Today is June 9th. My series of flights from Japan and to the US begins in about a couple of hours. A little more than 14 hours of flying time and a couple of layovers later, I’ll have my feet on the ground in Detroit. This’ll start the short few days of my time presenting at an international conference on a topic I hope I know well enough to an audience who most likely knows more than I do. To put it mildly, I am a little bit nervous and anxious. But, I suppose, this is the trial by fire that the professors want – this is their way of introducing the life of an academic to a prospective hopeful. For me, I’ll just be happy to get through the suit-wearing escapades and done with the Q&A that will follow my session. Ironically, this conference is a joint event between the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the Japan Society for Mechanical Engineers (JSME). I, being an American, am oddly not part of the American presence, but identified as part of the Japanese contingent. That status is despite my cardholding membership of both organizations. It’s fun to receive emails from English-speaking Japanese students offering (to the entire contingent, not just me) to translate or help with anything I might have trouble throughout the program – bilingual guides, if you will.

After the conference, I’ll have the pleasure of being my professors’s personal tour guide, driver, and cultural translator as we make our jaunt from Detroit down to LA. LA is not the final destination, but instead just the transition from plane to automobile. I’ll shuttle the small group of us from LA all the way up to Yosemite for a night and then return to put them back on a plane back to Japan. I have been pushing for weeks to make this trip to LA a trip instead to Yosemite rather than the typical touristy things found throughout the Southland. It’ll be far more memorable and pleasant than the paved asphalt-land that is Los Angeles. Although, I am certain I will be exhausted by the time this trip is over.

They fly back and I get a few days off to rest and recover with my family before flying back to Japan.

After this brisk and hurried two weeks, I’ll descend into the madness that is what I fear most: a thesis.

From June through till the end of the year I will rush to finish my experimental work, write a third paper for submission, correct the first two manuscripts currently in review, fly to Europe for yet another conference, and prepare my thesis and presentation for a defense presentation to be made before faculty on or about the 25th of December. Merry Christmas. Somewhere in there a day will pass and the milestone of 30 years since the time of my birth will come and go. I’ll probably not notice, but instead notice the hair falling from my head as the work and stress begin to gnaw at my endurance. It’ll be worth it and I will grow from this, but “fun” is not how I will describe this trial.

Somewhere in there, I will have to pull out from hole I have dug myself into and think hard about the future. I have ten remaining scholarship stipends and a dwindling savings account back home. Where I go from here has yet to be determined. But just like this time in Japan, it will be worth it.

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    "Grab onto life with both hands and don't let go" - Me