Admittedly, the thought of going to a Japanese university was daunting at first. I was not sure what to expect and quite frankly, as someone with a very international background, I was worried that studying public policy at a national university would offer a limited, domestic perspective.
In reality, this was far from true. I was pleasantly surprised by not only the calibre of the teachers, many of which had worked in some of the world’s most important organisations but also by their fluency in English. With a mixture of academics and practitioners at your disposal, GraSPP offered me various practical perspectives. As a result, I was able to appreciate policy issues from an international perspective while taking into account the Japanese context. I also found the teachers very approachable. Part of this was due to the class sizes – smaller classes meant more discussion and more of a chance to know our fellow students and professors alike.
I think this course was very unique because of the inherently international nature of it. Being part of the GPPN network, it exposed us to various international opportunities such as a policy challenge which allowed me to travel to New York! I believe this serves as a model of what higher education should look like in the future as perspectives matter and our education systems should mirror the globalised world.
What I enjoyed was how international the students were as well. With students hailing from Asia, South America, Europe and the US, I was exposed to even more cultures – something that was crucial for me in a world that is becoming increasingly interconnected. With many of us far from home however, creating that ‘home away from home’ feeling came in the form of community. From celebrating people’s birthdays together to exploring Tokyo together, there were many opportunities to meet people.
Just like my initial concerns about Japanese universities, I was wary of moving to Japan because I had never been to Asia and it was far away from my family and friends. But moving here, I was taken aback by how easy it was to settle in. One thing I think anyone who lives in Tokyo can agree on is that things just work. There were a lot of bureaucracies to deal with but it was efficient. Within two weeks I was fully settled in and couldn’t remember why I was so reluctant.
Living in Tokyo has been a fascinating and unparalleled experience. It is a vibrant city with plenty to offer – food to everyone’s taste (I spent most of my time eating my way through Japan!) and festivals aplenty. Looking back on it, I find that there is still so much to discover. This is what has made living here all the more exciting. I also enjoyed how close it was to nature and have spent many weekends doing short day-trips to Tokyo’s neighbouring surroundings, hiking and exploring.
I came to Tokyo to challenge myself and I leave feeling like I have grown immensely. It is important to experience other cultures and I am grateful to the team at GraSPP for allowing me to be part of such a wonderful programme.