OQEANOUS-IJP experience report 2 (2019)

International Joint Program 2019.10.23

Take action!


Motivation to enroll in IJP Program

'Take action!' 'Whenever I don't know what to do, I have a motto of "Once take action and regret it even if it was off-course." Studying abroad as an exchange student was one of the bucket lists of university life so I immediately applied for IJP. The fact that I was able to study abroad as an exchange student was good, but one of the main reasons I applied without hesitation was that I was able to take graduate school classes as an undergraduate student and do interesting research in a laboratory with a foreign academic advisor.

After returning to school from military service, I've interested in majors since the first semester of the second year, and I wanted to go to graduate school. I was interested in applying Numerical Analysis to ocean science so I became a member of a laboratory that studies relevant things. As a laboratory member, I have gained interest in major fields through experiences related to major research such as ocean science creative club project and student basic research project, but there was one concern. There were many things I wanted to do, but I couldn't easily set a single research topic. I couldn't rule out the possibility of falling because I had little knowledge of Japan and Japanese, but I waited for the announcement with the expectation that if I passed and went to Japan, it would be a good opportunity to find out what I truly want to do.


After I heard a notice of acceptance, I was worried about what would be the best preparation before I went. Spring semesters in Korea began in March but April in Japan so there was preliminary preparation time. While I was thinking like 'Studying related majors, studying Japanese, and taking a rest?', I thought let's study language because I found that communication is the most important in other countries where culture and environment are different. I heard that in Japan if you can speak English well but you can't speak Japanese, there are a lot of restrictions on living. I didn't even know hiragana or katakana, the most basic Japanese, such as vowels and consonants in Korean, so I focused on studying Japanese before going.

Since our university sent me to Japan beforehand, I had a chance to see my Japanese advisor in advance before going to Japan in April and ask about what kind of research professors are interested in or the process of teaching in graduate school's lectures. On the contrary to my thought, professors and students talked with me in English, and Japanese was not used much except when ordering at a restaurant or asking directions. Therefore, after the pre-visit, I put a little more emphasis on studying English than Japanese, and looking backward, I thought that language study before going to Japan helped me a lot. Free Japanese language classes offered by the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology (TUMSAT, host university) provide you with the necessary Japanese language skills for basic living. Therefore, if you think you're not good at English, I recommend you studying English more than Japanese as advance preparation.

Beginning of life in Japan

I arrived on April 1 in Japan with half of expectation and concern. I visited the school two months ago, so I was able to easily go to school. I came to Campus Asia IJP with Hong-Seok Choi I've known since when i was in Korea, and host university assigned a tutor 'Ko san' who is korean and very good at Japanese for me so I was able to adapt quickly to Japanese life. TUMSAT has assigned a tutor to international students, who are the first visits, as well as foreign students coming through Campus Asia. Because a tutor is assigned as a same lab student, Tutor can help you with anything such as the overall aspects of studying abroad and administrative processes at the government office.

I stayed in a single room dormitory for one semester in Japan. Unlike the Korea Maritime and Ocean University (KMOU, home university) dormitory, it was best to have induction that I could cook in the room and air conditioning. Cooking in the dormitory is the best way to save money because it is expensive to go out and eat in addition to the basic prices. The first week had busily passed with student registration and administrative work. The professors asked me for 10 ~ 15 minutes of self-introduction at the weekly seminar for acquaintance. I used to prepare brief self-introduction as much as a minute at common classes at home university, but I've never prepared 15 minutes self-introduction before. It was a time that I felt like I didn't even know me well. After vivid memories pass, they become faint and hard to remember well. The process of getting to know me based on my past photos and documents on my laptop was as exciting as learning something new.

Coastal Engineering and Environment Laboratory (CEEL) that I belonged has seminars every Friday. Students in the lab present their research freely, and after that, they receive feedback from professors and students. CEEL Laboratories have 17 students who are instructed by four professors.

I introduced myself to them at the first seminar that I had after arriving in Japan and they gave me a welcome party after that. There are many international students from various countries (Korea, China, Vietnam, and Myanmar) so CEEL Laboratories are the place where you can make your own dishes and taste each other's dishes and share and talk about each country's culture. In the CEEL lab, there were two Koreans except me so we made various Korean style pancakes called 'Jeon' and introduced Korean taste with makgeolli. It was a good memory for me to see foreign friends eating deliciously like a mother's heart.

About a month and a half later after almost adaptation to life in Japan, I had a new problem. I didn't want to finish the exchange student by taking graduate school classes and Japanese classes. For the remaining 100 days, I wanted to set one study topic doing with professors in CEEL and present the results about it that I choose. It was because of the idea that I could find a topic of interest while working with professors and students. I'd like to do many things but my problem is that it's hard for me to choose only one thing among many things that I'd like to study. It wasn't anyone's pressure, but I was obsessed with having to decide in a short time like when I was in Korea.


A new goal

I used to take action as fast as I can but I had a week of deciding what research to do here because I have decision trouble that doesn't allow me to easily choose one of the many things that I want to do. To make matters worse, a professor in CEEL told me that it's very difficult to study tsunami during short times when I said I would like to do research on tsunami which is the active research in Japan. Also, when I asked for advice on what kind of research to do, he advised that courses of finding a research topic that I want to study by myself are one of the important parts of the research. Since I had to think about the research topic for a long time, I wished it to be related to the research that will be conducted when I go to graduate so I sent an academic advisor in Korea to 4 things that I'd considered. It was with regard to erosion and recovery at embayed beach during extreme events such as storm surge based on X-beach model which is promising to predict beach or dune erosion in the nearshore. As a result, I set a goal as reviewing an existing paper written by other authors perfectly.

