Ichigo Ichie (one time, one meeting)
I was in a biochemistry class when I received an email from Professor Yamanouchi informing me I had been accepted to the UTRIP program. I had to restrain from screaming on the spot. My dream during my college career was to study abroad in Japan, but this was cut short due to strict chemistry major requirements. UTRIP presented the opportunity to not only experience life in Japan, but also to work alongside high scholar students in a research setting. The experience was more than I could have ever imagined. In short, I learned so much from the faculty and students of TODAI, had amazing experiences with Japanese culture, and made friendships that will last a life time.
There were 14 other UTRIP participants:
approximately 5 from the US, 3 from Europe, and the rest of different parts of East Asia. I loved getting to know such a diverse and wonderful group of people! And despite our cultural difference, we could all have fun times doing karaoke or visiting an onsen. However, during the week, we all were very busy with lab work. I was assigned to a physical chemistry lab under Professor Yamanouchi, and my research topic focused on ultra-fast high intensity lasers for analysis of photochemical processes. I had no idea what any of this meant at first, but quickly found the other Japanese graduate students to be extremely helpful and hospitable. I worked very closely with two graduate students, Kana-san and Sato-san, and learned so much from them. They did all they could to help me understand certain concepts in chemistry. I also loved exchanging knowledge about our different cultures. We would always ask each other about cultural perceptions and myths of US and Japanese culture, laughing about how silly some of these perceptions were. We bonded and created a friendship that I will always be grateful for.
On weekends, I would join other UTRIP participants to a number of excursions through Tokyo and nearby prefectures. The UTRIP program organized a trip to Mt. Fuji, and this was definitely one of my favorite trips during the experience. At first, the weather was rainy and cloudy, and Mt. Fuji was unseen behind the mist and clouds. However, by the afternoon, Mt. fuji and the peak were completely visible, presenting a magnificent scene that I will never forget. We were told not to attempt climbing Mt. Fuji, so one weekend, we climbed Mt. Takao instead, an extremely steep and exhausting hike, however completely worth it upon arriving to the top and seeing the grand view above the mountains. A trip to an onsen after was a perfect end to the day. My absolute favorite area outside of Tokyo was Enoshima beach. Words cannot explain how much fun and how beautiful the island is, and so I strongly suggest everyone who visits Tokyo to make a trip there and experience it for yourself.
The UTRIP experience was more than I could ever imagine. I had never considered living in Japan, but now I cannot wait for another opportunity to return there. I had some of the happiest moments during the UTRIP program, and thank Professor Yamanouchi, the UTRIP staff and FUTI and all who were part of it, and will always be grateful for such an amazing experience.