School has barely started again and it is my second term in the G30 Agricultural Sciences programs of Nagoya University. The Sakura (Cherry blossoms) have passed and it is the time where students are eagerly advertising the variety of school clubs and circles available – a scene that one could easily lift out of a Japanese drama or anime. There are some days when I still cannot believe that I’m right here basking in the atmosphere.
Making the decision to enroll in this university was not a straightforward one, indeed I encountered many difficulties trying to weigh my priorities over the opportunity costs and I settled upon to taking the risk to leave the comforting confines of Singapore.
What began as a faint desire to study abroad especially to live in Japan was finally realized when I arrived here. There is a sense of independence and freedom unique to living abroad at such a young age, and there is so much about Japan that I want to gradually understand about. Although university life may be initially foreign and seemingly intimidating, there is something comforting about the G30 circle where many of us treat each other like family. We often spend time together at the dormitory and at common classes and to be honest I have never had so much common space with people other than my family before. Everyone has very different lifestyles which was an eye-opener for me.
The fact that we are all from very different countries encourages us to step out of our comfort zones. If the programs were larger, I think it is highly likely that we would have stuck together with people from similar background and cultures. The weeks of cook-offs, board games, karaoke, going out, studying together, taking care of one another is something memorable that I will hold close to my heart for years to come.
At school, the G30 modules are well-focused at what they are meant to do: the lessons’ framework is clearly structured to build up to what they want out of international students. Of course, the choices are limited given the resources and staff and faculty members we have, but one thing I can vouch for is the sincerity and dedication of the professors and tutors – another advantage of being a small community. Professors become so approachable and up close – they would give you their quality time and attention of the day during consultations, unlike back in Singapore. In addition to lessons, the school also tries to supplement with hands-on activities; as part of a biotechnology class we had a factory visit to Asahi beer factory and a museum visit during our literature class.
Of course, not to leave out the recreational and leisure part of being in Japan – in school, you are offered a large and unique range of clubs and circles to join, ranging from Japanese archery to ice hockey. Although the language barrier is strong and the Japanese students may shy away, if one takes the initiative to go out there, definitely you will be able to immerse yourself in the Japanese university life.
Additionally, I really like that as a degree seeking student over here, I can take my time to slowly explore different parts of this beautiful country and not just at a touch-and-go level – and have a comfortable place where I can observe behaviors, cultures and even subtle differences between the prefectures. The fun part about this is how varying different parts of Japan are – from the bustling noise of the cities to the most natural and refreshing countryside. Each time I go to the mountainous regions in Japan, I really am awe-struck all over again, especially since I come from a concrete jungle like Singapore. Just this spring break, I went to Takayama (a more rural region) in the neighboring city of Gifu with my friends and it was such a beautiful experience.
Nothing can really replace getting into the outdoor onsens (hot spring) overlooking the vast forests. Before this, I also spent New Year’s counting down at a Japanese temple in Osaka. On a student budget, one can also take small day trips from the centrally located Nagoya – there are so many things to do in Japan as you can see. Another thing about living alone in Japan is that one can simply grab their things and go out and explore anytime they want – there is much to offer. In the same spring break, I also took a ferry to a nearby island named Sakushima where I could cycle around the perimeter, look at the coasts and modern art installations commissioned on it. I also got the chance to go to Nagashima Spaland, a nearby rollercoaster park with my seniors.
All in all, I had a really good first term (though of course with some struggles and doubts along the way). If the G30 Programs are within your considerations, I extend a hearty welcome to you!