I will always remember the feeling I had when I first arrived in Tokyo. From the humidity, to hearing Japanese spoken everywhere, to seeing tons of vending machines and restaurants; everything was so different from America. It was all very exciting, and I was so happy that I finally had the chance to visit Japan. During my first two weeks in Tokyo, before my Engineering Research program at the University of Tokyo started, I explored the city every day and visited famous places such as Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Akihabara. Since I lived in a homestay, I also enjoyed talking to my homestay mom every day in only Japanese, which was great practice. We also often watched TV together, which was a lot of fun. Sometimes she would take me out to go to places, such as summer festivals (matsuri). Once the program at UTokyo started, I met all my new friends from other UC schools within the program and I also met my host professor and lab. Everyone was nice and welcoming, and all of my friends in the program really made my study abroad experience.
In my lab, I worked on research in thermoelectric devices. Thermoelectric devices are used to convert (waste) heat into electrical energy, and if used efficiently, could become a great source of energy. The larger the temperature difference across the device, the more voltage could be generated. Thus, the goal of the project was to develop ways to maintain a high temperature difference in an energy efficient manner. This involved choosing the material wisely so that it has low thermal conductivity and high electrical conductivity, as well as utilizing various cooling methods that don’t use a lot of electrical energy, such as using Phase-Change materials (PCM). Throughout my work, I used various programs such as COMSOL and Ansys to simulate heat transfer and temperature distribution throughout my thermoelectric device. I also used Microsoft Excel and MATLAB to extract and analyze my data and plot graphs using code. My experiences with my lab work have furthered my interest in Thermodynamics as a field within Mechanical Engineering. I have also been exposed to the topic of thermoelectric materials, which I would not have been otherwise without this program at UTokyo. I found this topic to be very interesting and impactful to society, and I might even want to focus on it in the future. Before the study abroad program, I had great interest in pursuing a Master’s Degree/PhD in Mechanical Engineering at UTokyo, and now my interest in studying at UTokyo is even stronger. I hope to conduct research in this field in the future, and perhaps at UTokyo.
Outside of my lab, I traveled a lot and took part in many cultural activities. Going shopping and just walking around big cities were some of my favorite times in Tokyo. Thanks to the program, I was able to meet people from many different countries, and also many students from other UC schools. My friends and I would often go out to eat great Japanese food, and we went to arcades and karaoke often. I also took part in language exchange programs to further practice my Japanese. With the ESEP program, we traveled to Nikko and visited many famous landmarks, and we also participated in a Wadaiko workshop. I was even able to join UTokyo’s Karuta club at the Komaba campus. During the Umi-no-hi weekend, I took a trip with my friends to Osaka/Kyoto and was able to experience a completely different part of Japan – that weekend was one of my favorites in Japan.
This study abroad program at the University of Tokyo has been a dream come true for me. I have been looking forward to studying abroad in Tokyo, Japan ever since my junior year of high school. I was able to meet a lot of people from different backgrounds, make a lot of new friends (both international and Japanese), and above all, I was able to experience life in Japan for 2 months. I am very thankful to UCEAP and UTokyo for this opportunity. Above all, I am beyond grateful to FUTI for their generosity and support of my studies at the University of Tokyo. The FUTI scholarship tremendously offset the costs of my tuition at UTokyo and made my study abroad this summer possible. I will always remember that FUTI helped make my dream of visiting and studying in Japan come true. Japan was everything I expected and more, and I very much look forward to coming back to Japan for study or work in the future. Until next time!