GSGES Kyoto University: Environmental issues are so much more than just cutting trees or polluting the city

By Anissa Ratna Putri - Agustus 13, 2016

Photo by Minori Tokito
Hello! On this post, I would like to introduce you to my faculty here in Kyoto University. Its name is Graduate School of Global Environmental Studies, or better known as GSGES. In Japanese, it is 地球環境学堂.

The faculty has 1 master program in Environmental Management and 2 doctoral programs: Environmental Management and Global Environmental Studies. The first thing interested me about the faculty is that it looks so integrated  and I love everything that looks integrated :p I was expecting to learn a lot of new things -while also deepen my knowledge about waste management. As a master 2nd year student, I would like to share you my experience in GSGES for 1,5 years. Hopefully, it will be a useful insight for those who willing to pursue their education in GSGES.

GSGES has 3 departments and 20 laboratories
Having 20 laboratories inside the faculty may give you an overview how broad the environmental topics that GSGES cover. Before you enter the faculty, you should contact one of the professors in the laboratory that you are interested in. Thus, when you get accepted, you are not just accepted as GSGES student but also as a member of one of the laboratory.

How to decide the laboratory? Well, you can choose based on your previous major and your current interest. Also, please make sure the specialty of your sensei. Since GSGES is very broad, sometimes the name of the laboratory is too general to represent its specification. Here are the list and the information about the departments and the laboratories. (Check GSGES website to explore more)

1. Department of Global Ecology
This department focus more on the management of social issues related to environment and nature (however, there is one scientific laboratory get lost in this department - my laboratory Resource Recycling Science). The member of this department is Global Environmental Policy, Global Ecological Economics, Sustainable Rural Development, Resource Recycling Science, Socio-cultural Symbiosis, Environmental Marketing Management, Environmental Perspective in Asian History, and Environmental Education.

2. Department of Technology and Ecology
This department focuses more on managing the environment using engineering approach. The member of the department is Environmentally-friendly Industries for Sustainable Development, Environmental Infrastructure Engineering, Global Environmental Architecture, Environmental Biotechnology, Landscape Ecology, and Planning, and Environmentally-friendly Energy Conversion.

3.Department of Natural Resources
This department is a combination of nature specialist and a landscape/disaster manager. The laboratories are Regional Planning, Earthquake Disaster Risk Management, Atmospheric Chemistry, Ecosystem Production and Dynamics, Terrestrial Ecosystem Management, and Aquatic Environmental Biology.

The Lectures
GSGES did not publish their curriculum online. Sometimes this may cause misleading for some people. Even though I cannot publish the curriculum either, I will try to give some guidance. Please note these points.

1. GSGES lectures are good for you who has no environmental background
For those who has an environmental background, you may feel that the lectures are too general. However, you may also explore some field that you have never know before (i.e. as an environmental engineer I learned about environmental education, policy, and economy).

2. The lectures are in English, English/Japanese, and Japanese
Yes, there are still some classes with only Japanese speaker sensei. It's really unfortunate since some of them are interesting for me (i.e. environmental marketing). But don't worry, for the compulsory classes, all are in English or English/Japanese (which means they will do English and  do a translation for Japanese students).

3. You will have 8 compulsory credits for basics in global environmental studies
These compulsory lectures are a representative of all lectures in GSGES. The lectures consist of 4 subjects: Management of Global Resources and Ecosystems, Environmental Ethics and Environmental Education, Global Environmental Policy and Economics, and Global Environmental Engineering. By using 'global', it means these lectures cover a very broad knowledge regarding the environment and the students are expected to at least know about this matters - if not understand all.

4. You will have 5+4 compulsory credits for basics and lectures in environmental management
I don't really understand why they differ these lectures into two categories. Anyway, it is better to choose some lectures which are connected to your research. The problem is - since GSGES provide various lectures from various area of discipline, there will be only a few of these lectures that connect with your research. For example, for my research in waste management, actually, only one lecture is connected. The rest are more like supporting knowledge. Oh, and by the way, you may also take a specialization. A specialization means if you take at least 9 credits which include in one particular category (science/policy/system/sustainability), you may have a degree with additional 'specialization'.

The Field Trip
GSGES is a faculty of a field trip. We have a LOT of field trip, field work, and such (means we do a lot of traveling). The ultimate field trip is the compulsory Tango Field Trip, which takes a week in northern Kyoto. All master student should participate in this field trip. It was held in summer (end of July - early August) and it was really fun!! The content of the field trip is mostly concern on nature management - such as finding seaweed and identifying them, measuring trees and its canopy, etc. It's really not connected to my field, isn't it? However I learned a lot of new things, and the most importantly I learned how to conserve the environment, way before I need to recover it.

What is more fun about this trip is the food! For me, Japanese food during my Tango Field Trip probably the most delicious Japanese food I ever had. It is because I was very tired working outside, and the food is really really healthy! They provide a beautiful set of a meal as you can see on the picture below. I think if anyone eats the way Japanese eat and also do some regular exercise, they will need no diet at all. 

Other than the work and the food,  GSGES also connects me with lots of friends. In my class, we have about 30 Japanese and 10 foreigners. Luckily my Japanese friends are really open to us the foreigners. Sharing good memories in Tango strengthen our connection to each other. 

The Internship
Master program in GSGES will require you to conduct an internship for at least 3 months. You can choose your internship location based on your interest - especially your research interest (not your traveling interest :p). Basically, you can do your internship anytime. But the trend in GSGES is as follows:
1. M1 - Spring semester: taking all compulsory credits (finish all compulsory lectures)
2. M1 - Autumn semester: internship
3. M2 - Spring semester: job hunting/thesis/free time (especially for foreigners who do not do intense thesis or job hunting)
4. M2 - Autumn semester: thesis

The downside of this trend is that for those who have not really settle their topic for the thesis, they do not have time to do that before departing for an internship. The first semester is really hectic (I took 13 classes), while in August/September people usually already depart to their internship institution. Thus, sometimes people conduct an internship that relates to their research but not necessarily to collect data for their future thesis. This is very unfortunate because as a master student we actually do not have too much time to collect data. Therefore every available opportunity to obtain data will be a very valuable time. In this case, I think GSGES need some improvement. For example, they may require the student to set their future thesis title first before departing for the internship.

The internship program itself is really interesting for me, I learned quite a lot. My overall research plan is kinda scattered - but yes, those internships do help giving insight to my perspective in creating my thesis. Most of my friends experience lots of new things - busy office hours, lots of meetings, a survey to the jungle, interview in a slum area, etc. Overall, the internship program that GSGES provide is a really good opportunity for students to learn new things outside academic area - you just have to use those precious time as good as possible.

So after reading this, are you still interested in GSGES Kyoto University? I hope you do! We are waiting for you here in Kyoto.

See you!

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