Semester in Japan: Cooking Lessons, Interviews for Press and Studies in Japanese

Important | 2017-09-21

“I think I could be Japanese – I have the personality. Not the height, though”, Tomas Bagdonas, Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) renewable energy student, is joking. The young man has spent last summer in Gifu University in Japan.

KTU student has left for Japan in April, when sakuras are blossoming. At the time when the nature is celebrating its renewable, Japanese students start their new academic year.

“I have always wanted to go to Japan. From my childhood I was fascinated by Japanese animation, by films about samurais. I have even learned some Japanese from them”, said Tomas.

After deciding to fulfil his dream to travel to the Land of the Rising Sun, Tomas has started to study Japanese on his own, by learning the characters, and grammar.

“There are three alphabets in use in Japanese language – hiragana, katakana and kanji. The most complicated is kanji – one must know around 2 thousand of characters to be able to use it correctly. For every character you have to know both its meaning and the correct way of calligraphy. Moreover, the meaning is different, when a character is standing alone, is next to another kanji, or if the characters have changed their places… This is not easy even for Japanese”, says Tomas.

Studying in Japanese

Gifu University and KTU has an agreement for study exchange since 2007, but Bagdonas is the first student who used this opportunity to study in Japan.

“I think that Lithuanian students are afraid of studying in Japanese. Although I have been preparing for it in the beginning it was difficult. Especially, during the first lectures – to see the teacher writing kanji on the blackboard and not being to understand everything was quite shocking”, said Tomas.

According to him, studies in Gifu were challenging because of different teaching methods.

“In Gifu teachers do not use slides, they write everything on a blackboard, or, to be precise, on three blackboards, and students take notes. Students must buy a textbook for every subject, and they almost do not use electronic system for studies. Also, I had to pass all my exams in a week”, says Tomas.

Birthplace of Chiune Sugihara

However, when asked, if he would go to Japan again, Tomas is answering “yes!”

Gifu has more connections to Kaunas than the collaboration between the universities: the legendary Japanese diplomat, who during the war saved lives of 10 thousand Jews while serving in Kaunas, was born next to Gifu.

“I was contacted by a member of Gifu community – after finding out that a Lithuanian is studying here, she offered cooperation in helping to spread knowledge about Chiune Sugihara”, said Bagdonas.

Among the activities KTU student participated in were lectures in schools and visits to municipalities, interviews for local press and even Lithuanian cooking lessons.

“Japanese were impressed by the cold beetroot soup – they were amazed that its pink colour is completely natural”, said Tomas.

Although he was speaking Japanese with locals, he was not giving them Lithuanian lessons – according to Tomas, Asians do not like speaking in foreign languages if they feel that they are not doing it perfectly.

“However, I was wrong to think that people in Japan will be closed and not willing to communicate – they are not only very talkative and open, but also very generous”, says Bagdonas, whose luggage after the trip became heavier by a few kilograms.

Discovered New Talents

What was the greatest challenge? The journey and heat. Looking for the cheapest option, the student was travelling from Vilnius, through Moscow and Shanghai to Nagoya for almost 24 hours.

“Gifu is located in Central Japan between Toyo and Kyoto. The rumours that summers in this part of Japan are awful were true – the heat was around 35 degrees every day, and humidity often reached 90 percent. Even if there is no sun, you become wet instantly after going out of a house”, said Tomas.

However, the knowledge of exceptional Japanese culture, open and sincere people, new experiences were more than enough to compensate the minor challenges.

“Although I am planning to become a specialist of renewable energy, the studies in Japan have helped me to discover new talents – now I am interested in international relationships. I am still keeping in touch with my new acquaintances from Gifu municipality – have even met them in Kaunas, during Sugihara Week. I am planning to expand my relationships with Japan, to maybe travel to another university for exchange”, says Tomas, who has already started his third year at KTU.

Admission for study exchange is open until the 24th September. You can apply for partial studies in a European university under Erasmus+ exchange programme or choose a university from KTU partners for studies in any other country, including Japan, China and others. Click here for more information, or email

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