“Take it as a challenge, I have nothing to lose.” 

If you’re given a chance, just grab it.
If it changes your life, just let it. 

Wong Yi Li
Dept. of Experimental Immunology, IDAC

“Take it as a challenge, I have nothing to lose”, I told myself.

I arrived in April 2014, and the language barrier (one of my biggest fears) was NOT a problem at all! All the lab members are so kind and very helpful, and most of them are trying hard to speak in English. I truly appreciate their efforts (a lot!) to communicate with me in English (worst comes to worst, in body language or by Google Translate), and to conduct lab seminars in English, which continue to this day. Interestingly, I converse with some of my lab members in Japanese (I try my best) and they speak to me in English. This is a win-win situation, isn’t it? We practice foreign language in daily conversations, learning from one another, and eventually improving our overall language skills.

The research environment here indeed spurs my interest even further. Creativity and innovative ideas from researchers are my source of inspiration here; take for example the IDAC Biannual meeting which is held entirely in English. These types of events that the institute holds regularly throughout the year is an extremely good platform for foreigners such as myself to get to know what other kinds of research are being conducted in other laboratories. It’s like a door that opens up your mind, making you realize how much more different the research environment in Japan is compared to my home country.

Life in Japan is totally different from Malaysia in so many ways, especially when it comes to the culture, food, social behavior, infrastructure, health care, convenience, safety and cleanliness. Japanese are very helpful and enthusiastic, and I still vividly remembered my first time taking the Sendai city bus. With the city map in hand, looking confused, lost, clueless and wondering which bus to get on, a middle-aged lady approached me offering help. She must’ve seen that I was quite helpless. At that time, I couldn’t speak Japanese at all and she couldn’t speak English, which could have potentially made things difficult for her to help me, lady didn’t hesitate to assist me even one bit. Through gestures, I pointed where I wanted to go on the map, and she guided me by telling me how many stops I had left and when to press the bell. She talked to me a lot in Japanese, but the only words I was able to say at that time were “Hai” (yes) and “Arigatougozaimasu” (thank you very much). Although I couldn’t understand almost a single word of what she said, I truly felt the warm spirit of the Sendai people. I am so ecstatic and happy that I’m a part of the IDAC community, not only to gain new knowledge, but to also make new experiences living in Sendai.