by Beatrice Ciabattoni

When I first discovered the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU), I was utterly enthralled in the various programs that were offered for the summer of 2017. I finally chose the University of Tokyo’s course on Sustainable Urban Management as this topic was closest to my course of study and interests. In addition, I had never been to Japan before and was very excited to get to know a new city. The University of Tokyo graciously supported me in this endeavor with the Friends of UTokyo Leadership Scholarship and come end of June off I went to Tokyo.

Arriving at the hostel, I met some of the participants from the program with whom I immediately connected with and we continued to spend most of our time together exploring the city for hours on end, underestimating the size of Tokyo and very often having to hurry to class so as not to be late, trying to decide on a place to eat when everyone was far too hungry to make rational decisions, and talking together in the hostel until late at night despite utter exhaustion. In spite of only knowing each other for two weeks, we stayed up the night before our departure to enjoy each other’s company for as long as possible before having to say goodbye. These were some of the most motivated, intelligent, and kindest people I have ever met and it was such an amazing feeling and experience to be surrounded by students from the top universities all over the world. One of my favorite parts of the trip was getting to meet everyone and hear about their life and all their stories. It is an incredible privilege to have made so many international friends.

The experience of studying at a different university was, while challenging, very enriching. The professors who held the lectures were all extremely accomplished with lots of practical experience and it was interesting to learn about projects they had worked on. Our final project was thought-provoking and enthralling. We had to propose a solution to stop the flooding of the Arasaki district in Japan. The best part about the project was hearing the different suggestions which all varied strongly based on the group which were composed of students from diverse backgrounds. In addition to the lectures we got to go on two study visits. On one we went to Mount Fuji and enjoyed a delicious lunch at a traditional Japanese restaurant as well as a tour of a Sake brewery where everyone loaded up on the beautiful souvenirs they offered there. Clouds unfortunately covered Mt. Fuji, but it was still incredible. The other study visit was to the CBD of Tokyo where we got to learn about the district’s development and enjoy wonderful views of Tokyo from the Mori Tower.

This trip was an eye-opening experience and made me feel so fulfilled and so grateful to all the people who have helped me get to where I am today and without whom I would not have been able to take part in this program and meet so many wonderful people, gain so much new knowledge, and get to know and learn about Tokyo and Japan. I will put this knowledge to good use in my future studies and career and hope to see all these incredible people again in another country. Thank you to FUTI for allowing and supporting me in this adventure and strongly contributing to my development and positively impacting my future. It is an honor to have been selected for the program and even more so to have UTokyo’s support.