Education and Student Life

No.6: Try anything that interests you, even just a little!

2nd Year, School of Applied Biological Science, Faculty of Applied Biological Science
Nahomi Inamura
<Graduated from Senior High School attached to Kyoto University of Education>

“HU Student Voices” gives those who would like to enter HU an insight into the perspectives of current HU students. In this, the sixth interview in this series, we talk to Nahomi Inamura, a second-year student in the Faculty of Applied Biological Science.

As well as diligently pursuing her studies on the Special Course to Cultivate Researchers(*) at the Faculty of Applied Biological Science, Ms. Inamura has engaged in a wide range of activities, including a part-time job and study abroad. We asked her about anecdotes from when she was taking the entrance examination and the secret of her active nature.

What made you decide to take the entrance examination for Hiroshima University?

Actually, I originally hoped to go to a different university, but I didn’t get a high enough score in the National Center Test for University Admissions.... I discussed it with the teachers at my cram school and with my parents, and I’d heard that Hiroshima University had a spacious campus, a lot of research grants from the government, and good facilities, so I thought it sounded a good place to go.
Plus, you needed English for the secondary examination! I’ve put quite a bit of effort into studying English and I attended a cram school for English from my first year of junior high school. I thought that it would be good if I could make use of that in the secondary examination, and that’s how I made up my mind.

Why did you devote such effort to studying English?

I have two older sisters, who are both very good at English, and they introduced me to the cram school for English. That cram school was quite rigorous, because it focused on university entrance examinations, so I got better at English, whether I liked it or not. My parents also told me, “You’ll need English, whatever you do, so study hard.”

Did you go to any cram schools other than the one for English?

Yes, I went to a different cram school for other subjects. Rather than studying at home alone, it was easier for me to study with the guidance of my cram school teachers, telling me “now do this, now do that,” so I spent every day at the cram school’s study room, from morning till night.
I could ask the teachers straight away if there was anything I didn’t understand, and everyone else around me was studying too, so it was easy to concentrate.

Ms. Inamura gets nostalgic looking at her old study notes

Her English notebook, filled with notes in red pen

Didn’t you want to study English Language at university?

I’m good at English, but that’s a bit different from liking it. I wanted to study something else, using English as a tool – I never actually wanted to study English itself.

The thing I was most interested in and wanted to study was biology, so I’d thought about doing something in the agricultural science field.
My high school biology textbook had a feature about the development of a blue rose, which really interested me, and I used to spend my time in class just looking at that page. I thought it was incredible that so many adults had spent decades trying to create a blue rose. As I looked up various things on my own, I became interested in plants, so I decided to apply for the Faculty of Applied Biological Science.

What did you struggle with the most when studying for the entrance examination?

Although I chose to study science at university, I wasn’t at all good at the sciences <laughs>. There was a lot to remember in biology and chemistry, but I’m really bad at memorizing things. My grades just wouldn’t improve. But my cram school teacher told me, “Don’t worry – if you work hard, your grades will improve remarkably about a week before the National Center Test!” so I studied the way I was told and I actually got the best mark in the National Center Test!

That’s amazing! I’m sure that must have been the cumulative effect of the effort you’d put in up to that point, but are you the type of person who tends to do well on the day?

I was really nervous on the day of the exam, but some of my classmates were in the same room and I actually fell asleep for about a minute during the English test. It was the very last day, so I was probably exhausted. On the way home, when I told my friend about it, she said, “How gutsy are you?! You must have nerves of steel!” <laughs>. It was after I’d finished answering all of the questions, so my score was just fine.

Now tell us about things after you entered university. Is there anything in particular that makes you glad you came here?

I came to the Higashihiroshima campus for the first time when I took the entrance examination, and I was astonished by how spacious it was. To be honest, because Hiroshima University wasn’t my first-choice university, I wasn’t entirely keen at the time, but now I’m really glad I came here. Most of my friends here are also from outside the prefecture and there are lots of people with completely different personalities, so I learn a lot from talking to them.
I often talk to my lecturers on the Special Course to Cultivate Researchers, as well – they’re kind and willing to offer advice, so it’s easy to talk to them.

On the Faculty of Applied Biological Science’s Special Course to Cultivate Researchers(*), you start your research for your graduation thesis early, and attend special research-focused seminars and practical classes, don’t you? Are you thinking of becoming a researcher in the future?

Actually, it was only after entering university that I realized that such courses were available. To be honest, I’d never gone as far as thinking that I’d like to become a researcher, but I did want to become involved in developing plants in the future and wanted to go on to graduate school, so I applied straight away.

Including me, there are ten second-year students on the course. Although we’re in the same faculty, our interests are completely different, so I really enjoy listening to what the others have to say. Our fields differ, but we are all aiming for the same goal and everyone’s very proactive. I have one friend who’s very knowledgeable about fish and keeps pufferfish at home, despite living alone. Another friend was keeping slime mold in a petri dish as a pet. They’re a bit unusual, but they’re very interesting people.

So do you have a lot of plants at home?

