Almost as High as California Blue Skies

Almost as High as California Blue Skies

Lots of logistics have to be figured out before studying abroad. Money, career path, language issue… etc. Yet too much worrying may slow down your first step. Mr. Hara, an inspiring researcher just took the first stride to challenge himself by going overseas.

Noritaka Hara

Born in Izumo, country of myth. During doctoral research I have been focusing on
building and designing principle of the Bacterial flagellar motor, one of the most
complex biological nanomachines. Someday I want to make nanomachines which is likely to appear in the world of SF, though the path looks long and rugged. I’m also football freak, cheering for Gamba Osaka and Matsue City Football Club.

UC Berkeley Visiting Researcher

Most of the morning begins with overcast sky in Berkeley.The rising fog makes me feel even gloomier. The cloud, however, clears out by lunchtime and Californian blue skies dominate. Two months have passed since I moved to this place. Speaking second language, completely new field of study, and communication with my boss… A lot of things aren’t going well and that put me under great stress. However, I am working hard to get used to this new world, and frankly, I haven’t been able to spare my time to figure out the significance of studying abroad yet. As a visiting researcher, I’m now working on synthetic biology in the department of Chemistry at UC Berkeley. Why did I decide to carry out research abroad? Simply because I really wanted to come to California. I always wanted to try a new field of research, studying abroad, and pushing my limits to see how far I can go. These ambitions have piled up and I came to the idea that NOW OR NEVER. Did I hesitate? Not even a bit. Actually I was more afraid of regretting, of giving up without challenge. If you wish to work as academia in Japan, you don’t necessary have to study abroad. Rather, it may become a disadvantage from being separated from traditional Japanese academic hierarchy. If you are planning your career based on such value or being too afraid of failure, you cannot make a decision to study abroad. When I first came to the United States, I was deeply impressed by diversity in choices people make in their life. Many people go to graduate school after working for several years. More and more young people leave college to take on the challenge of being entrepreneurs. People have their own way of life. Unlike in Japan, you don’t have to think much about how others may think of you
to do what you want to. Encouraging challenges and accepting diverse way of life are pervading in this society. Changing your major is fairly common here while it is pretty rare in Japan. For example, one of my roommates first majored in American literature at Carnegie Mellon University. Then he worked as a chef for several years. He is currently studying computer science at UC Berkeley. Because of this stimulating environment, rather than being bound to pre-existing norms, dynamic interdisciplinary
research is actively carried out.

I wonder about the benefit of studying abroad is. Working with famous professor in famous universities does not mean you are doing a great research. There seems to be no positive correlation between experience of studying abroad and creative work. It is true that you can build new network and gain new knowledge. You may receive a quality education. However, I think it is more significant to experience different cultures first hand, especially for those who have grown up in an island country like Japan. My perspective has expanded and I newly discovered the diversity of choices in the United States. Studying abroad may not be a prerequisite for traditional career path of Japanese researcher, neither it is only way to accomplish your dream. I think it is just one of the many choices. I come to feel the sense of fulfillment from challenge
toward my dream under this blue sky of Berkeley.