Posts for category 'University'

Entrance exams: finished

At last they're over.

Yesterday I had the written exam; today the oral exam. The written exam was difficult. I had to answer three problems. Two were fine, the third one was just the kind I didn't want, and I ran out of time. Not knowing precisely what they want, I'm always hesitant to comment on whether I did well enough. Better assume the worst and be pleasantly surprised than the other way around. Maybe that makes me a pessimist, I don't know. :)

The oral exam went well, I think. This was mainly on my previous research and no one knows more about that than me, so that's always an advantage. Plus I know I'm a good public speaker. They had some other general interview-style questions as well, and those went well too. I have a pretty good feeling about this part, anyway.

September 7th I should find out if I passed. Until then, I reserve all comment. :)

Categories: University, Japan
Posted on: 2007-08-23 07:43 UTC. Show comments (0)

TOEFL result

I finally got the results for the TOEFL test I took a few weeks earlier. My score was 118 (out of 120), so that's as expected. :)

If only the entrance exam would be this easy...

Categories: University, Japan
Posted on: 2007-08-01 03:43 UTC. Show comments (1)

TOEFL and Rachmaninov

I just got back (well, actually I got back a while ago but I've been downstairs so I just got back in my room) and I thought I'd drop a quick note about today before going to sleep.

Today I had two major events: the TOEFL test and the Japan Philharmonic concert.

About the TOEFL I can be brief. It was long, it was boring, but I think it went well. I was finished well ahead of everyone else and fortunately they let you leave immediately. It still took me nearly three hours. No surprises here though. I'll get the result in fifteen days, or so I've been told.

Then the concert. As I said previously, this was the first time I've been to a classical performance. I can tell you though, it will not be the last. It was amazing! My seat was on the third floor almost entirely in the back, but I still had a very good view (the way the hall was constructed I don't think there were any really bad seats).

They played two pieces, both by Rachmaninov: Piano Concerto no. 3, and Symphony no. 2, in that order. The first is a favourite piece of mine, and this was an excellent performance. The pianist, Koyama Michie (Japanese name order, so Koyama is her last name), is my new hero. She put such energy, such zest into this piece, it was almost like she was performing a play behind her piano at times. She also made it look and sound so effortless, and that's saying something since Rachmaninov's piano work is the most complicated I know. It was very obvious she enjoyed the piece a lot, and that the audience enjoyed it a lot as well. When they started the final parts of the third movement, nearing the end, I was hoping they'd reveal a previously unknown fourth movement or something, I didn't want her to stop! But after 45 minutes it was over, and followed by a well deserved round of applause that lasted nearly 10 minutes. She came back on stage five times because people just wouldn't stop applauding. :)

I've got several different performances of this Piano Concert on my computer; this is now my favourite one (ok, so I'm biased cause I saw it live, who cares :P )

Then there was a fifteen minute intermission, followed by the Symphony No. 2. They played the 60 minute symphony in its entirety (it is often shortened). It was definitely very good, but Rachmaninov without piano is like a café without beer. Nothing bad about their performance, I just like the first piece better than this one. Still, I enjoyed it a lot.

Random notes:

  • I think I was the only non-Japanese there, at least I didn't see any others. :)
  • Whenever the orchestra fell silent during the short pauses between the movements, everybody would start coughing simultaneously. It was as if someone turned on a sign "cough now". I had to stop myself from laughing out loud the first time that happened.
  • During the final applause all the orchestra sections stood up individually, and strangely the percussion section got the loudest applause. My theory is that people felt sorry for them because they hardly had anything to do (with the exception of the timpani which had a fair share of work in the second piece at least). There was this one girl on xylophone, I think she had maybe five measures through the whole 60 minute piece. She was just sitting there the rest of the time. I applauded extra hard especially for her. :)
  • No amount of money thrown at speaker hardware can beat the sound quality of a live orchestra.
  • I'm definitely going again, but I'll try to find a hall that's a bit closer. This was definitely a beautiful hall with great acoustics, but it's just too far away. It's almost fifty minutes by train, and it's quite an expensive journey as well (and the concert tickets aren't cheap to begin with). There are definitely halls closer by that the Japan Philharmonic frequents, so this shouldn't pose a problem.
  • This post is nowhere near as short as I had intended it to be. :)

