派遣交換留学 ワシントン大学 2019年1月6日-2020年6月22日

派遣交換留学 ワシントン大学 2019年1月6日-2020年6月22日

環境・社会理工学院 土木・環境工学系


The University of Washington (UW) is a public research university in Seattle, Washington, United States. It ranks 10th globally by U.S. News 2020. As the home of many groundbreaking inventions, the university has been affiliated with many notable alumni and faculty, including 20 Nobel Prize laureates and numerous Pulitzer Prize winners.

Located in Seattle, the University of Washington has one of the most beautiful campuses in the US, and nothing reminds me more about this than the glamorous Sakura season during spring. You have easy access to downtown Seattle by a 30-minute bus ride which takes you to the famous Pike Place seafood market. Pike Place is famous for not only the original Starbucks but also the glamourous view of the Pacific ocean where all those delicious oysters originated. Little did the Starbucks founders know that it would become a coffee giant as it is today, as did I given how shockingly austere the interior was. Just like the UW, the city has its rich history and vibrant communities. If it wasn’t for the pandemic, Seattle would be lovely for travelers.

But to me, a civil engineering student, the University of Washington is also an institution that provides one of the oldest geotechnical engineering programs in the US. I had the opportunity to experience the legendary American teaching style that is famous for its intensity, efficiency, and vibrancy, and my much-improved knowledge level tells me that my hard work was not in vain.

I have a lot of good words to say about the UW, but I suppose nothing can be more persuasive than experiencing it by yourself. Let’s hope the world gets back to normal soon.

Sakura season in UW

Sakura season in UW

Suzzallo Library

Suzzallo Library

The very first Starbucks

The very first Starbucks

Me at Pike Place
Me at Pike Place

Pike Place Seafood Market
Pike Place Seafood Market


Time management is a balancing act. For us, master students, study and research should always be prioritized. It causes a contradiction in my schedule because it took a great amount of time to prepare for both the exchange and visa applications. I would suggest students who wish to exchange to think this through and discuss with their academic supervisors. It is also important to remember that picking up the research from where it was left off might not be as easy as many people thought it would be.

Once nominated by Tokyo Tech as an exchange student, a visa won’t be that much of an issue as the application process of the J1 visa is historically friendly for applicants.

Assuming the pandemic ends soon and you are well-prepared financially, you may also want to prepare a plan B for air travel in case the COVID strikes back. Hundreds of international flights were canceled in spring, which caused a chain of problems for me at the time. So, do make sure to always pay some extra attention to it.


A part of the reason the US is a good exchange destination lies in the legendary American teaching style. I call it legendary because it has been the gold standard for higher education for decades. It motivates students, encourages in-class discussions, and values dedication. I have experienced all of these merits as well as some downsides in the UW, the place where I saw the biggest jump in personal knowledge level in years.

I only took courses for this exchange because the UW geotechnical group has a different research focus than mine. I put together a selection of courses to make sure I learn the things I wish to. The selection was tailored following the published course content and the set of skills that are important to my master’s research in Tokyo Tech.

The pandemic hit badly in the transition from Winter to Spring. Almost everything on campus, including educational activities, were all switched to online. Online courses took the form of zoom meetings where we could enjoy most of the functions the traditional class needs, although it meant more digital eye strain and the inevitable reduction in human interactions. It didn’t mean a reduced workload, though. Homework was as much as usual (even more in some cases). I personally felt reduced productivity.

It was a different story before the pandemic. Having all the classmates together and watching how the professor unfold all those recondite knowledges was truly an unforgiven experience. Sometimes I feel that an inviting class experience should not be a burden for the professor, students should also join in as members, not the audience. From what I can tell, everyone in the class was good at creating such atmosphere, and I think it makes a big difference in the educational effectiveness.

After much hard work, I managed to get a 3.76/4.0 GPA. In fact, 3 of these courses received the highest score. Numbers aside. I believe the most important thing is the knowledge I have learned from the courses. Getting a relatively good GPA in UW means a lot to me since it proves my ability to thrive under such an intense education style.

After-class discussion

After-class discussion

Outdoor experiment

Outdoor experiment

Course bulletin board

Course bulletin board


There hadn’t been that much of great activities outside of campus due to the pandemic, and I was told by the university to eliminate unnecessary outdoor travel. It was a shame not to have the chance to fully discover all those great cities, like Seattle, New York, and Cupertino where Apple’s headquarter is located in. I did have a little tour around Seattle before the pandemic hit, but primarily around the university district.


The experience in the UW is, in many ways, a distillation of what people love about the US. It was vibrant, colorful, and certainly challenging. To me, the single most important purpose of the exchange study was to complement the knowledge I have learned at Tokyo Tech and therefore helping me perform better in the master research. It is much more about my dream of what might be possible after the exchange and then taking several steps to set myself on that path. For what I can tell, it is definitely worth the journey. Plus, as a side quest, I have also become friends with some of the students in the class and the dorm.

