Graduation day at Tokyo Tech is always dreamy.
In the end of March, when cherry blossoms are bloomed in front of the main building, beautiful girls in colorful kimonos and other traditional clothes, and guys in neat suits are all honored with blue diploma, where “Tokyo Institute of Technology” is gracefully printed on in golden color as if it’s witnessing the hard work of last years and wishing good luck for the next chapter of our lives.
One thing that made me excited the most for last few months was the plan to bring my family to Japan for my graduation ceremony. Even though we were planning this for quite a long time, this time it felt real as they already bought flight tickets to Japan quite early. Unfortunately, the news about “corona virus” has emerged in January, which grew more serious as days pass by, leading our long-planned family gathering to be cancelled. Even though, that was disappointing, all my friends were experiencing the same thing, yet we had each other to celebrate our precious moment.
Graduating as very first alumni of Global Scientists and Engineers Program (GSEP) was honorable. Yet after studying together, living closely, helping each other out as one batch, it was sad and exciting at the same time that we’re pursuing separate paths from this point. Some of us decided to work in their home country, some decided to continue for graduate study in Japan and Europe. For me, I have decided to continue my studies at Tokyo Tech to develop my research skills further and deepen my academic knowledge through Energy Science and Engineering Course. Even though the schools start in April, this year with full of uncertainty, Tokyo Tech was ready to start the new academic year online from May as many other educational institutes in Japan.
At first, every few minutes of the lecture was “Can you hear me?”, “Do you see my screen?” question back and forth. As it was new to both students and professors, it was heartwarming to see how everyone is working together to overcome the challenges of online courses. The first couple of weeks were really exhausting, staring at laptop screens whole day trying to adjust. I realized that in the campus, going from one classroom to another makes us refreshed in between classes and at least we could bump into friends. However, after few weeks I started enjoying it, and decided to make the best out of it.
Having online classes from home reduced the commuting time to campus and offered us more time of the day in our control. Classes, group works, off campus events, meetings everything could be done consequently from one spot, which was convenient for me. I learned to manage some exercises in between and started to have home cooked meals more than ever since coming to Japan. Since I live in apartment in walking distance from the campus like many others, I could bump into friends at grocery stores or while jogging or running in the evenings.
The major courses of Energy Science and Engineering course seemed quite challenging in a sense that I need to learn the principles behind and applications of various types of energy generating technologies. From outside it looked similar to how it was in undergraduate, but I could feel the different expectations and more responsibilities as a graduate student both in studies and life.
In my laboratory, there are 3 research groups: biofuels, AI in education and energy policy, which I belong. As my research can be done from anywhere, I had no big problem. But those who conduct experiments were bound to face some challenges since they couldn’t enter the campus. However, it was motivating to see that everyone could adapt fast and progressing with their research by conducting simulations, doing literature reviews etc. until the situation got better and the university started allowing students in to conduct experiments.
Besides online classes, Energy Tech Meetup, the community I belong to, could also quickly shift from physical events to virtual events. Our events started welcoming more speakers and participants from other parts of the world, since there were no geographical barriers, which also happens in online classes too. As most countries closed their borders, many new students started their journey at Tokyo Tech online from their homes.
Even though the Covid-19 situation is distressing, I think it’s enthralling to witness and see how quickly we could adapt to new way of doing things, and what challenges are rising, and how each country is dealing with those.
The first semester of my master’s study has passed like this in a blink of an eye, but I believe it’ll remain as one of the most memorable periods of my life.
Stay safe and stay positive, all!