Skip Navigation

Mastering Cutting-Edge AI Technology in Kobe

Konan University Natural Science Research Division
Zhang Bo Wen
Liaoning, China (2 years in Tokyo, 2 years in Kobe)

Why did you choose to study abroad in Japan?

My father works in education and had a business trip to Japan, and he was really impressed with the manners and environment here, and especially the education system. He told me I would have to go to Japan to study abroad someday. At university in China I majored in mechanical engineering, and in Japan I put those studies to use with my research in AI* deep learning.

*Technology that carefully analyzes human behavior, step-by-step, and trains repeatedly trains machines with this information.

What made you choose Kobe in particular, and how do you feel about that choice?

The number one reason was livability. I also considered studying in Tokyo or Osaka, but I thought Kobe was the best, because it’s just quiet enough and has nature nearby. Even when I looked online, there were rankings listing Kobe as the number 2 most livable city in Asia, and number 5 in the world*. In reality, too, the city and the air are clean and it’s a great place to live. I also heard that there were a lot of Chinese people living in Kobe, so I hoped I could make some Chinese friends here, too.
I was actually able to make Chinese friends, and at school there are other international students from countries like India and Italy, too. The Japanese and international students get along well and we all work hard together.

*From Swiss international survey company ECA International’s “Global liveability report” (2012)

What do you like the most about Kobe?

I like that the climate isn’t too cool or too hot. I come from Liaoning, China, which is a cold region, so I feel like the weather is Kobe is just right. I also think the city has really good air quality. I went to a Japanese language school in Tokyo for two years, but I don’t see the kind of packed rush hour trains or garbage that I used to see here in Kobe. Public transportation is great, and I also like that it’s easy to get places.

How did you choose a school?

I decided first that I wanted to study in Kobe, and then I had to search for a Kobe school that matched what I wanted to study. Kobe is actually a hub for the medical industry, where cutting-edge medical research using AI is being conducted, and it’s also the location of a world-class, top level super computer. I’m interested in using AI technology for mental health, or to help seniors, so I’m hoping to continue studying this here in Kobe.

Do you sense any differences in how classes are conducted at schools in your home country compared with Japan?

In China, emphasis is placed on the theoretical, whereas in Japan I feel that more emphasis is placed on practical learning. For example, in classes in China, even if it’s too difficult for the students to keep up with the material, they can continue with the textbook and other literature. In classes in Japan, on the other hand, you don’t just read books, but also do practical, hands on learning: you get to know the thing first, and then move on to the theory. I prefer this method of learning.

What do you do on your free days?

I’m usually busy with my studies and my part-time job, but I like to find time to go to the museum. If you go to Kobe’s Mt. Rokko, where there’s a hiking course and a farm, you can get out and refresh youself. Recently I haven’t been able to go out as much because of COVID, so I’ve been making a lot of Japanese and Chinese food at home for a change of pace.

What do you do for part-time work?

I’ve worked at the convenience store on campus, and now I’m doing fully remote part-time work as an AI engineer working on the development of a mental health system. It’s technology that uses a variety of data to predict psychological states and stresses from human relations related to the workplace. Some people might think that it’s difficult to find part-time work in Japan, but there are a lot of job listings, and it actually wasn’t difficult for me.

What are your dreams or goals for the future?

Next year when I finish my master’s, I want to continue on to my PhD. After that I’d like to use what I’ve researched to find a job doing something AI-related in Japan. Many companies are located in Tokyo, but AI technology is really developing in Kobe’s medical field, so I’m hoping to stay here.

Please share a message for students considering studying abroad in Kobe (Japan)!

Confidence and hard work are the most important things. I didn’t have confidence in my Japanese abilities at first, and I was worried, but by continuing to work hard I was able to overcome that. It’s a cultural difference that Japanese people don’t often actively start talking to other people, but don’t wait for them to talk to you: just go ahead and start speaking to people on your own. Compared to China’s fiercely competitive society, Japan is much fairer, and if you’re confident and continue to work hard, you’ll have a wonderful time. I truly recommend studying abroad in Japan!