I haven’t talked much about my daily life in UW simply because I was too consumed by the course work. And I wasn’t expecting too much from the pandemic quarantine life. The courses in UW were certainly not easy as they require a crazy amount of time and effort to achieve good grades. It forced me to learn how to get rid of distractions and fully emersed into studying, which, quite frankly, I haven’t always done the best job at. I think, with all I have learned from the exchange experience, when the most difficult part of my research does arrive in the future, I should be able to focus on the problem itself more and ultimately improve the research quality.


Airline (original): Delta, Shanghai, China-Seattle, USA; round trip; 209,732.5 JPY
Note: the back trip was canceled due to the pandemic.

Airline (back trip): Delta, Seattle-New York; Air France: New York-Paris; 112,646 JPY
           Air China: Paris-Beijing (Tianjin); 279,333 JPY
Note that the insane price for the back trip should not be the case in normal times. The travel restriction due to COVID caused the ticket price to skyrocketed.

Food Cost: Dinning plan bounded with dorm application; at least 941 US dollars (99,906 JPY) per quarter;

On-campus Housing: Starting from 2,250 US dollars (238,882.5 JPY) depending on your room assignment; mine was 3,251 US dollars per quarter including the level 1 dinning plan.

Insurance: AIG travel insurance required by Tokyo Tech; 2020.01.01~2020.06.30; 61,830 JPY; note that UW has their own insurance requirement for J1 visa holders, namely us exchange students. But this AIG insurance plan can be used to apply for UW insurance waiver.

Scholarship: 東工大基金; 60,000 JPY monthly for 6 months.


Although expensive, student dorms are everywhere around the campus. An exchange student should have no problems finding one that suits his/her budget. The application process is also simple. Once you are enrolled, you will be granted access to the application webpage from where you can create a list of dorms you’d like to apply based on budget, location, or other preferences. In most cases, you will have a roommate(s). UW will select a room that fits your requirement. For example, if you don’t smoke, the university will find students who don’t smoke as your roommate(s). There are, of course, lots of other options for personalization, although you should always expect some differences in personality when it comes to making friends internationally.

I had an American roommate in the first dorm room in Haggett Hall. He was an undergraduate student majoring in business. We respected each other and had a great time living together. Halfway through the semester, most students were moved to newly assigned rooms in McCart Hall that satisfied the new CDC requirement to slow the spread of the COVID 19. I didn’t have any roommates in that room. But I considered it as a free upgrade as I was using a 3-person room without extra charge. I moved again to the summer housing area after the Spring quarter. The summer room in Mercer Court was kindly provided by UW. It allowed me to have a place to stay while waiting for an available flight back home. You know how screwed international flights were at the time. Overall, I would say that the UW housing service was responsible, and the living experience was one of the greatest I have ever experienced.


The TOEFL iBT threshold for UW’s exchange program is 92, which I think is fair as studying and living in the US does require a relatively high English level compared to some other countries. Classes are always fast and more often than not you will be asked to talk about your ideas in front of the whole class. It wasn’t too much of a problem for me after getting familiar with the environment for a few days. That said, professors and your classmates are usually very nice and happy to help you with language improvement.

My experience of studying in Ireland did help a lot. I also had some opportunities to chat with international students daily for a year before departure, so I was able to deal with daily communication with my classmates. Over a year of lab life in Tokyo Tech also enriched my civil engineering vocabulary, which made my class experience in UW much better. You are most certainly going to see a big improvement in English after studying in the US.


I finished all the required major credits for master graduation before going out, so it is not something I would worry too much about. But students should have no problems transferring credits when they are back from UW.

As my professor and I agreed on, I will extend my study at Tokyo Tech by at least half a year so that I can have enough time to finish my master thesis. I assume master students who are good at time management can even skip this extension by finishing most of his/her research during the exchange.


I don’t have plans for job hunting at the moment. As an IGPA student, I am supposed to go for PhD. It is worth mentioning that exchange students are not allowed to work outside the campus, so starting your career as an exchange student in the US may not be a good choice.


About the only issue I encountered in UW was the pandemic which hindered my travel plan. None of us could escape from the effect of the pandemic. Towards the end of the exchange, it became clear to me that it could be a headache to book a flight back home after the original onegot canceled. Tokyo Tech and UW worked closely to find a solution for me to extend my visa so that I can have enough time to deal with the air travel problem, although eventually, a detour to France was necessary to catch the only available flight. UW was also kind enough to offer a dorm room for me while I was waiting for an available airline.


Be sure to always think exchange study as a way to improve yourself instead of just a trip.