After that, I had to receive data from other scenarios because I could not receive the data of the previously thought scenario. I also had difficulty to study on my own about X-beach model because there was no one in CEEL who is able to handle it. However, I was able to finish my life in Japan by achieving a final presentation for the reviewed paper. It was a better experience than ever because I accomplished what I decided to do and set a goal additionally. If I had thought to study one topic but hadn't taken action on it, last results would be different from now. My first step in thinking about the research topic I wanted to do and asking for advice from the professor was very helpful.

New experience

By the time I was immersed in cheap beers and delicious foods compared to expensive prices in Japan and, my invisible belly fat was increasing even though it was hard for others to recognize seemingly. In addition, due to the feature of the research subject, I had to sit for a long time in front of the computer, and most of the time I spent sitting there after eating so my abdomen became more rounded and I went through physically tired day more than usual. One day one friend, who was living in the same dormitory, suggested climbing to the summit of Mt. Fuji. Although I did not know much about Japan, Mt.Fuji was famous as a representative mountain of Japan, and I knew it well, and I accepted it as it would be a special experience to go to there.

The first plan was to arrive at the middle point of the mountain (5th point) by bus, climb to 7th to 8th point, sleep at the mountain hut, climb again to the summit at dawn, and climb down after the sunrise. However, it was not easy to make reservations because the expected date for climbing Mt.Fuji is a public holiday 'Mountain day' in Japan, which is expected to be more people than usual. (Mountain day - a public holiday struck in 2014 in Japan to thank for mountain) Therefore, we decided to hike Mt. Fuji for two days without sleeping at night. Even though I had round belly fat, I thought that the strength that I'd got in the Korea army remained, and I had a thought that I could go up to the summit of Mt. Fuji with no difficulty. Two weeks ago, I tried to exercise just in case, and I had a pain in my legs after 3km running. I felt serious and thought that I have to exercise. Thank you again for the friend who suggested me to go Mt.Fuji because I still have worked out since I exercised at that time.

On the day of the climb, we didn't know whether it would be rainy due to the influence of typhoon CROSSA, and if it rained a lot, it was impossible to climb the mountain so we headed to 5th point of Yosida route with half of expectation and concern like I visited in Japan for the first time. There are many different routes that climbers can go to the summit of Mt.Fuji, but each difficulty and opening day of climbing for the public are different, so it's a good idea to consider with deliberation before going up. In addition, Mt.Fuji is basically open to the public only during the summer months of July and August, and to the expert climber only during the rest of the year. This is related to the weather. It is a high mountain so the average temperature at the top is about 6 degrees in August, and when the wind blows, the temperature is much lower. At the time of our hike, it was hard for me to withstand the cold even with two T-shirts, one sweater, one windbreak, and one raincoat at the top despite the best weather without wind or rain.

At the Shinjuku Bus Station before departure, it was a steamy heat, but as soon as we arrived at the 5th point (2,305m), the cool weather made me tremble. After having dinner, we started hiking at 7:30 pm, but there was no problem up to the 9th point (about 3,500m) except for tiredness of no-sleep based on drinking water and the effect of sugar intake through chocolate. But as soon as I passed the 9th point, my head hurts sharply. I think it was due to mountain sickness. I was very dizzy due to it but I put up with it with the thought that we reach the top soon.

While climbing, you can go to the restroom or buy food at the supermarket every 5~8 point. You need to pay 200 yen to use the restroom, and you can buy food at a price higher than usual. After reaching the summit at about 3:30 am, I rested for 30 minutes to relieve that symptom and waited for sunrise. The sunrises that we saw above the clouds was spectacular even though I was tired and dizzy. Despite a nice view of the sunrise, thinking of going down brought us back to reality. Unlike the upward direction of mountain trails, the opposite path mainly consists of volcanic ash, which causes a lot of dust. At the end of our climbing travel, the entire face is covered with volcanic ash, so masks or face shields are recommended to prevent it.

According to a Japanese friend, there is a saying, 'It's silly not to climb Mt.Fugi one time or to climb Mt.Fugi two times. As the friend said, it was a gift of unexpected achievement and challenging spirit from a new experience although fourteen and a half hours (7:30 pm departure and 10 am arrival) climbing was so hard.


To future applicants of Campus Asia program

Campus Asia's OQEANOUS offers a variety of programs, including summer school (two-week short program), IJP (one -semester program) and DDP (two-semester program). In addition to credit exchange, students can earn multiple degrees when they participate in the DDP program. If you participate in the IJP program as an undergraduate, you can take pre-graduate school lectures in advance. It is a big advantage that if you do not have any research in progress at the host school, you can conduct new research with the advisor in Japan. It helps you set the direction of the future research topic. If you have ongoing research, you can get feedback from many people. Besides, TUMSAT and SHOU both have more than 100 years of tradition so you can take various kinds of classes.

Above all, I think that the biggest advantage is that applicants can live in another country with scholarships. Living in different languages and cultures, you can gain a lot of experience from the time that everything is clumsy and awkward to the moment of adaptation. If you have any uncertainty about the future, similar to my concerns about the research topic before going to Japan as an exchange student, please do not hesitate to apply. New experiences will give a new direction.