My name is Brett, and I’m a third-year student double-majoring in International Relations and East Asian Studies. Around this time last year, I was in Graham Library filling out an application to U of T’s Centre for International Experience (CIE). Right now, I’m living in Tokyo.
I’ll briefly explain why and how I ended up here. I have a long-standing fascination with certain areas of Japan: its tech industry, modern history, and cityscapes, to name a few. This fascination directs my studies at U of T, where I devour courses on Japanese history, politics, and literature. But, studying in Toronto for the past two years has been somewhat bittersweet for me; my Japan-related courses allowed me to study topics that I am genuinely interested in, but they also reaffirmed my desire to actually be in Japan. Studying abroad at the University of Tokyo presented itself as a perfect way for me to continue my undergraduate studies, while satisfying my desire for fresh experience.
When I began my application to study abroad, I was right in the middle of a busy period. Essays and exams seemed endless. Now that I’m in Tokyo, I’m really glad that I took a moment to apply. When school gets tough, it’s easy to become shortsighted; next week’s midterms and essays might seem infinitely more important than anything beyond even a month away, e.g. an exchange. The good news is that CIE’s initial application is simple. It only requires a résumé, a brief (250-350 words) statement of interest, and two reference letters (just give your professors lots of time to write them!).
After being nominated, that is, accepted by U of T to go on exchange, CIE gave me specific instructions from my school of choice. In my case, there was an interview at CIE and some paperwork from the Japanese government. Once I finished those two things and went to a few orientations, I waited until June, when I received my letter of admission from the University of Tokyo. Finally, I arrived here on October 1.
Now that I’m in Tokyo, I’m watching months of planning come to fruition; unfamiliar locations on maps have turned into tangible places. The past three weeks have been a blur of orientations, moving in, and starting classes, but my time here has been fantastic so far.
Tokyo is a metropolitan maze of themed districts – Night life? Shibuya or Shinjuku. Electronics? Akihabara. Street Fashion? Harajuku. Fish markets? Odaiba. The list goes on. To provide a sense of the city’s complexity and expansiveness, here’s a comparison of the TTC’s subway map versus the Greater Tokyo Area’s train network.
Tokyo’s size is intimidating at first, but it also promises a wealth of things to see and experience. I’m looking forward to sharing these experiences here over the next few months. For now, I’ll wrap things up with a track from Tokyo’s very own Nujabes: