The Tokyo Olympics isn’t the only big event that’s been derailed by the pandemic — it’s messed up Juanita Benjamin’s life-long plan to study in Japan too.
The Texas Tech University computer science student was bound for Japan this year under a Gilman Scholarship — a fitting culmination for the gaming fan from Dominica. “I was always mesmerised when playing games,” Benjamin shares.
As she’s due to graduate in spring 2022, she had to do what would’ve been absurd pre-COVID-19: decline the scholarship. “I cannot defer my amount for another semester or year,” she tells us via email.
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We caught up with Benjamin to learn more about why she wanted to study in Japan, her love for games and her future plans:
Why did you choose to study computer science at Texas Tech University? Is there a story behind this?
Initially, I wanted to become a doctor but then I realised that gaming is where my heart is. When I came to the US to study, I chose computer science because of this.
I always play games whether it’s on a console, PC or mobile. I wanted to learn more about the process of building any type of games which led me to computer science. That, along with my passion for medicine declining.
What are some cool things you discovered within your research in computer science?
There can be interaction via a phone screen with augmented reality. There are endless project ideas with extended reality, and creating extended reality applications for education can potentially increase students’ motivation to learn.
Walk us through the application process for the Gilman Scholarship.
I applied to the Gilman Scholarship because the award amount was sufficient for my expenses. It would have covered the programme costs and all I would have to worry about is a personal spending and food budget.
The process wasn’t taxing but it was long. I had written multiple drafts for three types of essays. I used the services at school, the writing centre to help with grammar and always making sure I followed the prompt.
The hardest part was making sure I hit the word count and staying on top of schedule for submitting drafts. I would not let more than four days go by before I submitted a draft.
Otherwise, it would have set me back on my progress. There were times when I was not motivated to write but then I realised that I need to keep at it if I want to get the maximum amount.
Why choose to study in Japan?
I wanted to study in Japan because I love anime and enjoy all the things about Japanese culture.
Besides academia, what were you most looking forward to doing there?
I was looking forward to shopping (buying kimonos), eating “ramen” (Japanese noodle soup), and touring nearby cities.
Name three foods you’d like to try there.
“Ramen”, “yakitori” (skewered chicken or pork on a stick), and “kare raisu” (Japanese curry).
Are there any cultural sites you’d like to visit there?
Mount Fuji and Yamamoto-Tei.
How were you planning to get over the language barrier there?
I was planning on using the app “Duo-Lingo” to learn more than I do in Japanese as well as learning on the go.
What’s one thing from Japan you wanted to bring back to your friends and family?
Japanese-styled robes and cups.
What advice do you have for international students looking to study abroad?
My advice is to take it! If you have the opportunity to apply, don’t squander it. It may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Especially if you have a team of staff members who can help with the process. Also, when you get to your destination, don’t hesitate to embrace their culture and enjoy yourself.