Saturday, 5 October 2019

First impression of moving to Nagasaki from Vietnam

Well, don't let the title fool you, the following article is about my thoughts after having completed the first few weeks living in Nagasaki, Japan, BUT most of the experience has just happened around Nagasaki University Bunkyo Campus and not Nagasaki city in general. Anyway, if you are interested in pursuing a graduate degree at Nagasaki University, this is obviously a good start.

Done with the introduction, so here we go.
  1. Impression no.1: The street is really clean!
So, the myth is real. My friend from a cleaning equipment and vehicle manufacturer based in Germany once told me that he and his competitors couldn’t sell any outdoor street sweeping vehicle in Japan cause the street is always insanely clean, which is equal to no demand. I used to find that claim was a bit exaggerated but being here for a while I somehow got a sense of what he had talked about.

Wild fishes in the river
The environment here seems to be well reserved. Born and growing up in Hanoi, I haven’t seen as many wild animals in the city as in here (the zoo isn’t counted, of course). Those belong to the cat team should absolutely consider coming to NU as there are a lot of cats roaming freely on the university campus.
  1. Impression no.2: Tea is everywhere!
It is safe to say that you are at the heaven of tea. You can find any kinds of tea, in every shape, size and package from vending machines, stores or supermarkets. Definitely +1 point for tea lovers. For those who can’t live without coffee, bad news for you as some of my friends told me that the coffee here was considered as mild and bland compared to their hometown’s counterpart. Well, this is just what I heard though and everyone has their own preference. Anyway, this is none of my concern as caffeinated drinks has never been my cup of tea.

From vending machine...

... to supermarket
  1. Impression no.3: You have to walk a lot more!
You may not want to hear this, but if you are having a sedentary lifestyle now, then you will have a hard time getting used to life here. I considered myself a moderate-active person, but it took me a while to adapt. My step counter easily scores at least 13.000 steps a day, while in Vietnam I usually have to incorporate a jogging or running session in order to reach the infamous 10.000-step-per-day target. The problem doesn’t lie in travelling distances, but climbing and/or carrying parts. Going to the university is easy; coming back, however, is literally an uphill battle.

Going down is easy...

... coming back is the real battle, whichever the way you choose.
  1. Impression no.4: Labour cost here is way higher than in my hometown, Vietnam.
During moving in, there was a small problem with the faucet for the washing machine in my friend apartment and she had to call the plumber for help. The cost for the faucet’s nozzle replacement was 5.400¥ (~4.7$) in total (labour and replacement kit cost included) and luckily the apartment owner was kind enough to cover this expense. The same problem, if happened in Vietnam, may be solved for less than 500¥ (~4.7$), I suppose. Another example is that I have taken a taxi once and it costed me around 960¥ (~9$) for less than 2 km. For your comparison, the taxi rate in Vietnam is just about 55¥ (~0.5$) per km. Therefore, if you are on a budget, opt for walking and public transport as much as possible and/or considering buying a bike. Also, Do-it-yourself skill is definitely an asset.
So far so good, the overall experience of relocating to Japan is very positive until now. This is the end of today article and I do hope you may find some good insights after reading through this. Hopefully see you in other articles in the future. Cheer!

Friday, 10 May 2019

Student life at Nagasaki University

Starting abroad had always been my dream since middle school with the inspiration drawn from a couple of my high school science teachers. However, when such a moment presented itself and I had to go to Japan in pursuit of my long awaited dream, I was very scared chiefly because I was going miles and miles away from my family where distance would deprive me to see them more often. Furthermore, despite the fact that I had read a few good things about Japan its safety, technology, and culture, I was still uneasy given the huge cultural, social and economic gap between these two countries (Lesotho and Japan). Upon, arrival, at Nagasaki University despite the hot humid weather and torrential rains coupled with terrifying typhoons and landslide, I got a very warm welcome. The support of the international support center and the department of water and environmental engineering to which I am a student, can not be overstated. The normal wandering about of new students in many universities during the registration period was never a problem for me here in Nagasaki University as I was assigned a tutor to help me complete every single process with ease. Several months now in Japan, I am happy to mention that the integration into the Japanese education system, culture, and social life is going quite well. Lastly, my research on membrane fouling mitigation for forward osmosis membranes using biocides has taken to a quick start with foreseeably far-reaching outcomes.

