Hiromasa came from Japan to study Applied Physics

Alexander Chanadiri
TalTech Blog
Published in
5 min readFeb 13, 2020

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Technical innovations, sustainable future solutions, complex interdisciplinary issues — Applied Physics is an immensely broad field that opens the whole new world to you. Today we met up with the alumnus of the programme from Japan, Hiromasa Saito to find out more about his experience as a TalTech student and a successful graduate of Applied Physics programme. Here is what he told us.

How did you find out about Estonia and why did you decide to do your Master’s here?

I finished my Bachelor’s in Physics in Tokyo and entered the Applied Physics programme at TalTech in 2016. Earlier, I saw a blog post about life in Estonia by another Japanese student, who studied Cyber Security programme back then. I asked him for more information and what he shared with me sounded quite attractive. After this, it was not hard to make a decision.

It is true that tuition fee here is significantly lower than in Japan, but it is not the main reason. Estonia is gaining its popularity in Japan, first of all thanks to its reputation in IT and cybersecurity spheres and active start-up environment. I wanted to be a part of it.

There is a growing interest of Japanese students in Estonian higher education. Therefore the number of them coming to Estonia is significantly growing. I could hardly find anyone from Japan at the university just a couple of years ago, currently there are more than 10 enrolled students and I believe it will only increase in coming years.

Graduation ceremony

What are the main differences between studying at TalTech and a Japanese university?

If I compare Estonian higher education system with the Japanese one I would strongly recommend choosing Estonia.

  • The main difference between studying in Estonia versus Japan is a broad scope of studies at TalTech in comparison to my home country. It is here where I learned about new fields. Take Econophysics, for instance. I didn’t even know about such a subject in Japan. And it is only one example. Faculty staff tightly cooperates with Swedbank and so there is an opportunity to undertake an internship and later apply for a fulltime job. Some people from our faculty did so.
  • In addition, I really like math, data analysis, machine learning, and data processing. Here I have an opportunity to do both — Physics and Data Science. So I actually learned some programming to work with data.
  • An opportunity for Master’s students to participate in scientific projects at TalTech is a big advantage too. For instance, I really liked the satellite project in the Mektory. In Japan it would never be possible for a regular student to join a project this big. Normally it is only opened for professors or at least PhD level students. But in Estonia the doors are more open and so I was also lucky to participate in it.
  • Here you can diversify your curriculum by learning programming, business courses, etc., which is a very fresh approach for a regular Japanese student. I studied Applied Physics, but thanks to TalTech’s education system I had an opportunity to take courses in Business. It allowed me to form a bridge between two fields and understand how Physics can be applied in commercial companies or developing start-up ideas.
As we are walking through the campus again and again Hiromasa looks around and mentions “this is new”, or “they have renovated it so nicely”, and “I am always surprised how TalTech’s design is quite stylish and cozy. Japanese universities are very grey and utilitarian, they don’t look like this”. And so we dive into the conversation on how quickly things develop in Estonia.

Do you have a favourite professor?

My Master’s thesis supervisor Jaan Kalda is one of the most intelligent physicists I’ve ever met. He can pick up and understand any physics-related topic from any random paragraph. It is amazing how knowledgeable he is. He suggested some creative ideas and various approaches to make my thesis better.

Do you have any regrets?

I often think that had I finished my Master’s in Japan I could only be a physicist or a physics teacher now. After graduating from TalTech, the range of possibilities is way broader. Thus, if I want I can be a statistician, work with Big Data, and overall be involved in projects in the intersection between Business, Marketing and Sciences.

Is there life outside the university?

Almost every day there are meet ups that you can participate in and learn more about other fields directly from the specialists. Estonia is very small in comparison to Japan but this is exactly the reason why you feel so connected here. It is easier to attend another class or event, to network and meet new people.

I still join start-up events and hackathons because I feel so enthusiastic about the “marriage” of business and technologies. It even motivated me to set up my own company here, which helps Japanese entrepreneurs to establish a start-up in Europe.

Coffee place Prõks is run by students, and is a true hipster paradise with the coffee menu for any taste and great (not only) vegan dessert options. Hiromasa is quick to decide for latte, while I am still struggling with a variety of choices behind the scenes…

What are your current projects and plans?

I have already mentioned my start-up, along with which I’ve also been working on different Data Science projects. Now I would most probably like to gain a PhD degree. It is prestigious to hold a PhD in my country and it is also important for me personally to fulfill myself as a scientist. Meantime, I would also like to work more actively on establishing a bridge between Estonia and Japan. For instance, I’m thinking of proposing to include business courses in a curriculum of science students at Japanese universities. Although Japanese culture and education are very conservative, they are now ready to change and I find Estonia is a great example of how to do so. Estonia’s achievements in creation of start-up ecosystem and developing e-governance and IT security systems foremost should be imported to Japan.

I suggested we take a couple of photos in the library. It is a true gem of TalTech both regarding its concept & design and of course its funds. Unexpectedly, though, we found something that distracted both of us from all above. Therefore, Hiromasa’s library photo turned out to be like this.

The interview was conducted by Svitlana Kharchenko.
We wish Hirosama all the best in his future career! :)

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