Graduating from GSEP:
My experiences and learnings
by Chawit Chaijirawiwat

Hello, I am Chawit Chaijirawiwat from Thailand. I am writing this article as one of the very first graduating GSEP students at Tokyo Tech. It has been a long time since my first day in Japan when I had no idea what I would do or who I would meet here in Japan. Fortunately, I met new friends, colleagues, and communities, not limited to Japanese but people from all around the world.

Tokyo Tech is the hub of the community for me. Apart from the courses provided formally, it is also a chance for me to meet my friends, do activities, explore new subjects and get lots of opportunities as a student here. In these four years, I can say that Tokyo Tech has improved its internationality and contributed to the globalization of Japan. Of course, there is more support from the university division including language support and student services. However, the point in which I feel very impressed is the awareness of individual Japanese students and staff. They are more open to international students and less hesitant to interact even with the language barrier. On the other hand, Tokyo Tech also actively encourages me to learn more about Japanese culture and the language with various kinds of classes and events. This part is quite subjective but I really enjoy these experiences and I am having fun with the challenge to cross this barrier to understand and learn more from the other side.

In the first two years, I was living in the dormitories provided by the university. It was quite far from the main campus but the place was very lovely and the price was reasonable. I got a small single room with a shared kitchen and shower room, in which I can say that I heavily exposed myself to people from all around the world for the first time, including GSEP friends and other international students in different programs. Later, I moved into a private apartment near the campus where I can use a bicycle to go to the university easily, trading off with the price and all the utilities and facilities that I have to set up myself. What I want to mention here is that I have learned and experienced a lot from the stay in Japan, even the accommodation taught me a lot to adapt and understand life in more flexible aspects.

One of the main parts that make up my entire bachelor student life is the study in GSEP, or Global Scientist and Engineering Program. Overall, the GSEP curriculum involves an in-depth study of various engineering fields and their applications in real-world problems combined with management tools and sociology. Each student drives into their specialized field of interest with the mindset of development and social impact.

Apart from the engineering knowledge that enabled me to further the study on other specific fields, I realized that studying in GSEP gave me the mindset of sustainable development and a social-oriented perspective. This is different from other programs because now I can look at a problem, not only in the detailed engineering principle and calculation, but also the broader view of applicability, and its feasibility in terms of higher-level solutions.

Both the issue of globalization and global-scale problems we tackle and discuss in some of the subjects in GSEP and the community here in Tokyo Tech pushed me to explore and get familiar with people and organizations from different backgrounds. I had opportunities to join different summer programs and internships abroad such as the JSPSD program with the Georgia Tech students, Taiwan Tech summer program, Science Communication Internship in London, and also business and engineer internships in Japan. By working and meeting with new friends, colleagues, and staff, I have developed my skills while also becoming aware of our diversity, making me more open-minded.

My bachelor’s studies life will not be complete without the extracurricular activities during these years as they are also a significant factor in my self-development. Each activity taught me a kind of working style which later as I combined them, gave way to the improved version of myself on how to properly manage and handle each task. To illustrate some of the activities concretely, I worked as a project member of the Cinnamon Processing Project. As a small group of people where the work could be managed horizontally, I actually did hands-on work on processing tool development, researching in the real field and planning the project in group discussion.

I also worked as a Japanese education event organizer and my job was more on dealing with other organizations and establishing connections. It needed more precise budget planning and needed to focus more on the number of objective participants. There was also a time when I joined the executive committee of the Thai Student Association in Japan. Especially as the one dealing with rules, regulations, and regional coordination, I learned a lot about the institutional structure and how to deal with people with different opinions and how to negotiate.

In the senior year, I concentrated more on my research project. I entered the Yamashita Laboratory in the field of image processing, machine learning, and computer vision as my specialization. I did the Independent Research Project with the title “Monocular Depth Estimation via Transfer Learning and Multi-Task Learning with Semantic Segmentation”. It is about the depth estimation from a monocular image (single color image) input which is an active field of current research. I applied machine learning concepts such as transfer learning and multi-task learning to leverage large trained data to be used for similar tasks such as depth estimation. During my last year, apart from the laboratory environment that feels like home, it was a great experience to practice and initiate ideas systematically, along with the improvement of self-reliance skills.

At the end of my bachelor’s study, I realized the power of technology to control and manipulate things to achieve the desired outcome. On the other hand, I also realized the glaring social and environmental problems and the necessity of sustainability and social impact planning. From all of these experiences, my life vision has become, ‘To bring about a world with robot-substituted workforces and self-sustained systems’. This has the potential to eradicate the world’s current resource shortage and improve overall safety and quality of life for all. Especially with AI and IoT technology, I believe that robotics is the next generation of communal technology in both daily life and most industries. Hence, from next semester, I am pursuing a master’s degree in System Control and Robotics field to deepen my understanding. I hope that I can combine the broad knowledge and the perspective from GSEP, my extracurricular experience and my specialization in the master’s degree to achieve the goal in the future.

To those who are reading this and those who are interested in the program. I recommend this to one who wants to experience new things and seek new perspectives. I may note here that there are trade-offs between this program in the Transdisciplinary Science and Engineering Department and other specific engineering departments. Since GSEP focuses more on the integration and the linkage between engineering, management, and society, while we learn and understand more about the overall and their connection, part of the engineering content in depth is omitted or need more extra research by oneself. But for those we seek for this kind of experience in my article, please do not hesitate to apply or ask for more detail.

P.S. I also have time to travel all around Japan to see the nature and culture of each region. I also love going to karaoke and playing sports with my friends. The food here also tastes really good but some of them are quite salty for me, but that is fine because there are so many varieties of food here. Sometimes, I cook a meal by myself to either save money or just to improve my cooking skill. 🙂