Student Trip to US Universities: A Foretaste of Long-Term Study Abroad
TiROP, the Tokyo Institute of Technology International Research Opportunities Program, is a joint educational and research exchange program funded by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology's (MEXT's) funding scheme, the Re-Inventing Japan Project, to promote international exchanges with leading sci-tech universities. As part of the program, eight Tokyo Tech undergraduates visited MIT and Brown University from February 25 through March 6, 2014. This short visit is viewed as preparation for a long-term study abroad experience in the future. Three students discuss their experiences in the interview below.
Arrival in Boston
Days 2 - 4
Attend lectures, visit labs, and exchange opinions with MIT students
Days 5 and 6
Prior to their arrival in Boston, each student made an itinerary of the various places in Boston they wanted to visit including Harvard University, Boston University and the Museum of Science
Brown University visit
Attend lectures, visit labs, and exchange opinions with Brown University students
Visit Lexington and Concord
Departure for Tokyo
What made you apply for this student trip?
Kubo Just when I began thinking about studying abroad for 6 - 12 months in an English-speaking country, I learned about this student trip. It was a good chance to prepare for a long-term study abroad, so I decided to apply.
Netsu I would like to do a long-term study abroad, too. I applied for this student trip to experience life and research abroad and make a future long-term study abroad more realistic.
Saito When I applied for this student trip, I hadn't really decided yet whether to do a long-term study abroad or not. I wanted to widen my future choices by experiencing university life and visiting a research lab abroad.
You spent three days at MIT and one day at Brown University. What was the atmosphere like at these two universities?
Netsu I was impressed by the enthusiasm MIT students have for their studies. There were tables with chairs and whiteboards everywhere on campus and students were studying and discussing there. Some students were sitting on the floors in the corridors working on their laptops, which gave me the impression that every corner of the campus was for studying.
Saito It was impressive that there were so many female students in contrast to Tokyo Tech. The campuses were bursting with vitality and it was comfortable for me to be there. I received the impression that all students study very hard and were really focused on what they wanted to achieve.
Kubo When I had a discussion with students in a Japanese language class at MIT, I learned that many students were interested in Japanese technology or Japan itself and wanted to get jobs at Japanese companies in the future. I felt that Japanese technologies and game-related cultures were highly appreciated, which made me rediscover some good points about Japan.
Saito Brown University had a different atmosphere than MIT, and was very quiet. It felt open and free and the campus has a long history. The university looked elegant and attractive. It was a great environment for devoting oneself to study.
What were the lectures, discussions and labs like?
Kubo I visited a lab with a Japanese student who shared some useful information with me about studying abroad. I saw firsthand the mechanism where labs conduct research in cooperation with companies and readily apply the results to society. I liked the atmosphere of the labs and was impressed by how research progresses through repeated discussions.
Saito I visited two physics labs, one at MIT and one at Brown University. Lab members welcomed me warmly and gave me in-depth explanations about their research. I sensed a free atmosphere where students conduct research on themes that interest them.
Netsu I was impressed that these universities offer many internship opportunities to students. I found it very good that students get to experience various jobs and develop a clear vision for their futures through internships.
After this short student trip, did your thoughts on future long-term study abroad change?
Kubo I was deeply inspired by the students' attitudes at MIT and Brown about study and research. I had had a faint image of long-term study abroad, but now I have a really concrete image of what it would be like. I am now more determined than ever to do a long-term study abroad somewhere.
Netsu I met students who were completely focused on their studies and had a purpose and vision for their career paths. This cinched my desire to study abroad. Of course, staying at Tokyo Tech to study and conduct research until graduation is one option. However, if I go abroad, I would be exposed to various perspectives and ways of approaching things.
Saito After this short trip, my vague sense of desire to do a long-term study abroad became clearer.
It seems that there were big changes in your ways of thinking after this student trip. Have you done anything differently after returning to Japan?
Saito I realized that my English listening comprehension was worse than I thought. In order to get used to everyday English, I started listening to the news in English on the Internet daily.
Kubo I consciously expose myself to English in everyday life now by listening to the news in English.
Netsu I am studying more seriously for the TOEFL than before, because it is a precondition for long-term study abroad.
As a direct result of this student trip, three students have identified new goals and have started taking the necessary steps to meet them.