Hold a big dream, set your target high!
-----The teachers, my friends at KOSEN and my host families…they gave me a warm welcome, and Kure is now my second home town. I believe Japanese firms will accept foreign students who have high skills and knowledge and no language barrier to work with them. Have a big dream and set your target high! -----Thi Ha
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---Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule for this interview. You are from Myanmar and graduated from Kure KOSEN. Could you tell me why you chose Japan for your study abroad?
I think countries for studying abroad for young people from Myanmar will be Japan, USA, UK, Australia, Canada, Singapore and so on. As for me, I had a dream to study in Japan since I was a high school student. Because Japan has a high level technology and there is no doubt that I can obtain high level skills and can contribute to my country with that technology in future.
In fact, I wanted to study in the electronics field at first because electronics technology is very widespread in Japan and I had an image that Japan equaled a country of electronics. But finally I decided to study civil engineering, because my country was a developing country and it really needs civil engineers for basic infrastructure and public works.
---Why did you decide to study at KOSEN?
When I was a 1st year student at an institute of technology in Myanmar, I knew a scholarship program of the Japanese Government for young Myanmar students to study in Japan as a part of the ODA project of the Japanese Government. To take this opportunity, I started to collect the information to study abroad and begun studying Japanese with a basic course.
In fact, I didn’t know about KOSEN too much, because we did not have much information about KOSEN in those days. In Myanmar, there were two kinds of system to apply for Japanese government scholarships at that time, one for government servants for higher education and the second for young students for undergraduate courses. At that time, the Japanese government offered the KOSEN course for the young students and so I applied for this course.
---So, you decided to apply for a Japanese government scholarship program when you were still studying in your university.
Why did you come to Japan after you finished second year in your university?
Ok, I must explain the education system in Myanmar. In my country we have only 11 years education to finish high school but we need 12 years education to apply for the Japanese government scholarship for undergraduate courses. So, I applied to the scholarship after I finished the first year, and then the study abroad procedures took some time and so, as a result, I came to Japan after I finished the second year of my university.
---You transferred to Hiroshima University. Could you tell me why you decided to study at university after you finished KOSEN?
Yes, after I finished the KOSEN course, I decided to go on to a university course because I was thinking about work with Japanese firm, so it was better for foreign students to obtain advanced techniques. Therefore, I decided to transfer to the third year of university after I finished KOSEN.
---Did you think you had any time lag by transferring from KOSEN to university compared with direct enrollment to university?
I didn’t think I had any time lag. Because, in general in Japan, foreign students need one or two years to study Japanese and other basic subjects before taking an entrance examination for university. That means they will need three or four years to become a third year student in university in the case of direct enrollment to university. In my case, I studied Japanese for six months before I entered KOSEN. Then, I studied for three years in KOSEN and then transferred to university as a third year student. That means, I spent 3.5 years to become a third year student of university. So, you can see there is not too much difference in time in both cases.
---By the way, how did you learn Japanese?
When I entered KOSEN, my Japanese was only at the beginner level. I could read and write hiragana and katakana (the Japanese alphabet) but I knew only very limited numbers of kanji (Chinese characters) and technical terms for my studying. Therefore, it was very hard for me to understand the lectures and to read text books.
Unsurprisingly I couldn’t understand the questions in tests. I struggled to get through the situation. Fortunately, the teachers and Japanese students helped me to break down the language wall. After school hours, I went to the teachers’ room and I asked a lot of questions about what I didn’t understand during the lectures. All the teachers gave me understanding for my situation and they warmly and kindly gave me individual help. Besides, the teachers put some English translations in the questions of the tests. Also Japanese students in my class helped me in any situation. Since then, I gradually integrated into the class, and my Japanese also improved rapidly within six months. By the way, I passed the highest level of Japanese language proficiency test (level 1) two years after I entered KOSEN.
I want to recommend strongly this point as the advantage of KOSEN compared to university. In KOSEN, teachers and students can build up personal relationships, and foreign students can easily integrate with their classmates because there is only a single class in a year, and the classmates will not change until graduation. Besides, there are few international students and so, teachers can pay close attention to us.
---That’s a big point to choose KOSEN. How about your KOSEN life?
I enjoyed KOSEN life a lot. As the start for my study abroad, campus life in KOSEN was very good for me and so I got confident to continue to advanced study in Japan. By the way, Kure KOSEN has a homestay system and so we can get a host family through KOSEN. Besides, we can enjoy interchanges with local people and we can also get host families through volunteer groups in the area, such as Kure Green Lions Club. Even though it has been several years since I left KOSEN, I have frequent contact with my host families and when I travel to this area on business my host families gave me a warm welcome. I can say that Kure is now my second hometown.
---Could you tell me about your job?
Now, I am working with NIPPON KOEI Co., LTD., one of the largest consulting companies in Japan for providing comprehensive services in the field of technical assistance not only for Japan but also for developing countries. We have a lot of worksites and branch offices in the whole world, including my country. I wish and hope to contribute to my country and other developing countries in their need for infrastructure construction through this company. Now I am starting to try to take part in a JICA project which supports improvements in developing countries.
---Do you have any advice to prospective students who want to study in KOSEN?
I strongly recommend that not only you can learn the fundamentals of engineering but also you can get practical and professional engineering skills in KOSEN.
From my experiences, I held a big dream and I set a high target at every turning point, and then kept trying to obtain what I wanted to get. I can say from my experience that Japanese society will support all foreign students who need help and who work hard in their studying. And I also believe that Japanese firms accept foreign students who have high skills and knowledge and no language barrier to work with them.
Now, hold a big dream, and set your target high!
---That’s a strong message for prospective students! Thank you very much for your time today!