Aritra Ghosh (5th from the right) is a third year Physics student at Presidency University, Kolkata. He interned with University of Tokyo (Todai) during the summer after his 2nd year. Read his summer internship story.
The taxi screeched to a halt and as I approached it to open the rear door, just like that – the door magically swung open by itself! “Welcome to Tokyo!”
That was one of the many surprises that were lined up for me in the extremely eventful six weeks that I spent in Tokyo this year for a summer internship at the University of Tokyo (Todai, in short).
Oh! By the way, I am Aritra Ghosh from Presidency University, Kolkata, currently in the 3rd year of my undergraduate studies in Physics. The internship in question was the University of Tokyo Research Internship Program (UTRIP). It is a fairly competitive program which is organized every year by the Graduate School of Science at Todai. Applications are invited in January/February and 30 students are selected from around the globe for the research opportunities available that year. Usually they are spread equally over Physics, Chemistry, Astrophysics, Earth and Planetary Sciences. Two six week slots are available for doing the internship – one from June-July and another from July-August. All costs, including air-fare, are borne by the organizers so that you can purely focus on the task at hand.
I had stumbled upon this internship while looking up internships in Japan. I was sceptical about whether I would be accepted into such a competitive program, but me being me, I decided to give it a shot. The first hurdle was the fact that I had not taken TOEFL/IELTS. Thankfully, I had found out about this program well in advance and so I had the time to appear for the TOEFL test. Knowing how specific the Japanese are about deadlines, I finished all the formalities well in advance and on a beautiful sunny day in March, there was an e-mail from Tokyo offering me a spot on the program!
My project was on particle physics (it involved the Super KEK-B accelerator in Japan) and before departing for my internship, I had been e-mailed the basic outline of my project. Frankly speaking, I was a bit worried that on one hand it would be a pretty steep learning curve for me, having never worked on particle physics before, and on another hand for the first time, I would be out of the country for so long. But, once in Tokyo, all my worries disappeared – the organizers, my supervisor and everyone else in the lab were extremely helpful and they made me feel completely at ease. I was guided through each and every step of the project by my supervisor and although the work was pretty challenging, I somehow managed to finish it with his help! Seeing the larger than life KEK-B particle accelerator and going literally inside the gigantic Belle detector were some of the experiences I would never forget. Besides my project, as a part of the program, I had to attend some seminars on diverse research topics and we also had the chance to take part in traditional Japanese activities such as calligraphy, Bonsai and a tea- ceremony. We were also taken on a field trip for a day to the Yamanashi prefecture for a distant view of the towering and awe-inspiring Mt. Fuji!
Speaking of Japan, the first thing that strikes you is the politeness and punctuality of the Japanese people. The language barrier might me a problem, but you would never find a dearth of people willing to help you on the street. Besides, Tokyo is probably the safest metropolis you would ever find. Me and others in the program sometimes used to return home as late as 11pm on foot, but never ever did we feel even the slightest hint of trouble. As the days went by, all the people in the program started to bond together and soon we were a close-knit bunch of “gaijin” in Tokyo. The late-night sessions of charades, the numerous tours in and around the city as well the eat-outs helped me to take my mind off the work in the weekends. Just as I was starting to settle into this new life, the program came to an end and it was time to return back home!
Academically speaking, it has been extremely rewarding for me as I learned a lot about a completely unknown field in just six weeks. Also, I got hands on experience of getting involved in a mega-physics project and working in a laboratory of a top ranked institution (Todai is ranked 9th in Physics by ARWU). Besides, living all by myself in a foreign country as well as the cultural and social experience in Tokyo helped me to grow as a person. All in all, it was an extremely rewarding experience and I do hope in the future I get an opportunity to go back to Tokyo! Sayonara, for now!
If Aritra’s experience motivates you, you can view the latest international internships.
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