Global Network Project to Promote Study in Japan(ASEAN Regional Office) 


Student Voice

Oktanius Richard Hermawan



University/Institution Name

Kumamoto University


Earth and Environmental Science, GSST

Period of study abroad

Oct 2018 - Sept 2023

What did you do before studying in Japan?

Laboratory Assistant, Universitas Gadjah Mada, freelance consultant in groundwater exploration

Why did you chose to study in Japan?

I specifically chose Kumamoto University because the Hydrology Laboratory is so advanced and suitable for my research interest. Kumamoto Prefecture is so famous because of its groundwater (U.N Water for Life award, UNESCO 2013) and it is incredible how people maintain groundwater in this prefecture. The groundwater supplies almost 1 million residences in this prefecture, including drinking water purpose. Living in Japan was my dream since I was a kid. I got a lot of influence from Ghibli Studio and was dreaming one day I could live in Japan since then. Now I am living my dream!

How did you prepare for studying in Japan?

I prepared a lot of required documents to study in Japan. I also studied a lot of new subjects before starting my study in Kumamoto University, because my Sensei’s research topic is quite new for me and different from my previous works. I found some information about Kumamoto and Kumamoto University from one of my lecturers in my home university (Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia). Then, I went to Study in Japan Fair in Jakarta, Indonesia afterwards to find out the systematical process how to find scholarships and supervisors in my desired university. Last, I contacted my supervisor by email to get in touch directly about his work, proposed myself for the Master student candidate and went for interview. I am glad everything went well, even now I continued my study under the patron of the same supervisor into higher degree, Doctoral course.

How is your student life in Japan?

My student life in Japan is excellent, I finished my 2 years Master Program and now continue my study to Doctoral Course. However, I was struggling a lot during my first year here due to the cultural shock. Even I know a lot about the custom and society, I still felt a drastic change. ASEAN people are more welcome to the new people and so warm each other, it is so different here. My research is getting more interesting now, I study a lot about groundwater quality and pollution especially for nitrate contamination. Me and my research group went to Tarama Island, a remote island in Okinawa Islands to monitor its groundwater quality. I am really excited to analyze all of our samples later and to get interesting findings from the groundwater.
Unfortunately, I do not have so much Japanese friends here. I enjoy a lot of spare times with my international friends and travelling all around Kyushu. It is quite horrible now because of the Covid-19 spreading, so I spend most of the times by touring with my bike alone and hunting good pictures with my camera. Kyushu is a hidden gem of Japan, the balance between nature and metropolis life is perfect for people like me ! There are so much places to explore and discover in Kumamoto Prefecture itself.
My Japanese language is not going into good improvement due to my busy schedule of laboratory works, field works and reports. I will concentrate to improve my Japanese skill in my second year of my Doctoral course. It is very challenging to live here, culture shock and language barrier were my main enemies. Anyway, I am getting used to it and get my own grip. I focus on myself, my study and my improvements, that’s the key to survive here. Don’t think too much here and live your life to the fullest ! Do what you want to do.

Any message and/or advice to those who wish to study in Japan?

One tip for not doing same mistake as mine, you should prepare and work a lot for your Japanese language skill before coming here. If you are not sure what your purpose of studying in Japan, in my humble opinion, please think twice before going for it. Japan is very famous because of the politeness of the people and the safety, however Japan is very homogenous in custom and society. It is very hard to blend in, especially if you don’t have any background or knowledge about what’s going on in here. People in Japan tend to be individual and shy, do not expect too much about getting close to someone in a short time (please find out some information about “soto” and “uchi”). To be succeed in your study, you have to stay focus and don’t mind about loneliness. Anyway, it’s been a roller coaster ride for me during my study here. Overall, I really enjoy my love, life and study here ! For anyone wishing to live and study in Japan, give your best shot and good luck !