Ethiopia/Institute of Industrial Science（IIS)/Master’s Student/I am Biruktawit Taye, a 2nd year Masters student in the Civil Engineering Department at UTokyo. I study concrete in the Kishi laboratory on the Komaba research campus.
I am Biruktawit Taye, a 2nd year Masters student in the Civil Engineering Department at UTokyo. I study concrete in the Kishi laboratory on the Komaba research campus.
What attracted you to Komaba, UTokyo?
When I was a kid I wished to visit Japan and experience its unique culture, so it was a good coincidence for me that the UTokyo was calling for graduate student applications at my University in Ethiopia and that I happened to pass the selection process.
Describe the adjustment to Japanese culture.
The important thing in adapting to any new culture is to appreciate the differences between the new culture and your own rather than wanting them to be the same. As much as possible, in situations that I do not understand I ask friends and my Japanese language teachers, and read books or articles written on the topic. And yet I believe there is still a lot to learn every day. The Japanese culture revolves around a society/group first ideology, rather than placing importance on the individual, and with this comes a need to respect your seniors; I believe understanding this is one of the basic ways to adjust to Japanese culture.
Describe the friendships and connections you’ve made at Komaba, UTokyo.
As a student there are times when I may have to go without sleep while working on a project, a paper or even conducting late night experiments. However, I am very thankful for each of the days that I have spent in Komaba with my lab mates, as well as for my friends from my laboratory and their support. It is through laboratory life that I found friends who turned into my family in Japan. In addition, Japanese language class held in the Civil Engineering department and in IIS were good opportunities for me to meet and share life experiences with students from various countries.
What’s your favorite thing about Shibuya and Tokyo?
Tokyo I would say is a city that you cannot fully explore in just a few weeks. Every street has its own uniqueness and one can meet people from different parts of Japan. It is also a very international city in a way, as there are many shops and restaurants serving dishes from different countries. In contrast to the sophisticated train transport system, high rise buildings and similar modern infrastructures, in Tokyo you can also enjoy nature in parks as well as traditional architecture and art of shrines and temples. It is also a convenient city to see the Japanese traditions of ikebana (traditional flower arrangement), hanabi (fireworks in summer), sakura (cherry blossoms in spring) and colorful panorama of ginko and other trees in autumn season.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new international student or researcher, what would it be?
You may or may not have had the experience of living in a foreign country previously. However, even if you have experience traveling a lot, every culture is unique and Japan is a country with a different set of customs and traditions. So it is important to note the differences and keep learning and adjusting yourself at your own pace, but it is also equally important to maintain your previous connections. Feeling home sick or not feeling well is natural in the process of adjusting yourself to your new study environment. But do not worry. The University of Tokyo is for sure going to be a place where you can develop good friends and colleagues from diverse backgrounds and have a fun journey.