to so I didn’t want to be completely shocked. I read a lot of blog posts and articles regarding exchange student life in Tokyo. I also talked to my senior who went to UTokyo the year before me. I wanted to be ready to face whatever adjustment I’d have to make when I started my student life in Utokyo.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new international student or researcher, what would it be?
Choose to see the good in everything. Life in Tokyo will be completely different from your life back home. When you experience things that are not really positive, do not focus on them. Instead, focus on the good things because that will make your exchange student life easier and happier.
Any stories you would like to share about being an international student or researcher at Komaba, UTokyo?
One of the good things about UTokyo is that they really offer exchange students opportunities to experience Japanese culture. I’m really glad I joined the English Rakugo event. As I’m not really familiar with the performance art culture of Japan, I’m glad there are activities like this. I really enjoyed the whole performance and I’m really happy we had the chance to interact with Mr. Tatekawa Shinoharu himself over dinner. As an exchange student, one of my main goals is to experience all aspects of Japanese culture. So I’m really happy that UTokyo gives me a lot of opportunities to do so.