Tanki Mochochoko

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Matsuyama_WET 2018

Last weekend, I joined in a conference – Water and Environment Technology 2018 – in Matsuyama, Ehime. It has been a great experience where I met many international students, professors and specialists in environment field. This conference was very well-organized and successful. I fully enjoyed the event with so many interesting presentations and discussions on various topics. Especially, I had a chance to have a presentation and show a poster about my research topic. I would like to take this chance to learn more experiences for my future job. After the conference, there was a party where I could make new friends and try some special foods, particularly Ehime University’s Beer that’s so delicious.
On the second day, I went to The Matsuyama Castle which is one of the most complex and interesting castles in Japan. From there, I could see a bird’s eye view of Matsuyama and the Seto Inland Sea. Although the castle is located on the hilltop, a ropeway and a chairlift make it easily accessible. Riding a single-chairlift was very interesting that I have never tried it before. I came back Nagasaki by ship and express trains. During that time, I just enjoyed the beautiful views of Japan through the window. I hope I will have more chances to discover many famous places in Japan.
After all, I would like to say thanks to Prof. Fujioka for giving me this opportunity. I have benefited too much from this trip and it become my unforgettable memories.
The conference at Ehime University
The poster about my research topic
A single-chairlift to The Castle

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Cultural Diversity and its role in Adapting to Studies in Japan.

The ability to successfully learn with students who come from a culture or cultures other than our own; entails developing certain personal and interpersonal awareness and sensitivities, understanding certain bodies of cultural knowledge, and mastering a set of skills that, taken together, underlie effective cross-cultural learning and culturally responsive awareness.

The matrix of functions on the role of enabling cultural diversity can be multi-dimensional, involving several key stakeholders, ranging from teachers, students and the University support staff. For example, teachers must become more fully student-centered and inclusive of the voices and experiences of the students while students must learn the truth about history even if it may be painful or produce controversy. Every student must be prepared to competently participate in an increasingly intercultural society. When students learn to recognize and appreciate the differences they see in others, they learn more about themselves.

One of the key practices to building cultural integration in Japanese Universities is anchored on the pillar of building teams and working in groups. For the case of Nagasaki University, in the water and Environmental Engineering Master course; a mixture of students coming from Uganda, Japan, Kenya, Thailand, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Vietnam, Peru and Korea are evenly distributed to each group. When students from diverse backgrounds and experiences work together, the differences among them enrich the group discussion and overall experience for the group.

It is also worthy to mention that the individual skills that come with each of the group members helps to supplement and compliment on the overall group kills and serves to build the confidence of group members. For example, some of the students are very good at Japanese while others are good at English. Continued interactions among students has helped the non-Japanese natives to ably adapt to living in Japan, where Japanese is the most commonly preferred language of communication. On the other hand, the Japanese students get a chance to practice their English language skills while communicating with the English-speaking students. 

How about joining a students’ club? Oh wow, this another amazing activity to join when in Nagasaki University. So many clubs namely; dancing club, sports club, art and design club; are open to new entrants. These are stress relieving moments to share and learn from new students.  Am getting good at Zumba dance courtesy of the dancing club. It’s quite different from our way of dancing back home in Uganda, but it was worth the try. 

The University community of Nagasaki is more involved and supportive through their Liaison centre for international students. The diverse cultures in the students’ community are valued and celebrated through get together parties, sports, motivational talks, club gatherings and several other activities that involve outreach programmes to high school students in Nagasaki.

I would therefore advise everyone to embrace cultural diversity with positivity because the fruits are more. The students can become unified by embracing the differences and thus making their life in Japan memorable.
Writer: Ronald Katalo