On July 28th 2016 myself and 6 other NCS students embarked on a journey of a lifetime to Japan; the country known for its authentic cuisine, aesthetic tradition and of course their high tech toilets. Japanese people, are known as one of the most socially and ethnically homogeneous people in the world as they still continue to abide by their morals and values from thousands of years ago. Making it an even more enjoyable experience for the students of NCS, mostly living locally to the sixth form.
Although science was the main focus of the workshop, the aspect of cultural exchange proved very important, with students attempting to overcome any differences and learn about each other’s countries. We were exposed to Japanese culture straight away as we shared our rooms with our Japanese partners, giving us the opportunity to learn some Japanese and to help them improve their English. Being able to exchange ideas about science and place our A-Level knowledge into real life context with students from the other side of the world added to the formative influence of this experience.
After spending the first 2 days touring the city of Tokyo, where we visited traditional shrines and temples, beautiful Japanese gardens, savoured the street foods and did plenty of shopping all whilst making use of the hectic subways. We were split into groups, where 3 of us went Nagoya and the other 4 in Tohoku, both cities being around 4 hours apart. Each student was placed in a different group along with other British students from schools across UK and students from Japanese schools; enabling us to further socialise and meet new people. By working together with Japanese students science became a potent cultural bridge through which we learned about each other and formed lasting friendships and a global understanding.
There was a wide choice of topics covering all aspects of science- such as Medical science, Health Science, International development, Physics, Engineering, Social affairs and more.
Personally, I was part of the Medical Sciences workshop where we spent 3 days at Nagoya University Hospital which looks after approximately 2,500 external patients a day. Whilst pursuing a career in a medical related degree is of great importance to me and a goal which I hold profoundly, I also recognise the importance of understanding how the health care system works internationally. This includes understanding the similarities and differences between hospitals in UK and Japan. While shadowing an Obstetrics and Gynaecology health care professional, we were given a tour around the maternity ward where we met a patient who was kept at the hospital for 5 weeks. It was here I realised one of the major differences between the 2 countries’ health care system, the length of hospital stay is generally longer in Japan than in the UK. Patients are frequently admitted on the day prior to their surgery and discharged the day after. This length-of-stay difference is particularly noticeable in obstetrics. In the UK, following a normal birth, new mothers are typically discharged the day after delivery, or even on the same day. In Japan, a four to five night stay is average. Most mums (especially first-timers) find this extra time very helpful.
On the second day of our workshop we learnt about the differences between normal cells and cancer cells and infectious diseases. Using my A-Level Biology knowledge I explained to three doctors the process of HIV replication, which Japanese students do not learn till university. This stunned the doctors and also conveyed how the education system differs, both of which being equally competitive and challenging.
We were taken to the laboratories in the hospital where university students and doctors conducted their research, here we were allowed to look at and even hold Nude Mice. These particular mice have no Thymus and hence no T-cells, which consequently meant they could not reject tumours. They allowed health professionals to gain an insight into the immune system and whether a drug would be successful or not.
The science projects gave us all a new outlook on the science we learnt in the classroom, showing us the practical applications and what it would be like to work in a real research group at a Japanese University, with many of us working on topics we had never encountered before. The most important thing that I took from this workshop is that science is becoming more and more international, so being able to work with Japanese students has set us up well for the future.
Overall the week was a perfect mix of scientific and cultural discoveries, inspiring many of us to consider visiting Japan in the future and also to research into new areas of science that we may not have been aware of before the week. On behalf of all the students that took part I’d like to thank the NCS for organising such a fantastic week, which will be remembered for a long time due to the new science learnt and the international and national friendships created.