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Thread: How could I prepare for grad school while living in Japan?

  1. #1
    Nov 2007
    Osaka, Japan

    How could I prepare for grad school while living in Japan?

    Hello everyone!

    My first post to Cyburbia... thanks very much for reading! If anyone could advise me, I would really appreciate it.

    I decided several months ago (and have been lurking at Cyburbia every since), after toying with the idea for several years, that I want to go into urban design or landscape architecture when I come back to the U.S. from Japan. I'm particularly interested in the environmental focus offered at UW.

    However, I have no real experience or education in the field. I feel passionate about doing this for many, many reasons, but I studied art and communication in college, had internships doing P.R. and copywriting with local papers and the Oregon Zoo... my grades were good and I always did well at math and science, but I haven't done anything really related to urban design. So I have a lot of make up to do.

    Since I'm living in a country with no English classes I could take, does anyone have any ideas on how I could get started preparing for grad school or a relevant job/internship before I return to the U.S. in 8 months or so? I'm hoping to build my portfolio by doing a lot of sketching in the famous gardens around here, and maybe take an online statistics course, but that's all I've been able to think of. My Japanese is not really good enough to take courses or volunteer with the city or anything, and I think it's probably too early to start contacting organizations back home looking for volunteer opportunities (or is it?).

    Again, thanks for any help! Cyburbia seems like a cool place - I'm glad I found it!

  2. #2
    Mar 2008
    Fort Saint John, British Columbia
    This could be a late reply, but your situation is similar to the situation I faced this past year.

    I've spent the past four years in China in an non-planning related capacity and for some reason (I'm still a bit baffled by this) I was among the first batch accepted into the MUP program at the School of Regional and Urban Planning at Queen's University (Class '10).

    Like your Japanese, my Mando has never been really good for anything other that street chat so it wasn't really much use in obtaining any sort of position in any capacity with any local institutions.

    My BA was Geography, but I concentrated on the natural resource side and worked my way through uni as a silviculture consultant for 5 summers. Aside from one intro urban planning course, I really have zero academic or working experience in this field.

    What I did have though was four years of living in and wandering around numerous developing cities in Asia and just considering the issues within these environments helped to formulate my statement of purpose. I also ordered a copy of Planetizens' Contemporary Debates in Urban Planning It provided a nice, small, easy to read overview of many of the issues currently of interest in the urban planning community. I followed up on some of the topics I was interested in by hijacking my sisters university library account and downloading dozens of journal articles. I've also had a strong interest in energy issues that began when I was in high school, but while browsing around journal databases and google, I stumbled across numerous articles regarding community energy planning...something of which (despite my psuedo-environmental background) had little knowledge of.

    I managed to formulate my statement of purpose by combining my time in Asia and my interests in developing world cities and community energy planning.

    Apparently the admissions committee saw something in this statement. Honestly, now that I'm in, I'm more nervous than when I was waiting for acceptance news. I've got a lot of catch-up reading to complete before the first semester starts in September.

    So yeah,

    Keep your eyes open to the environment around you.
    Combine your experiences with what you are interested in
    Pick up some sort of general book about issues in urban planning
    Ursurp someones university library account
    Research what you can about Japanese cities (you seem to be interested in the environmental side)
    Just read...I read all sorts of random stuff about urban planning
    ...and finally, one day...it just hits you and it all comes together

    Good luck dude!

  3. #3
    Nov 2007
    Osaka, Japan

    Thanks so much for your reply! I'd stopped checking for an answer after a couple of months, but I finally saw your reply! And... it's still timely and helpful. It sounds like you had a lot more relatable experience in school than I did, but I feel sure I can use all the advice you gave (especially after talking to a few planners in the U.S. in the past year... they've all been very encouraging about the availability of jobs in the field). Now that you've been in school for a year, was your nervousness justified? Did you catch up on your reading?

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