留学生インタビュー

Afag Aslanova came to Japan this April to study gastroenterology as a researcher at the Tokyo Women's Medical University graduate school. Growing up in an environment where her grandfather, uncle, aunt, and older sister were all doctors, she chose to become a doctor in order to help others.

After completing a master's course at an Azerbaijan university, Afag spent a year as a research student in Germany. She then decided to take her medical knowledge and skills a step further by studying in Japan which is internationally-recognized as offering top-level medical expertise. She learned about Japanese government scholarships from her older sister who also received a scholarship for a PhD at the Tohoku University graduate school. Afag's sister returned to Azerbaijan three years ago.

Afag explains that an employee at the Azerbaijan Japanese embassy walked her through which documents she would need to apply for a Japanese government scholarship, as well as which university to choose for her studies; she never felt worried about the application process. After hearing that "all medical research can be carried out in English", the only concern she had left was everyday conversation in Japanese. She says that she'd only studied the hiragana and katakana alphabets and was nervous that this might make shopping and other things difficult.

However, once she arrived in Japan, Afag's understanding of Japanese increased enormously through day-to-day communication. She developed an interest in traditional Japanese culture such as Noh, and sumo. She visits temples and shrines, and enjoys watching those who come to pray there.

Afag chose to study in Japan because of the technological skill of Japanese doctors at and the availability of cutting-edge treatment facilities. But her image of Japanese professors was of strict disciplinarians who would be hard to approach. However, this image has completely changed through watching an endoscopic procedure. Now her research is focused on learning new endoscopic treatment methods for early stage gastric and oesophageal cancer. She explains, "No matter how minor the issue, everyone in Japan takes the time to help when I have a question about something. Not all the professors are good at English so I might not understand the answer, but then a different professor might help me out, or they might draw a diagram instead of explaining verbally. I'm so grateful that everyone takes the time to explain very carefully until I understand."

Afag's dedication is clear as she says, "Germany was close to home, but Japan is a long way from Azerbaijan. Not being able to see my family often does make me a little lonely, but I have a clear goal ahead and I'm not going to give up on it halfway!"

Uploaded on 24th December 2010