JSPS Summer Program

Past Programs

June 14 – August 24, 2016

  • I would suggest making an effort to learn Japanese, as this will ease some of the struggle of daily communications, and is appreciated by people in Japan.
  • Don't be afraid to try.
  • During your stay, I recommend you visit other laboratories and make connections. Although there are many cultural differences and language barriers, don't be afraid to try to communicate and get to know your colleagues!
  • The experience is as important as the work. Balance both.
  • Culturally, I think the best thing to do is be overly polite. The cash economy was also odd and unexpected for me. As for research, I would suggest trying to stay on your normal schedule. I found that if I tried to keep the same hours the Japanese did, I would have a lot of dead time where I was not very productive.
  • Seize every opportunity to engage both culturally and intellectually. Two months go by very quickly!
  • Plan, plan, plan before you arrive to your host country. I know that many fellows said this to me, and I planned as well as I felt that I could, but missed some small details. Communicate with your host about little things you expect their lab to have, that you would never guess they wouldn't have. They may not. Research is done very differently in all countries, so what may be an expectation in the US or your home country, may be something not considered as readily abroad. In terms of cultural differences, you will feel very different, and that's one of the awesome parts about being abroad. Welcome and invite others to teach you about their culture and you will learn so much more than if you try to only explore on your own. It's surprising how much you can share even when you don't speak the same language. Don't be afraid!
  • Just go with the flow. I get the feeling from the SOKENDAI orientation, Japanese people perceive their culture to be "strange" or "unordinary" on the world stage. I certainly don't feel like this is the case. Japan has a unique culture. It's a lively and wonderful culture. It's certainly something to be experienced and enjoy. But it's not so terribly odd that it's completely foreign (nor does it require an entire week-long orientation to ease in to). Just be up for anything and go with the flow. That would be my advice.
  • Muroran is very small. While I had a positive experience, I think I would have had an even better and more productive time in Japan if I had selected a host at a larger university in a bigger city. I wish I had known before I applied how the location of my university would affect my experience in Japan.
  • Japan has an incredible culture, and language. It is very different from many Western cultures. There are many huge differences and subtle differences you won't experience anywhere else. Make sure to take the time to learn about the culture and language, as all these differences are interesting.
  • Do not expect your host researcher to behave like researchers back home -- they may be more aloof or distant, but they still care about your research and may expect you to initiate conversations.
  • Contact your host researcher early in the process. Set clear goals and expectations. I felt extremely prepared when I arrived in Japan because of this. I am very happy with how quickly I was able to start conducting my research. I have talked with other JSPS researchers about their experience. I now understand how lucky I was. Many fellows were not as prepared as I was. Their research experience here was certainly not as seamless. Many of them spent more time fixing problems than conducting their actual research.
  • Learn katakana. Make sure there is time for travel. Come prepared by communication with your host researcher.
  • Understand the capabilities of your laboratory explicitly by asking specific questions before planning experiments.
  • Make sure you know where you are living prior to arriving, know how how close to grocery stores you will be, know your modes of transportation (consider a bicycle).
  • Extract, by any means necessary, explicit assurances from your host researcher that samples you assume they will have will indeed be present and available.
  • Take the time to learn a little Japanese and use it when you can. The Japanese people really seem to appreciate when you try speaking the language.
  • Bring shoes that you can easily take off and on as you will be changing into slippers very frequently!
  • Knowing Japanese is very recommended.
  • Make an effort to engage with the culture; try not to rely on your phone, it's challenging but it forces to you rely on others. Travel when possible, develop a routine early on. Make friends as well as professional collaborators; don't be afraid to try anything - food, travel, onsens, etc.
  • Study Japanese language before the program! It is more fulfilling. Almost everyone in the program agrees they wish they studied more and started sooner. Many labs speak English and want to learn English, but knowing Japanese makes a much better cultural experience.
  • Your colleagues in your office or laboratory are incredible resources if you need help or if you simply want to learn more about Japan.
  • Unfortunately, summer in Japan (especially in Tokyo) is warm and humid and not too pleasant to do outside research. So if a fellow is planning to conduct field research, he/she should set up 'back up research time' in case the fellow can't accomplish research in a planned time period.
  • Find out if you can do some travelling in Japan (e.g. contact your host beforehand to find out if there are any university holidays, or arrange flights for a later date and stay longer after the program is finished).
  • Japan is very safe and the people are very nice and friendly, but expect to have difficulties with language barrier, particularly if you are outside the main tourist cities.
  • This is an amazing and excelent program, in term of cultural and work experience. I have an advice for future fellows, work hard in your host instituations and enjoy your stay in japan during your free time or holidays if you have. It is a splendid country and japanese are very kind and hospitable.
  • Download Imiwa the best app to translate everything. Don't hesitate to communicate with your lab, some students may seem cold but in my case they were just shy and we became friend!
  • Visit Kyoto if you have the opportunity. To see this city was an amazing experience for me.
  • Establishing contact with the host researcher(s) before departing the home country is very recommended to get information about the specific workflow in the host's research group.
  • Please look out for and arrange the commodities early.
  • It would be nice to have a 2 day stay at the end in Tokyo.
  • Learning some basic Japanese before departure is useful.
  • The only advice that I can offer is to be prepared for an experience that is very different from your home country, yet absolutely amazing! Look at everything from a positive perspective and as a learning opportunity, and your JSPS experience will exceed all your expectations.
  • Get to know the other people from JSPS going to the same city as you. They are great emotional support and may become some of your closest friends.
  • small presents and souvenirs. Try to find the best option for net connection. Ask more questions about your accommodation and the related facilities
  • Some knowledge of Japanese will serve you well. I did not have time to, but studying the given material for a couple of hours per week would have been beneficial.