Studying abroad in Japan, hopes and fears

This is just a small post where I express my hopes and fears for the future, a few days before I set out for my new research student life in Japan

University of Tokyo Logo

This is more or less a personal post detailing my thoughts,fears and hopes as I am preparing to leave Greece, my home country, in order to go and study abroad in Japan for at least two and a half years. I knew this was coming since I made it happen, but now it’s right around the corner. I will be flying for Tokyo,Japan on the morning of April 1st 2010.

This has been my goal for the last 6 years. To leave Greece and go to Japan to pursue graduate studies in the topics I am interested in. Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. I am very fond of the Japanese culture and have already been to Japan 3 times. I would be lying if I said I am not excited to be going back there. The Japanese people have something that makes them special. I am not 100% sure but If I had to point it out I would say that it is their idiosyncrasy and the way they function as a society. Those who have been to Japan will know what I am talking about. Not to say that Japan does not have its bad sides but they are out of the scope of this post.

On the other hand as the time draws closer I am beginning to realize what I am giving up in order to make my dream a reality. It is not such a trivial matter to just put everything and everyone you know aside and go to the other side of the globe. I have friends here in Greece with some of whom I spent my days since I was a little boy and others with whom I shared many of my ups and downs for the last 6 years. The thought that I won’t be seeing them every day any more, at least in person, is really bearing down on me.

Friends aside, Greece and more specifically Thessaloniki is the place I lived all of my life until now. I have gone through every possible experience a person goes through his life in this place and as such I am in a way connected to it. Some buildings, some areas, some other Greek cities all correlated with specific events of my life. For some unknown reason even though I have not paid any attention to such things until now, it is becoming more and more evident the closer I get to my departure date that the connection to the place one lives can have a very strong effect on a person. All my life, or at least my recent life, I remember wanting to get out of here and now that the time has indeed come all these strange emotions and thoughts come rushing into my head. I am planning another blog post about Thessaloniki my home city, before I go, just to put all these thoughts to rest. I guess it will include lots of photos I will take myself along with description of various nice things Thessaloniki has to offer.

As far as family is concerned I am sure they are going to miss me. I am sure I will too. But the thing with family is that you know you will see them again. They will do whatever they can, even travel to Japan in order to see me in regular intervals. My family has done a lot for me and for that I am grateful. They supported me all the way towards my goals and ,expected nagging aside, they have always been there for me. It is a good thing that I have been preparing them for this for a long time so they have kind of accepted the idea that I will be living in the other side of the globe. The last thing I needed right now would be emotional breakdowns and pleas to stay. I think the reason they are taking it so well is that I taught them how to use a computer with an internet connection. So now they are confident that they can contact me any time, anywhere. I am sure going to miss them 🙂

But the feelings are mixed. There is also a sense of excitement in the air. Going to Japan to study the things that I like in one of the most prestigious universities of that country seems like a great adventure to me. Tokyo is a metropolis. I have already been there once and to think that I will be staying there for years and have all that it has to offer at my disposal daily makes my heart pound fast. Moreover the Japanese society is a very intriguing one. As a foreigner you can “study” them and learn a whole lot from them. I am very glad that I have been given the chance to do so.

The university I will be going to is Tokyo University located …well … in Tokyo :P. It is considered a very demanding place to study so I am in for a rough ride but it is also a great opportunity to gain all the knowledge a top-level university has to offer on my field. I plan to take full advantage of this chance that has been given to me. There are many issues a foreign student (Japanese: 留学生-ryuugakusei) has to face. Such as housing, adjusting to life in Japan, meeting new people while at the same time studying for exams and attending classes. I have heard lots of horror stories about people who just couldn’t take it anymore and returned to their home countries. I guess it depends on the person and how motivated he/she is. What I do know for sure is that I plan to do my best in order to succeed in what I set out to do.

And what better way to end this post than with some info about the university of Tokyo?
This is the logo of the university:

University of Tokyo Logo

The university of Tokyo was established by The Meiji government of Japan in 1877. Until the second World War it was known as “Tokyo Imperial University”. But after the American occupation the name was changed to its present-day one. It has 3 campuses in the Tokyo area with the main one being the Hongo campus. Many famous Japanese have graduated from there, including most of their prime ministers. It is considered the most prestigious university of Japan and ranks as the 3rd best in the world. For more information you can visit the wikipedia article on Todai.

This is the Yasuda Auditorium located at Hongo Campus. This clock tower along with the one in Komaba Campus are considered characteristic landmarks of the University of Tokyo:
Yasuda Auditorium

Finally here is the other clock tower, the one in Komaba. One can easily understand why these two became synonymous with the university’s name
Komaba Clock Tower

Well I guess this is a quick sum up of all the thoughts that I have in my head these days. All feelings and anxieties aside, I am excited as this new “adventure” is about to begin. I am trying to focus on the positive things and prepare for the trip to Japan. I expect I’ll have to be ready for anything that might be thrown my way. Because I am certain lots of unexpected things will happen, as they always tend to. Focusing on the good things and new experiences while at the same time trying one’s best to succeed is the way to go. And this is what I plan to do. Let’s see what the future will bring…

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