University of Tokyo
Graduate School, Master's program
My name is Mathieu Glacet, and I am currently a graduate student in a master’s program at the University of Tokyo. Katayama Sensei contacted me and told me about this page, which I would have loved to have discovered during my time at UT, so I hope my experience can be of some help to current Longhorns!
I started my Japanese adventure after entering UT in 2008, and deciding on a whim to remove psychology from my FIG classes, to take Japanese instead. I had always been interested in the language, and coming to the US was the opportunity I chose to start studying it seriously. I met great friends in Japanese class, and became more and more interested in the language. I immediately decided that I wanted to study abroad, and see Japan for my own eyes.
I set my sights on Iwate University, in Morioka city, in northern Japan. I was ready to study abroad for 6 months, not being able to go for longer because of my chemistry major. I was supposed to leave for Japan on March 21st 2011, until my study abroad was cancelled due to the March 11th earthquake in northeastern Japan.
Iwate prefecture was one of the hardest hit regions, and the nuclear disaster in Fukushima had caused UT to consider Iwate as a dangerous and restricted area. It took months but after petitioning, UT finally decided to let me study abroad in Morioka for a year, starting from October 2011. It was the best experience of my life, and I still dearly love the place. There’s plenty of other resources at UT where you can learn about studying abroad so I will not dwell on it too much here.
I came back to UT in 2012 having no idea of what to do with my life. I finished my degree in chemistry even though I had no interest in doing research in the field, so I looked for a way to come back to Japan. While the CIR position in the JET Programme would have been my ideal choice, I didn’t remember its existence and let that chance slip past through my fingers. Eventually, I applied to a master’s program at Tokyo University’s Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, and started classes there in October 2013.
So what am I currently doing now? I’m studying disaster management under the international studies major at my graduate school. My research focuses on effects of long-term stays in temporary housing. I was extremely lucky to find an internship through my professor at the reconstruction and planning office in the Town Hall of a small town near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. I’ve been here for a month, and the internship will last all summer. Being here has taught me what working life is like in a Japanese environment, and it has been a hugely valuable experience. I was the first intern ever in the town, and probably one of the few foreigners to have worked in such an office, since this kind of municipal work is only reserved to Japanese nationals.
I will go back to Tokyo at the end of September, and graduate in a year from now. My experience here has made me enjoy municipal work and hopefully one day I will be able to work in a town or city back home in France or in the US, and be able to build ties with a town in Japan.
Looking back at my days at UT, I never thought I would end up where I am, even in my wildest dreams. Never give up, and you will find opportunities in seemingly impossible places. The disaster that I thought would prevent me from going to Japan became the reason why I’ve returned.
I have some advice for current longhorn students relevant to what I’ve done:
- If you want to learn the language and the culture, don’t be afraid to go where there are less people. Go out of your comfort zone. Try to avoid speaking too much of your mother tongue. Immersion was really helpful for me, but it was possible because I chose a place that I knew I would thoroughly enjoy.
- Try to do the most you can do when you go abroad. I accepted all sorts of experiences, and all offers. As an example, the jobs I worked ranged from manual labor in a cleaning factory with immigrants, to all expense paid trips to a Unesco World Heritage Site to make sure it is easily accessible to foreign tourists, to being a local bartender singing traditional Japanese songs, to French and English teacher. Each experience gave me a new outlook on Japan, helped me with the language and the culture.
- If you want to continue to graduate school, but also want to go to Japan,why not do both? Many classes in top schools here are conducted in English, and in fact, zero knowledge of Japanese was necessary to apply for my program, nor graduate from it. Looking through all the information might be tough, but don’t give up. In my case, I didn’t even have to pass a test, I applied from overseas by sending multiple documents, then waiting for the result.
- Never give up. Not everything might be accessible on the first try, but you can get there eventually.
I want to thank everyone who has helped me get where I am, from my caring Sensei, to everyone at Kaiwa Table, to the Japanese Association and especially its president the year I came back, and finally all the friends I made in Japan and at UT through the Japanese major.
If anyone has any questions about graduate school in Japan, the situation in Fukushima, studying abroad to learn Japanese, or why Morioka is the best city hands down, don’t hesitate to send me an email at mathieuglacet31 [at] gmail.com (and replace the [at] with @). I would love to answer any questions or respond to any comments!
Never give up, and がんばっぺ東北！がんばっぺ福島！
鶴ヶ城 (Tsuruga-jo) by Glacet