by Yasin Kaya

My first time ever Asia experience has begun with the arrival of 13-hour non-stop flight to Tokyo on the first week of April. I was really excited about spending the next four months at Goda Lab in the University of Tokyo (UTokyo) to broaden my research experience by working on ultrafast florescence imaging systems for biological applications. Thanks to generous support from FUTI and great lab mates at UTokyo, I was fortunate enough to experience the Japanese culture and explore Japan while achieving my academic goals.

The first month was an adaptation period for me in terms of academic and daily life. I was spending most of my time to read a lot of papers and learning how to operate necessary experimental equipment for my new project. Taking long walks at Ueno park, Imperial Palace and Yoyogi Park to enjoy the mesmerizing cherry blossom season was my favorite activity for relaxing after busy days in the lab. Also, I didn’t spend a single day without discovering a new cultural detail about Japan like removing shoes to enter the lab, greeted by employees when you enter or leave any shop, tasting an amazing food without knowing what it is (google translator was able to help me time to time :))

Goda Lab has a lot more members compared to my research group at Princeton University and half of the lab were international students. I had a chance to interact with so many great researchers with different backgrounds and listened their talks about different research fields at the weekly group meetings. After productive and long meetings, we mostly went for dinner with some of the group members to their favorite restaurants. Being a part of a big research group gives an opportunity to do a lot different extracurricular activities with your group members. As Goda Lab members, we went to Shimizu Kouen for a one-day excursion, did a BBQ at Odaiba and joined May festival at UTokyo.

Beside spending time with my group members at UTokyo, I traveled around Japan as well. I visited so many shrines and saw so many people in super cute kimonos and yukatans in Kyoto. I had Kobe beef in Kobe, fed deers in Nara and enjoyed the beach in Kamakura. Of course, I couldn’t leave Japan without watching the sunrise on the peak of the mighty Mt. Fuji.

I wasn’t expecting that my time in UTokyo would be this productive and super fun at the same time. Thank you so much for FUTI and all the people who made this possible!