Categories: University, Personal, Japan
Posted on: 2007-07-07 15:37 UTC. Show comments (0)

Entrance exam preparations

Some of you may have noticed that I rarely write about university stuff. The simple explanation is that there's simply not a lot to say yet. I haven't started doing research yet, because I first have to take the PhD student entrance exam in August. Only when I pass that will I be a real PhD student and will the real work start.

So my university life currently consists of studying Japanese and studying for the exam. The latter involves a lot of reading, mostly of stuff that I've done before in the past six years.

And blog posts of the nature "today I read two chapters in book X" wouldn't be very entertaining, now would they? But rest assured, if there is news I'll be sure to say it.

The first "event" I have coming up is the TOEFL test, which is an English language proficiency test I have to do as part of the entrance examinations, so it shouldn't be a problem. That'll be in the morning on July 7th (so that'll be a busy day).

Categories: University, Japan
Posted on: 2007-06-14 07:57 UTC. Show comments (0)


Today, I finally got two items I wanted to get for some time. A commuter pass and a PASMO.

I got a student commuter pass from Seijogakuenmae to Shinjuku, for the Odakyu line. This covers one half of the route to the Hongo campus I have to take three times a week, and it also covers the route to my lab (then I get off before Shinjuku, but that doesn't matter, it still works). Plus I can use it whenever I need to go to Shinjuku for something else (and since that's usually the first stop no matter where in Tokyo I want to go, that happens a lot). Despite the fact that most people told me I couldn't get a student pass as long as I was only a research student, I still managed to get one. Which is good, since it's a good deal cheaper than a regular commuter pass. I waited so long to get one because I wanted to at least try to get a student pass, so I had to wait until I had my student ID card.

I considered also getting a pass for the second part (from Shinjuku to Hongo-sanchome with the Oedo line), but I only do that three times per week, and there's far less chance of incidental trips that way than on the way to Shinjuku. The commuter pass would cost almost as much as the single tickets would, so I didn't do it. Plus this affords me the freedom of using alternative routes, such as the Chiyoda line, if I want to.

It should be clear from this little explanation that the biggest problem with Tokyo public transportation is all the different companies. You pretty much have to buy a ticket every time you transfer. So far I've been using a passnet pass, which is a magnetic ticket which you buy in advance. It's not any cheaper than individual tickets, but you buy a fixed amount in advance and can use the pass until it's empty (then you must buy a new one). Passnet works on Odakyu and most subway lines (including the Oedo and Chiyoda lines), so it was fairly convenient. It does not, however, work on the JR lines. JR uses a system called Suica, which is a rechargable IC card (chip card), but that doesn't work for anything besides JR (or at least it used to).

A few months ago they introduced the PASMO. It's a rechargable IC card which works on (afaik) every single train and subway company in Tokyo (even JR; the PASMO and Suica can be used interchangably) and even in most buses. Like Passnet it's not cheaper but it is considerably more convenient. What's more, you can also put a commuter pass onto a PASMO, so I can now use this one pass where ever I go in Tokyo, even for the commuter pass route!

I would've gotten a PASMO a great deal sooner, but the PASMO was far more successful than originally anticipated (apparently they sold over 3 million in the first month; they had predicted only 2 million). Because of this currently PASMO's can only be bought in combination with a commuter pass; "normal" PASMO sales have been halted. But now I have one, which will make things much easier. :)

PASMO official site (in English).

Categories: University, Personal, Japan
Posted on: 2007-05-14 08:29 UTC. Show comments (2)

Latest posts




RSS Subscribe