Getting to know more about the Japanese culture increased my desire to study in Japan.

I first encountered Japanese literature while I was a high school student in Germany. I read a lot of novels and I remember being drawn in by the unique atmosphere created by the sentences on the page. This made me want to learn more about Japan so I read lots of guidebooks and other material. When I went on to study locally at the University of Munich, I studied theoretical physics while also taking a Japanese language class toward fulfilling the foreign language requirement.
While in my second year at university, I visited Japan for the first time and stayed for about a month visiting Kyoto, Kamakura and other cities which retain a strong sense of history. I could feel the differences between the Japanese and European cultures and I found this to be extremely fascinating. My experience in Japan made me want to get to know the country even more.
After studying at the University of Munich for three years, then studying at the University of Cambridge in the UK, I finally realized my dream of going to Japan as a foreign student. I arrived in Japan in September 2009 and started studying at a Japanese language school in Kyoto from October. From April 2010, I began my studies as a research student at the Graduate School at Waseda University, and after passing the entrance examination for the Master’s program, I began my research in theoretical physics at the Graduate School in October of the same year.

Deciding on my field of research and approaching the professor.

I began searching for a graduate school in Japan while studying in the UK. Japan was too far from England for me to visit the graduate schools in person, so my only means of communication was through email. I searched for research labs with programs in theoretical physics and sent out one email after another describing my research and my wishes to study in Japan. I sent the emails without any prior notice, so as expected, I had some difficulties communicating my intentions. One day, I finally received an email from a professor at Waseda University asking me to send my CV and research details. I quickly put my documents together and sent them. Later, I received an email telling me, “We will accept your request. Please contact us if you require assistance with the application process.” After years of working toward my dream to study in Japan, I was thrilled that my dream would finally come true.
While searching for graduate schools, I also started looking for scholarships. During my search, I found out about the government-sponsored foreign student scholarship program offered by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, and decided to apply. In my case, the application process involved submitting documents, taking a written examination, and undergoing an interview. I’m happy to say that I got the scholarship, but I was astounded by the substantial size of the award, which included two full years of tuition, an air ticket from Germany to Japan, and a monthly allowance for living expenses. Not having to worry about tuition or working part time allowed me to devote myself to my studies. I researched various scholarship programs offered by other countries, but I found that this particular scholarship offered by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan was by far the most sizeable scholarship offer I had come across.

Finding out in advance about how to take entrance examinations is important.

Being granted the scholarship to pursue my studies in Japan helped to ease my financial worries. In terms of my Japanese, I had a basic grounding in everyday communication thanks to the Japanese classes I took during university and my Japanese friends in Germany. Even so, I was still very worried about whether or not I would be able to pass the entrance examination for the master’s degree program.
Getting into graduate schools in foreign countries is determined by the student’s academic record during university, so high achievers can generally get in. In contrast, Japanese graduate schools require students to take an academic aptitude test. I did some preliminary research on the test so I was prepared, but some people were not aware that this aptitude test even existed. If you’re planning to study in Japan as a foreign student, it’s extremely important to find out in advance about the tests that are administered at each of the different universities. Another thing that’s helpful is to have an understanding of the Japanese culture and ways of thinking. For instance, compared to people from other countries, Japanese people are known to be more reserved about expressing their intent, and tend to have a more roundabout, rather than direct way of expressing themselves. This is probably their way of taking care not to hurt people’s feelings. This may give foreigners the impression that it’s difficult to figure out what Japanese people are thinking. In fact, that’s the way I also felt when I came to Japan, so I believe it’s important to understand that this is part of the national character.

From the world of research to the world of business.

In graduate school, I focused my research on Particle Physics Theory. Japan is a world-class leader in using mathematical methods to study interactions between elementary particles. I felt very fortunate to be able to pursue my studies at this research lab where the professor was always ready to provide me with sage advice whenever I ran into problems with my research, and the other students were extremely dedicated.
After graduating, I’m planning to dive right into the unknown world of finance. I’ve been hired to work for a major Japanese insurance company. When I first enrolled in the master’s degree program, I had my sights set on doing the doctoral course. But, it takes many long years to develop research findings, and besides, it was hard to tell whether or not I was being of use to society. I began to wonder if it wouldn’t be better to find work where I could make a contribution to society. That’s when I decided to work at a private company. I wanted to work in Japan to experience the difference between the life of a student and worker in Japan, and I also wanted a chance to put the Japanese skills I gained as a foreign student to good use.
The insurance company has all kinds of jobs and I’m sure they’ll have jobs in a field where I’ll be able to put my experience to good use. I plan to commit myself to this job in order to contribute to the growth of the company. In the future, I hope to be able to work collaboratively with European insurance companies and explore other ways to act as a bridge between Japan and Europe.