I first came to Japan when I was 12 years old, to compete in the Karate World Championships in Tokyo. I fell in love instantly with the big city of Tokyo and Japanese culture in general; but most importantly I knew I wanted to practice karate and eventually study here in Japan. So, upon graduating from high school in London, I flew to Tokyo on a gap year to work and train everyday. It was during that first year in Tokyo that I heard about Tsukuba University and the G30 program they were offering.
Me competing at the All Japan Championships
Although I had initially dreamed of going to one of the universities famous for their karate clubs, I can say without any hesitation that coming to Tsukuba was the best thing to happen to me. I began my undergraduate studies in social and international studies in 2011 and graduated in 2015. Perhaps the most rewarding experience for me during those 4 years was being able to study and learn with people of all nationalities, cultures and backgrounds. Only by coming to study abroad did I realise how narrow my view of the world really was. I have made so many friends, both Japanese and non-Japanese, and some that have become much more like family than friends. For this I will be eternally grateful that I came to Tsukuba and could experience being around such wonderful people. As an undergraduate student I majored in gender studies, focusing on gender issues in sport and using my karate background as inspiration.
There were many reasons that I decided to continue my graduate school studies here at Tsukuba. First of all, the university has one of the biggest campus’s in Japan, I often run in the mornings around the loop that surrounds the university. I love the fact that Tsukuba is surrounded by so much natural beauty, whilst at the same time being only a 45 minute train journey to the heart of Tokyo. It really is the best of both worlds. Moreover, I joined the graduate school of Tsukuba International Academy for Sports Studies geared towards the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. For sport, Tsukuba is one of the best universities in Japan, with no other university offering this program, so for me it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. I’ve also gotten to know many of the teachers here at Tsukuba, all of whom are kind and supportive, as well as being highly competent in their fields of research. Lastly, my quality of life here I think is much higher than back home in London. Growing up in London I became used to the bustle of city life and very much used to think of myself as a ‘city girl’. However, living in Tsukuba these past 5 years I’ve come to love the slower pace of life, being able to cycle everywhere safely, going to an Ofuro or Onsen to relax and having friends that live around the corner. Although I travel to Tokyo every morning for my karate training, I always feel a sense of satisfaction coming out of Tsukuba station, hearing the quietness compared with Tokyo, and jumping on my bike to cycle home. It might not be for everyone, but there is no other place in Japan I’d rather live.
As you can probably tell, karate was the main reason I moved to Japan. I’ve practiced karate since I was 7 years old. I was a member of the Tsukuba University Medical Shotokan Karate Club for 4 years and still train in the evenings at a dojo in Ishige, a small town about half an hour from Tsukuba. Through karate I’ve gained a family away from home, and learned so much about Japanese culture, language and life. It was thanks to my instructor from Ishige that I was the first female non-Japanese competitor to win a medal, 3rd place, in kata at the All Japan Championships. Without his hard training sessions, and determination to push me and guide me, I’m not sure I would have stayed in Japan as long as I have. I definitely recommend joining a sports club, or any university club, to anyone who chooses to study here, as it really is the best way to learn the language and make new friends.
I aim to graduate in April next year and I hope to go on to study at Ph.D level here at Tsukuba in Sport and Gender studies. Every time I consider the thought of leaving Japan, Tsukuba University seems to offer me something new and exciting to pursue. I definitely ended up at Tsukuba University by chance, and I feel very lucky that fate lead me here. It also doesn't hurt that Japanese food is the best, you can go to karaoke whenever you feel like it, go skiing in the winter and go to the beach in the summer! I definitely won’t be leaving anytime soon!
Me bungee jumping in Ibaraki
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