USA/Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GPEAK)/Master’s Student/Hello! My name is Christina, and I am a Master’s student at Todai through the GSP Program. I am originally from Honolulu, Hawaii, and third generation Japanese American. I am researchin
Hello! My name is Christina, and I am a Master’s student at Todai through the GSP Program. I am originally from Honolulu, Hawaii, and third generation Japanese American. I am researching contemporary Japanese consumer culture and recently completed my thesis, which focused on Kit Kat and Pocky products. After completing my undergraduate degree at Whitman College in Washington, I spent a year teaching high school Japanese language in Hawaii. After graduating from Todai, I plan to move back to Hawaii to continue teaching.
Describe your transition to Komaba, UTokyo.
I feel fortunate to have had the support of my program and dedicated advisors who made my transition to student life at Komaba quite smooth. I think the size of the campus is just large enough to provide all the resources a student needs, but not too expansive where it becomes difficult to navigate. For the most part, the only difficulty I faced was figuring out the differences between the American higher education system and that of Japan, or Todai in particular. For example, there are many administrative procedures in the Japanese system that don’t exist at U.S. universities, but I am glad to have had classmates who are so supportive and with whom I could navigate these differences.
What have been your best experiences at Komaba, UTokyo so far?
Some of my best experiences and memories at Todai were during the one-day bus trips organized by the International Center Komaba Office. For example, I remember having such a fun time on the Mt. Fuji trip, riding the bus, bonding with classmates, and meeting new people. I also enjoyed the tour to Nikko, which included really interesting cultural experiences, like visiting Nikko Toshogu shrine and a soba making class. These opportunities to escape the crowds of Tokyo and spend quality time with people have become some of my most treasured memories from the past two years.
Describe the friendships and connections you’ve made at Komaba, UTokyo.
I truly cannot fully express how grateful I am to have met so many kind, wonderful, and talented friends at Komaba. In the GSP Program alone, my classmates come from a wide range of cultural, linguistic, and academic backgrounds, yet we all have become quite close over the course of our time here, and I can’t imagine what my experience at Todai would have been like without their constant support and friendship. It still amazes me how such a diverse group became such fast friends. Each of us brings a different personality to the table, and I have learned so much from them as a result. In addition, my professors have truly gone above and beyond to help me both in my academic and personal growth, as well as to attend to the needs of international students at Komaba as a whole. Furthermore, my coworkers at the Globalization Office are some of the most dedicated, patient, and encouraging people I have ever met. I will truly miss everyone that I have come to know here. All in all, I firmly believe that the real value of studying at Komaba is the wonderful body of people you spend each day with.
What’s your favorite thing about Shibuya and Tokyo?
I love that there is always something fun and interesting to do in Tokyo. There is no limit to the new restaurants, quirky shops, and exciting events that are waiting to be discovered. I feel like you can never become bored here!
If you could give one piece of advice to a new international student or researcher, what would it be?
After being here for 2 years, I’ve come to see Japan as a country of both nuances and absolutes. On the one hand, you’ll find that rules and deadlines are as hard and fast as they come, and the use of official stamps will probably baffle you at first. However, when navigating the language and the social norms, it is all about reading between the lines, and there are many complexities to Japanese society that take a lot of time to learn. After you encounter these nuances and absolutes, you will be forced to reevaluate everything you assume to be true not only about Japan, but also about your own culture and identity as well. Be prepared to do a lot of self-reflection, and you will most likely come to understand yourself better at the end of your time here at the University of Tokyo.