Interim Report from Princeton University

by Rina Umeda

This is Rina Umeda; my motto is “avoid regretting not doing”; and I have the tendency to intake knowledge, new experiences, and even feel emotions by color. It has been about a month since arriving at Princeton University, and I am starting to feel my vision color palette expanding from an addition of a new color lens – a bright and strong orange. Originally, I saw things from a single and simple blue light. Now, I am sensing an addition of a new orange lens that my time at Princeton has introduced to me, which I firmly believe is the reason why my academic knowledge and well-being as a person have expanded and grown. To be honest, I am not confident to say that I fully own this orange lens quite yet, but instead have some experiences to share that encapsulates my time so far at Princeton and why I believe this orange lens is starting to grow inside of me.

The vague orange lens is most evident so far in my academic experience at Princeton. I am currently studying civil and environmental engineering and the biggest difference with my home university, the University of Tokyo, is the number of classes. Here at Princeton, I am taking 4 classes, and whilst most of them take place 3 times a week, this number is significantly different from my usual class schedule at UTokyo. This has allowed me to visit office hours for each of my Professors much more frequently, and this is especially helpful for me, as I do not have an engineering background at UTokyo. However, I am glad that I took the challenge to study abroad in a field of study that is sophisticated and strongly connected to my personal goal for Japan to reach a carbon-neutral society by 2050. Being here for a month, I am slowly becoming more knowledgeable about what specific engineering methods and technologies are appropriate to reach this goal. For example, in my “Negative Emission Technologies” class, I am learning about the different separation mechanisms such as membranes, as well as learning functions for valorizing carbon dioxide using microorganisms from wet waste in my “Resource Recovery for a Circular Economy” class. Not only the engineering aspects, but I am also taking a class on “Inequality and Sustainability” which is helping me shape an international yet inclusive notion in creating public policy. All of these classes are contributing to building my orange lens in academics which will inevitably lead to reaching my carbon neutral 2050 goal.

Not only my academic experience, but some of my extracurricular activities have also been helping the growth of my new orange lens. I have joined one of the student-led organization groups called “Society of Women Engineers (SWE)” where I have met other students from various engineering departments and had enriched conversations on our past academic background as well as what kind of goals as women engineers we have for the future (Below is a photo of some future women engineers and me from the orientation). I have also joined another student-led organization named “Princeton University Energy Association (PUEA)” in which we are currently working on facilitating the Fall Conference where different experts on the energy sector come to Princeton to share their knowledge and provide a space for students to have energy-related discussions.

Why it is specifically the color “orange” is still a question, and I fail to give a logical answer to it. It may be because the color orange is complementary to my original blue light, or it is simply the school color of Princeton University. Whatever it is, it is definitely a color lens that my original light could not have produced. I would like to use this space to thank the Ito Foundation U.S.A. and Friends of UTokyo, Inc. for the funding, and the very reason I have realized the ability to expand my color palette. As I am writing this report in my room, I look back to the window and see a bright orange sky (I have attached a photo of the sunset!). I will continue to follow my motto “avoid regretting not doing” and make sure I capture the orange lens as bright and strong as the sky, with the 3 months left I have here at Princeton.