Acht Monate am National Institute of Informatics (NII) in Tokyo
Mit dem Programm „FITweltweit“ ermöglicht der DAAD forschungsorientierte Auslandsaufenthalte von Masterstudierenden, Promovenden und Postdoktoranden im Bereich der Informatik. Studierende und Doktoranden können in diesem Rahmen am National Institute of Informatics (NII) in Tokyo oder am International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) in Berkeley Projekte mit einer Laufzeit von bis zu zwei Jahren zu realisieren.
I am a post-doctoral researcher from Germany, and for the past eight months, I have worked at the National Institute of Informatics (NII) in Tokyo, funded by a DAAD FITWeltweit fellowship. Before coming to Tokyo, I was not sure if it was the right decision to go to Japan for such a long time, and I wondered how this might affect my career.
Now, I can say with certainty that my time at the NII and in Japan in general was one of the best experiences in my life – both for my career, and my personal life. NII provided me with a superb working environment that allowed me to progress very fast in my career. Thanks to the budget that NII and DAAD provided, as well as excellent administrative support, I was able to build my own little working group after just a few months.
By the time I left NII, there were four students working with me full-time, plus some visiting students. Given that I was only a post-doctoral student I consider this a significant achievement, and I am not sure if I could have done the same elsewhere (e.g. in Germany). In my eight months at NII, I wrote several papers, and thanks to my students, we could complete the first version of a comprehensive software project (a web service that generates literature recommendations, http://mr-dlib.org/). At NII, I felt very welcomed, and weekly meetings and presentations with the entire working group of my supervisor Prof. Akiko Aizawa made it easy to get in contact with other researchers. I must also emphasize the high level of administrational support I received. My previous experiences with the administration at universities were… mediocre. However, at NII I had only two administrational contacts, and they always responded very quickly (such as when one of my students needed a letter of invitation to apply for a visa, or when I needed to order some equipment). Currently I am an assistant professor at Trinity College Dublin (Ireland), one of Europe’s most prestigious universities. To a large extent, my stay at NII certainly contributed to my being offered this position.
Japan is probably the most unique country I have ever visited (and I have visited many countries: India, Chile, Spain, Cyprus, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, Thailand, Syria, Tanzania, Mexico, USA, Canada, Indonesia, and Italy are just some of them). The food in Japan is amazing (this was the first time ever that I did not miss German bread), the people are so friendly and polite, everything is well organized, Tokyo is full of energy and life, and every season has its special features that make Japan worth visiting. In spring there are cherry blossoms, in summer there are festivals everywhere and you can climb Mount Fuji, in autumn you will be overwhelmed by the beauty of the colorful trees with their green, yellow, and red leaves. In short: if you never visit Japan, you will have missed out in life.
Text und Photos: Dr. Joeran Beel