When Evelyn Giraldo, a native of Colombia, applied for a Japanese Government Monbukagakusho Scholarship, she knew exactly what she wanted to study. Giraldo had previously spent eight months in Japan working as a research trainee at NTT Research and Development Center in Musashino, Tokyo, an experience that helped shaped her decision.
"I was assigned to a group researching and developing next generation networks services in NTT," she says. "It was a great experience and I wanted to build on this. So with the scholarship I wanted to study management of technology, focusing on the innovation process of technological products and services."
Her detailed application was approved and Giraldo is now in her second year of a masters course at Tokyo Tech. "The Tokyo Institute of Technology has a world-wide reputation for technology research, ranks high among engineering universities and it matched my desire to study Japanese innovative technology processes and development," she explains.
The biggest challenge she has faced so far is getting up to speed in the Japanese language. "In the beginning it was difficult, so I took mostly English courses until my Japanese improved," she says. "I also record the lectures in Japanese and prepare as much as possible before each lecture; then after a class I ask Japanese classmates about certain points to make sure that I understood everything correctly."
She adds that she finds the courses stimulating because the professors keep up with leading edge developments in both technology and management.
Her first day on campus produced a big surprise. "I walked into the college and heard this great live Latin Jazz music," she says. "It was like being back home. I was astonished to discover such good salsa music played by a student club band, and realized then that Tokyo Tech could be fun as well as a serious place to learn."
The city of Tokyo's image as a dynamic metropolis led Giraldo to believe that everyone would be busy all the time and she would have to fend for herself. "But local community groups have been warm and welcoming and I've enjoyed many home stays, festivals, informal language classes and a trip to Mount Fuji," she says. "I don't know how they make the time to do it all. It helps make life in Japan enjoyable."
Tokyo Institute of Technology Bulletin No. 18 (September, 2010)