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東京大学公共政策大学院 | GraSPP / Graduate School of Public Policy | The university of Tokyo

GraSPPers Voice

Through Jabs and Jungle: A reflection on GrasPP-LKYSPP Double Degree

Kaoru Takayama (from Japan)

My experience with GraSPP’s Double Degree program with LKYSPP National University of Singapore (July 2021 – May 2022) in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic began with a three-week self-isolation at a five-star hotel upon my landing at Changi airport. My first impressions of Singapore, naturally, were somewhat off-kilter, having faced stringency and luxury intertwined in a strange, dystopian sort of way. But, my final evaluation of my year in Singapore lies close to that of my first three weeks in the country. My experience, despite the academic rigor and stringent COVID restrictions, was immensely rewarding and gratifying, peppered with special highlights of friendship and travel.

At GraSPP, I centered most of my studies around economics, driven by a continued interest in energy economics from my undergraduate studies in environmental sciences. But, I quickly realized that I was missing a crucial perspective on geopolitics and the broader international context that plays into the policymaking of environmental and energy policy. In equal measure, I felt that I had little to no exposure to the international context in Asia, including the political and historical perspectives that continue to play into the policy dynamics of the ASEAN and East Asian region. LKYSPP offered an exceptional environment to explore my interests further – and a chance to explore Singapore in the fullest measure.

With my team at the PAE Conference

LKYSPP exceeded my expectations in every measure. As expected, the course workload and commitments were tough, but the learnings and growth have been equally immense – not to mention the friendships and special comradery gained with classmates. The capstone project, another aspect of my initial motivations to attend LKYSPP, also proved to be a challenging, but invaluable experience. Working with a diverse group of students and a real-life client was an unparalleled chance to understand the applications of the skills and learnings gleaned within the classroom. The experience has really come to define my time at LKYSPP and I am blessed to have had some of the best teammates to work with.

Apart from academics, living in Singapore was incredibly fun. Situated beneath the equator, Singapore experiences temperatures exceeding 30 degrees Celsius and short bursts of thunderous rain on a daily. It made for some of the most humid days I have ever lived through, but the sun offered nice company for moving about. The transportation system, too, clean and efficient, providing quick and easy access to almost all areas of the country. It helped that I stayed at College Green, the student dormitory located only a 15-minute walk away from the Bukit Timah Campus and near the Botanic Gardens, the heart of central Singapore, allowing for among other benefits, a few extra, precious minutes of shut-eye before those early-morning classes.

The dormitory where I stayed

I believe the dormitory deserves a special mention of its own, as it has, also, come to define my time in Singapore. College Green consists of roughly 60 or so individual houses, shared by up to four residents, who each have their own private room and shared living space, kitchen, and bathrooms. It is, by no means, a five-star stay – but it is what you make of it. The rooms are spacious, the scenery full of lush greenery, and the residents welcoming and friendly. The occasional gecko and cockroach had to be dealt with and the junglefowl would begin its morning calls without fail. Showers were cold and kitchen appliances were in constant need of repair. But, I look back and I am left only with the fondest of memories.

And, that remains true for all aspects of my Singapore experience. I look forward to the day I return as a more experienced professional, but for the time being, I take my next step at Seoul National University as part of my ongoing journey through the Campus Asia Plus program.