【Tutor Interview】I am Malaysian studying at University of Tokyo

【Tutor Interview】I am Malaysian studying at University of Tokyo

About Zen

Zen is a Malaysian student in Tokyo, who is also a tutor at Moi Education. He will share his stories of how he got into University of Tokyo, and how he is finding about studying/living in Japan.



Hi everyone, I am Zen (nickname), a Malaysian of Chinese ethnicity.

I am currently studying in The University of Tokyo majoring in Chemical Engineering.

I am also currenly working as a part-time personal tutor teaching A-level science subjects and basic Japanese.




Why Zen chose to study in Japan

A simple and straightforward answer, I wanted to see the world. I am not from a very wealthy family, so I can only fulfill my dreams by working hard, getting a scholarship and studying abroad.

My intentions of seeing the world started at quite a young age, I think during primary school. I am quite lucky since my parents enrolled me into private secondary school, I met with a lot of teachers with backgrounds of studying abroad, and I think that is the particular event that had further driven me into pursuing my dreams.



I didn’t think much, to be honest. It was fate. I originally applied to UK universities as I have been learning my Math and Sciences in English for my lifetime.

Even though I was accepted by Imperial College (failed Cambridge by the way), I couldn’t find any scholarship opportunities due to the COVID outbreak. Not only many foundations were cutting costs, there was also quite a number of deferring scholars as they are not allowed to exit the country the previous year.

I continuously searched for a year and a half but failed, until I found a scholarship provided by the Japanese government (that was the last day of application). Fortunately, the scholarship was not affected by the pandemic, and I successfully passed all the screening tests.



Application Process

There is a saying that I really like, which says, “Aim for the moon, even if you miss, you will land among the stars.” I aimed for the highest. Of course there was fear of failing and tears of studying, but there is no harm setting our goals high. I just did my best and let fate decide.

The world is huge, there will be a place I can be even if I missed the highest one. (And yes, I failed Cambridge but I landed in UTokyo, which is also a wonderful place to be)



The Japanese Government screened applicants based on solely Math and Science abilities, so I was actually quite lucky since I didn’t know a word of Japanese when I applied to the scholarship. I had been studying Math and Science beyond the A-level syllabus when I was preparing to apply for Cambridge, so the written exam was not a problem for me (the merits of aiming high!).

The real problem came after I successfully got the scholarship and I was sure that I would be going to study in Japan in a few months’ time. I spent nearly 10 hours a day studying Japanese for around two months and I reached N4 level from an absolute beginner (thanks to my Chinese background too since I don’t have to memorise Kanji).

I was then arranged by the Japanese Government to study Japanese for a year at Osaka University. I competed with other scholars during the one-year language course for a place studying in the University of Tokyo.



I would say that throughout the process, the hardest part was to find out which process you want to go through. There are a lot of opportunities in the world, but they don’t come to us automatically.

The key is to think hard and to know what you really want to be, and to put effort into reaching your hands to the opporunities lying around in the World Wide Web.



Life in Japan

Since Japan is quite successful in promoting their culture on a global scale, I didn’t have a great culture shock after coming to Japan. Basic Asian manners work absolutely fine both in Malaysia and Japan.

Compared to my friends studying in Malaysian universities, I think I have relatively less time for club and activities, but that is fine since I am not really an outgoing person anyways. Life in Japan is relatively more convenient, but a bit more lonely in my opinion.

Being the different person in a big environment just hits different and brings some kind of mental struggle. But I am quite lucky to have a few supportive friends, and the support system for international students in Japan is very helpful.



8:30 Wake up

I wake up 8:30 in the morning and get prepared for going to uni. The second period starts at 10:25 (I don’t have first period lessons for this semester). I usually sit with my friends during lessons.



12:00 Lunch

Lunch break starts at 12:00 noon. Although there are quite a lot of nice restaurants around the campus, I usually stick to the school canteen since it is relatively cheap and the food is actually decent.



13:15 PM lessons start

Afternoon session starts at 1:15 in the afternoon, and I have a lab session every Monday. If I have no class during afternoon, I will rest and do my revisions at the school library.



16:45 Club

I am a member of the Dancesports Club, so I have club activities every Monday and Thursday. Practice sessions start from 4:50 until 8:00 night in the multipurpose activity room in our campus.



21:00 Back home

Since it takes an hour for me to get home, if I am too lazy / tired. to cook, I will have my dinner somewhere near the train station (usually ramen and sushi).

I reach home usually at 9:00pm (later if I am eating out). After a quick shower, I play video games for an hour or two before checking my tasks for tomorrow, and getting unfinished tasks done. I go to bed at usually 1:00 am.



Changes after studying abroad

Studying abroad and being the different person really helped me to rethink my identity and character when mixing with a group of people. Things that I thought that are “fundamentally true” turned out to be strange in the eyes of people from different cultures, and that made me reposition my attitude when communicating with people with different backgrounds.

To simply conclude, I think studying abroad made me a more resillient and empathetic person.



Message from Zen

Japan is pushing globalisation really hard these years. Although the percentage of foreign students is still relatively low compared to other English countries, the Japanese hospitality will make you feel secured (they worry more than you).

Plus, Japan is one of the most resourced countries in Asia. In some cases, there are even more resources in Japanese compared to English (in the STEM field). Regardless of the field you want to study, be it STEM or East Asian studies, Japan is really a great place with plentiful resources you could never imagine before stepping into the Japanese world.

Spend a little extra effort to leap through the language barrier (that is the only problem you have to put effort in), and you are 100% good to go!




Moi Education provides private online tutoring for students studying international curriculums such as IGCSE, A-level, and IB(PYP, MYP, Diploma). We also act as educational consultant to assist students through the application process as well as choose the right school/university.


Please feel free to reach out to us for enquiries.




University of Tokyo(東京大学)

Moi Education