Japan is like no other country in the world, fusing the ancient and the modern seamlessly. As soon as I landed in Tokyo, I noted the presence of a girl in a kimono against the scintillating neon billboards and endless flow of salarymen. Dressed in a sakura print and wooden sandals, she exhibited a timeless beauty.
The Japanese capital delivers an incredible array of experiences, from festivals at shrines to crane games at arcades. Opportunities for scientific growth are also among the offerings in Japan. This summer, I had the chance to attend a weeklong lecture course in the greater Tokyo area called, “Exploring and Emulating the Brain,” organized and held by the RIKEN Brain Science Institute. In recapping my trip, I hope to make apparent the benefits of exploring your field in a new place.
My First Day
As I sat down for breakfast on the first day of the program, I was overcome with anxiety. Surrounded by strangers on the opposite side of the world, I moved to the rightmost corner of the lobby. I sipped on miso soup as I eavesdropped on awkward conversations about the brain and jetlag. Choosing not to socialize, I walked to the campus alone.
Too shy to initiate conversation, I sat in the lecture hall reading The New Yorker. Someone soon approached me holding out his ID badge. I put away my iPad and remembered that my primary goal for this course was to engage with fellow program participants. As aspiring young scientists, we build our professional networks and create job opportunities through communication and collaboration. Although it may not feel like it in the moment, an uncomfortable situation can help you grow as a person. The challenge is to get past that initial discomfort to learn something new. I was able to experience that this summer through the RIKEN BSI Summer Program.
Alongside my peers, I was able to learn from the noted neuroscientists in attendance. Each lecture was an hour and a half, which…