Tales from Tokyo

The University of Tokyo chose to fly one of our international students to their Inaugral Symposium to share her experience of studying abroad. But Japan had far more to share with her than she was expecting.

At the end of 2015, Franziska Wiebke entered a University of Tokyo competition for a Global Ambassador. Franziska’s winning competition video explored the highs and lows of settling in Copenhagen as an international student from Germany. As soon as her January exams were complete, she was off to Tokyo to talk at their symposium.

Her reflections on being a Global Ambassador in Tokyo are a reminder to make the most of the journey, and enjoy everything the GNH experience has to offer.

“Sometimes, looking back at my four day experience at the University of Tokyo, it feels like a dream. A dream too good to be true. But I can be certain that it wasn’t, as I have the incredible memories and am also perceiving myself and the environment I live in differently than before.

When starting university in Denmark, I knew that I was offered a great opportunity to be studying with people from around the world – it teaches me things no book ever could. Unfortunately, on a daily basis this understanding sometimes fades. The experiences in Tokyo reminded me that not everyone is as lucky as me – it made me stop, think and realise that I have to make the most out of my time at University. I was reminded to focus  more on learning from my fellow students’ experiences and about their cultural background.


Before going to Tokyo I thought I was already quite good at being culturally sensitive – but I realised I still have a long way to go; and most likely this sensitivity journey is a life-long one. Thank you University of Tokyo, for reminding me of the importance! Other than focusing on interaction with other students, I also want to do an even greater effort in finally becoming fluent in the local language, Danish (I am almost half way there, but still a got some way to go). Some might wonder why? Through interaction with students as well as faculty, I once again understood that language is much more than a tool to communicate, it also tells one about the people, the cultural and the history of a country. And just to add there are studies indicating that knowing several languages prevents you from developing Alzheimers later in life (health is always a good reason, after all I am studying health and nutrition).


Through the interaction with fellow students and faculty from around the world, I realised this fairly new format of higher education is not only a great opportunity but also challenging for both students and faculty. Even though we study in different parts of the world, we face similar challenges.

Just to mention a few: we write or grade exams in a language that isn’t our own;
we study in English at an university which is integrated into the local higher education system, and we sit in a classroom with people coming from different school systems. We should’t deny that it is not always easy to life, work or study in a country other than once own, but I also believe that easy isn’t always good anyway.

Looking at my future – the discussions with other students and faculty during the workshop as well as the symposium gave me an idea of the skills we students have to offer on top of our academic qualifications to possible future employees. Summing up, I recognised that an education “like ours”, including students and faculty form around the world, is preparing us perfectly for a job in this truly interconnected global world!

Thank you University of Tokyo for making this unique learning experience possible!”


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