Looking Back on Four Months of Research Life in Boston
Ms. Yoko Takahashi studied at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH)*Note 1 of the U.S. from November 2013 through March 2014. Her research life there turned out to be excellent, with her work featured in academic journal Brain Research. We asked Ms. Takahashi about what she gained from her short-term overseas study experience.
Going to Boston to study abroad
First of all, what made you decide to study at MGH?
I had wanted to know the world better in order to work at a global level, and I had been thinking about going abroad. Then, I found out that the basic medical training*Note 2 program for third-year students would give an opportunity to study abroad for a long period of time.
Is it OK to receive basic medical training in a foreign country?
Yes. You can receive the training abroad on condition that you get permission from a professor of the school where you want to study and get a referral to an overseas research institute.
What did you do to study abroad?
I chose the laboratory of Professor Noriko Osumi (Department of Developmental Neuroscience) for the basic medical training program, but no one at the lab had gone abroad for basic medical training. I was determined to study abroad and told the professor about my intention. I said that I would like to stay for a long term if possible, not just for a short term like one month. She asked me where I wanted to go, and I replied, "America." America is a big country, and there are lots of research institutes there. I told the professor that I would like to study at a world-leading institute, and she referred me to MGH, an affiliated hospital of Harvard Medical School. I am really grateful to Professor Osumi and Tohoku University for giving this great opportunity, as well as to Professor Arai and members of his lab who all accepted me kindly.
Didn't you have any communication problem at the lab?
Technicians were of my generation, and I shared the room with them. When I went to the cafeteria with them, they would engage in lively girl talk. I knew they were having girl talk, but at first I didn't understand what they were talking about at all.
In the U.S., it is common for medical students to work as technicians for about two years to see if the lab is the right place for them before going to college or postgraduate school. There are also students who choose to serve as technicians because the experience is highly regarded at interviews for admission.
I'd had no knowledge about that practice before I went to the U.S. So, I was surprised at first.
Note 1. Massachusetts General Hospital or MGH: One of the medical institutes associated with Harvard University that is located in Boston, Massachusetts, the U.S. It is the central hospital among Harvard-affiliated medical institutes.
Note 2. Basic medical training: Training program for third-year students offered as part of the program that Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine is carrying out to promote high-quality education, "Establishment of a medical education system for fostering research-minded professionals: Project to help students develop a spirit of seeking truth and a practical ability". To find out more, visit the website of the program.