Lincoln Waweru — A Kenyan’s Experience of Living in Japan (Part II)

A jovial, kind-hearted, vibrant, and highly intelligent young man, Lincoln Waweru hails from Kenya. Relaxed, yet driven, Lincoln has the perfect personality for a challenging PhD research topic — the remediation and proper utilization of contaminated soils from an environmentally sustainable perspective at Kyoto University’s Global Environmental Studies Department. With plans to graduate in March 2020, Lincoln would love to work full-time in Japan or Kenya at potentially a university or a research company.

Needless to say, Lincoln has an important mission to fulfill in Japan, with his critical research topic that will help create a more environmentally sustainable future.

Please read the previous article as a reference point. There, you will learn more about Lincoln and his family’s unique connection to Kyoto University, the JICA program, his internship opportunity, and his process of transitioning from one scholarship program (JICA) to another one (MEXT). And in this article, learn more about Lincoln’s initial challenges, the African community in Japan, and the major benefits of living in Japan.

The Most Challenging Element

When Lincoln first arrived in Kyoto, his most difficult challenge was to purchase groceries at his local supermarket. Since he couldn’t speak any Japanese at the time, he would do his best to explain what he wanted to a salesclerk in English.

If explanations in English, Google searches, and gestures didn’t work, then he would end up not going home with the right item. But on the bright side, challenges like these, helped Lincoln become a stronger, more resilient man.

Part of the reason why it may have been more difficult, is the mere fact that he was located in a rural area. For his first 6 months, he was located in an inexpensive dormitory for Kyoto University international students called Misasagi. While it was extremely affordable to live there, it was quite a rural location, so he spent a lot of his time at school, studying, or hanging out in the lounge area of his dorm.

The African Community

Plus, Lincoln had a strong community of fellow Kenyans and other Africans, who he regularly met with to explore the Kansai region, and made home-cooked meals.

Due to JICA’s ABE initiative Program to bring 1,000 African youths to Japan, Lincoln arrived with some 50 other Kenyans in 2014. While the majority left already, one person started working at an automobile company in Japan, and a few others stayed to pursue their PhD degrees.

Benefits of Living in Japan  

In his 3.5 years of living in Japan, Lincoln has identified 3 major benefits of living in Japan.

1. Kyoto University’s Global Classrooms

The best part of his Kyoto University education, is the mere fact that he is surrounded by people from all over the world in each of his courses. It’s quite common for him to be sitting next to a Turkish, sitting across from an Indian student, and conversing with a French exchange student.

This creates a unique environment that helps to stimulate new perspectives and new ways of thinking. Most importantly, it helps to create a more globally minded student body.

Similarly, I find the diversity of the classrooms at Kyoto University, to be one of the best parts of my education. Although I attended quite a reputable school — UC Berkeley, it was nowhere near as diverse as Kyoto. Because it’s prohibitively expensive for an international student to study at UC Berkeley, we had very few exchange students.

When I was studying at UC Berkeley (Class of 2011), one year costed around $25,000 USD. But for international students, the cost was around $63,000 USD for one year. As a result, most of the students in my courses were Americans, and more specifically, Californians.

We definitely had international students, but you had to pay double the price of a normal apartment to be able to live in the International House, where all the international students stayed. Because I studied abroad in Spain as a sophomore in college, I wanted to surround myself with international students, who had a more globally minded perspective and different ways of thinking.

Thus, while it was my most expensive semester at UC Berkeley, it was also my favorite semester. After all, I was able to have breakfast with a Filipino, lunch with Germans, and dinner with Malaysians. 

2. Best Friends from All Over the World

Another major benefit of living in Japan and studying at Kyoto University is the ability to create new friendships that he would not have otherwise made. In fact, his best friends are from Nigeria, Turkey, India, and Japan. Had he stayed in Kenya for graduate school, Lincoln fundamentally knows that he would not have created these wonderful friendships and expanded his horizons.

Similar to Lincoln, I too, have created friendships with folks from all over the world. Some of my best friends are Chinese, Albanian, Mexican, American, Filipino, German, Japanese, and Kenyan. It’s truly quite impressive. And I will always be grateful for the opportunity to create these amazing friendships.

3. Access to Nature

While there are many benefits of living in Japan, the final ones that Lincoln mentioned were access to nature, and overall ease of living. Not only is Japan an extremely safe country full of kind people, but also it’s relatively straightforward to access nature. Since Lincoln is a nature enthusiast and avid cycler, he uses his weekend time to explore new areas of the Kansai Region.

In fact, he’s already cycled from Kyoto’s Gosho area — or the Imperial Palace, to Lake Biwa and back, more than a handful of times. Together with other friends, Lincoln and I have hiked Mt. Hiei, Mt. Atago, and more.

By living and exploring the general area, Lincoln has gained a deep sense of appreciation for the ease of access to different environments. 

In Conclusion

Thank you very much for reading this article about Lincoln Waweru. I hope you enjoyed reading this second article about Lincoln’s initial challenges, the African community in Japan, and the major benefits of living in Japan.

In case you missed the first article about Lincoln and his family’s unique connection to Kyoto University, the JICA program, his internship opportunity, and his process of transitioning from one scholarship program (JICA) to another one (MEXT), please read the first article to learn more about him.

In the next article, learn more about Lincoln’s newfound passion for cycling, his captivating life philosophy, his advice for those who want to study in Japan, and his favorite thing about living in Japan.