A Year Later, Part One
Issa’s Reflection on the Past Year & Goals for the Next
As the first international students to be accepted as MJBL Scholars, Issa, Sara, and Jannat have been through an exceptional year. They say time flies when you’re having fun, but through the year, they have faced issues with travel restrictions, anxieties about the pandemic, overhauls to their daily routines, and the everyday stress of being an international student in Japan, working on projects with lofty goals.
Despite that, they have also accomplished many things during this past year, and each shared their experiences and visions for the future with us as they enter their second year as a part of the MJBL network. First, Issa shares his experiences as he took on his first year of graduate school despite being unable to return to Japan during his first semester.
“Despite studying at Tokyo University of Agriculture for my undergraduate bachelor’s degree, I still was not sure about what to expect in my graduate studies. New beginnings always come with some elements of uncertainty. I was naturally anxious and felt the fear of the unknowns. To make matters worse, the transition from undergraduate to graduate school was not as smooth as I expected due to the outbreak of COVID-19. However, with the help from my family, the MJBL foundation, and the Tokyo University of Agriculture, I somehow managed to cope with the situation.
“Honestly, I didn’t have a lot of expectations especially due to how unpredictable the covid situation used to be. I was stuck in Tanzania where the internet and electricity services were not so reliable. My only goal at that time was just to give it my best shot because there were so many factors that I could not control. It is a big surprise that I have officially completed my first year of my master’s degree and I am already in the second year.
“Attending classes from home as a full-time student was not easy. I was constantly worried about not doing enough in my academic life. Also, because all classes and presentations were online, I had extra anxiety regarding the quality of my audio, video, and sometimes background noises from the neighbors, chickens, birds, and all sorts of domesticated animals in Tanzania.
“I took 14 classes during my first academic year which happened to be more than enough for me to graduate. The workload was overwhelming, but I enjoyed every minute of lectures because I chose the classes based on my topics of interest. I had a chance to interact with cool and inspiring people. Moreover, I got to do that under the good supervision of resourceful and caring professors.
“The first academic year went by quickly and from this experience, I have learnt that time flies. I didn’t get a chance to procrastinate about anything, and the moment the school year started I had to be ready to go. Also, as a student, I learned that I should ask all the questions I have and communicate with the professors in case I need clarification before it is too late.
“Looking back on my first year of grad school, I stand in pleasant disbelief at how I made it through all the struggles and frustration. Finishing my first year of graduate school was a good step for me towards achieving my goal of acquiring a master’s degree. I feel a sense of pride and a relief to make it despite the challenges that I faced throughout the year. Since I collected enough credits required to graduate, I plan to spend the next year focusing on my research and dissertation.”