I only have a small houseplant at home, but I have a part-time job at a florist.
That’s because, of all the jobs that are related to plants, that of a florist is the one that has the closest connection to consumers, and I thought that it would be helpful in the future to have experience of that kind of job, in order to develop new varieties of plant that might attract more consumers. I also thought that it would help me to learn more about flowers.

Customers often ask about the names of flowers and how to cultivate them, so I’ve read up on them and remember most of what I’ve learned.
It has a glamorous image, but there’s a lot of heavy lifting and working with water, so it’s quite demanding. But it’s fun, because I can learn about something I enjoy.

Although you’re busy with your studies and part-time job, you went to Australia on the START Program(*). What made you apply for that?

A friend of mine who had taken part in the START Program had told me that “it attracts very proactive people who are strongly motivated to learn.” The Hiroshima University campus covers a large area and we’re quite a long way from the people in the liberal arts faculties, so we have no chance to talk to them at all. I applied because I thought that the program would also attract some liberal arts students who want to study overseas and I thought that I’d be inspired by them.

I see. What did you do over there?

Most of the time we were in classes, but there were many opportunities to give presentations in English. I was reminded that I’m really not good at such simple things as using gestures and eye contact, and varying my tone of voice. I realized that making use of such simple, yet fundamental things in presentations will make it easier to communicate the content of my research in the future, when I’m a researcher.
I definitely want to make use of this when giving presentations in classes and seminars.

I see. What made the greatest impression on you?

The final presentation, summing up what we’d done. My group’s theme was whaling. I knew that most Australians were anti-whaling, but when we actually listened to local students and talked about whaling, their reaction was that it was just unacceptable. Even bringing up the subject felt like it was taboo. We were always asked, “Japanese people eat whale meat, don’t they?” so I felt that there was a gap between the perception and reality, and I was surprised that there was such a difference in our mindsets.

It’s a difficult issue. You didn’t struggle with communicating in English?

Initially, I found it hard to catch what people were saying a lot of the time. The teachers in class and my host family would speak slowly, but other native speakers assumed that we could understand English, and I didn’t understand them at all at first. At times like that, I’d check with one of the others whose English was better, or would ask the person speaking to me a question, in order to make sure I had understood. As I did so, I gradually became able to understand what the other person was saying, but I still couldn’t say what I wanted to.
So I started out by using the same words as local people, trying to copy the words that I thought I could use. That helped me to have slightly longer conversations. But I was only there for about two weeks, so I didn’t manage to become fluent in English.

Taking part in a discussion during a class in Australia

The whole group went on a weekend trip to Kangaroo Island

Did you gain any fresh insights after returning home?

I think that if there was any research I was interested in that was only being conducted overseas, then I’d have to go abroad, but there’s no need to go to another country just to study English. However, when I’m writing papers in the future, people all around the world will be able to read them if I write in English. I’ll also need English if I’m presenting my research to people from other countries or carrying out research as part of a team that includes foreign researchers.

Many of my friends on liberal arts courses who were on the START Program with me were thinking about going to study abroad for a longer period to learn the language, but when we actually went to a local university, we realized that although all the tests were in English and we asked the teacher questions in English, it would be really difficult for us to manage with our current level of English – we certainly wouldn’t be able to earn any credits.
I still get together with the others who went to Australia, even now, and some of them have been studying hard for the TOEFL exam since they got back. Seeing my friends with clear goals that they’re progressing toward inspires me as well.

You’ve taken up various challenges. What’s your motto?

My basic approach to life is “Just do everything you want to do.” It was like that for me with my part-time job, and the researcher course, and the START Program! I’m not especially intelligent – I’m just an ordinary student, but if it arouses my interest, even just a little, I’ll find out more or give it a try. That’s what’s important for me. Even if it comes to nothing in the end, I think that having tried is meaningful.

I should learn from your example. Finally, what message would you like to send to those who are thinking about applying to HU?

tudying for the entrance examination was a real struggle. Even looking back at this stage, there’s never been another year when I’ve studied so hard, but I often find that it’s precisely because of that year that I’m able to see things through now. I want to go back in time and give myself a pat on the back <laughs>. There are lots of different people at university and it’s a place where you can learn and be inspired by a variety of things.
Hiroshima University has a spacious campus, with lots of greenery, and the lecturers are kind and willing to offer advice and talk to you, plus there is a great deal of fascinating research being carried out, so I hope you’ll find something to interest you.

(*) START Program: A short-term overseas training program for new undergraduates with little experience of other countries. Participants visit a university with which HU has an exchange agreement, as well as the surrounding area, allowing them the opportunity to interact with local university students. The program lasts two weeks during the long university vacation and part of the cost is subsidized by HU.

(*) Special Course to Cultivate Researchers: Adopted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology as a Project on Fostering Mathematics and Science Students, this course is run separately from the five courses of the Faculty of Applied Biological Science and was established by the faculty in the 2011 academic year, in order to cultivate outstanding researchers.

This program emphasizes students’ motivation to learn and sense of purpose from the very first year, with research for the graduation thesis commencing in the second semester of the second year, one year earlier than students on standard programs.

May 13, 2013
Article: K2 (PR Group)
Photograph: S (PR Group)
Location: Student Plaza