Faculty of Science and EngineeringWaseda University


Student Voice: LEMCKE Niklas

From Federal Republic of Germany


  • Name
    LEMCKE Niklas
  • Country/ Region of Citizenship
    Federal Republic of Germany
  • Graduated from
    National Taiwan University
  • Department
    Department of Pure and Applied Mathematics (Master’s)

Nominated the Reserved Scholarship for Successful International Examinees and Monbukagakusho Honors Scholarship for Privately Financed International Students


How did you find out about Waseda University?

I happened to have some Japanese friends back in Taiwan, as well as a distant relative living in Tokyo.  Whom ever I asked what the best universities in Japan or Tokyo were, they would always mention Waseda University.

Then I met a visiting Waseda Professor at National Taiwan University; he later introduced me to Waseda and it’s algebraic geometers, and even showed me around the Nishi-Waseda campus when I visited during one vacation.


Why did you choose Waseda University?

Apart from the promising introduction by said professor, I had a conversation with my would-be advisor before applying.  Every professor is different, so regardless of which university you are applying to, it is crucial to get an impression of whether you are going to get along with your advisor.  From this I knew that he would give me precisely the academic freedom I had always wanted.  This is why I did not hesitate when I received the admission letter.


How did you get information for our program?IMG_2303

Mostly through the professor I met first, and later via the website as well as an uncountably infinite number of question-filled emails to the very patient admission staff. 😛


Did you have any concerns before coming to Japan?

No.  Well, yes – my Japanese was (and still is) rather poor, which is an issue.


Have you had any difficulties when you started a new life here?

Not at all; except for my poor Japanese that is.  In my yet rather brief experience here, I have come to find the often rumored preconception that Japanese people are difficult to approach to be absolutely untrue; at least in my case.  I was for example randomly approached to join the tennis circle, which I did.  They have been more than accommodating of me and my attempts at Japanese.


How is your life in Japan and Waseda?

Very comfortable and mostly convenient (except for the long commute and the utter lack of vegan food); though admittedly not quite as convenient as Taiwan.

The lab and my professor have provided me with precisely what I was looking for: academic freedom.  I feel looked after, but not restrained.  Perfect.  There are also professors from the University of Tokyo as well as Tokyo Tech teaching courses and roaming about the department, so the academic environment is quite rich.

Any room for improvement?

Of course, as probably any university, Waseda also has its idiosyncrasies.  For example, there is the nonsensical rule that no more than six credits of the required 18 credits of lecture courses can stem from courses taught in Japanese (for IPSE students).  Courses taught in English are comparatively rare, and from my still very(!) limited experience tend to be geared towards undergraduates.

It is likely that, if your department / situation is anything like mine, you will have to mostly stick to courses taught in Japanese for your research, while having to take a handful of credits taught in English.  Luckily, the professors I have talked to have been very understanding, expressing their own disbelief in this rule.  This makes me hope that this rule may be amended in the near(-ish) future.

Other than that, food supply on campus is not at all vegan friendly.  In fact you would be hard-pressed to find anything even vegetarian, except for Onigiri (a rice ball) or fruit at a convenience store.  That means I have to either walk some distance to eat out, or bring my own lunch and dinner to the lab.

Lastly, not being able to speak Japanese in Japan really sucks.  But that is more or less the case for most countries, especially East-Asian countries, and I am working on that.


What do you do in your free time?IMG_9005

I don’t have much course work, which is the beauty of the freedom I get here: I barely have anything but “free time”, which I can (and have to) use for whatever research I choose to do.

Not maths-related, I joined a Tennis circle and a Karate circle.  So when I am not doing math I am at one of the circles, or having dinner with classmates, or enjoying myself at a karaoke-kan, yizakaya (a Japanese-style bar) or sentou (a public bath).  Or, as is most likely of course, I am on a train to or from any of the above.


How are the relationships with your supervisor and lab members?

IMG_2335Splendid!  My supervisor is both very helpful and very laisser-faire, which is precisely what I want.  The other lab members have been very accommodating of my sub-par Japanese.


Outline of the research

I currently study birational geometry; Mori’s minimal model program.  I also have an interest for cryptography, which I pursue on a hobby basis.


What is your career goal after your degree completion?

Nothing ordinary enough to carry a name, but the next step will be a PhD in mathematics.


Short message to the prospective students

in English

1424013405907Japan is a wonderful place.  However, to make the best of it, you should arrive with the right attitude.  I have thus two recommendations for you.

  • Learn Japanese asap.  Life is only going to be half as good (at best) without it, and you will most likely want to use it in university, even if you are an IPSE student.
  • If you’re coming from a “western” culture, do realize that Japan is at the other side of the globe, and the journey used to take months not long ago.  Accordingly different are not just the culture, but the everyday habits and expectations are vastly different.  In fact, that is part of the appeal, right?  Yes, they are tending to align more and more in modern times, and yes, one often gets a free pass for a faux-pas for being a foreigner.  But as I like to say, “Japan is the furthest you can get from planet earth without a space ship.”  There are still innate differences which may stun you, or even make wonderfully kind Japanese people appear rude. When you do stumble upon these, it is advisable to simply write them off as a cultural difference.

If you keep this in mind, you will find Japan to be full of wonders. 🙂


in German

IMG_9269Japan ist ein wundervoller Ort. Um das beste daraus zu machen, sollte man hier allerdings mit der Richtigen Attituede erscheinen. Daher habe ich zwei Empfehlungen fuer euch:

  • Lernt Japanisch so schnell wie moeglich. Das Leben in Japan ohne Japanischkenntnisse ist nicht halb so gut wie mit. Auch in der Uni werdet ihr hoechstwahrscheinlich Japanisch gebrauchen.
  • Haltet euch vor Augen dass Japan auf der anderen Seite des Globus liegt, und die Reise vor nicht allzu langer Zeit mehrere Monate in Anspruch nahm. Entsprechend unterscheiden sich nicht nur die Kultur, sondern auch die alltaeglichen Gebraeuche drastisch. Das ist Teil des Reizes hier her zu kommen. Natuerlich wird der Unterschied dank Technik immer geringer, und man bekommt fuer Fettnaepfchen auch oft eine Freikarte weil Auslaender. Aber, wie ich zu sagen pflege, “weiter als Japan kommt man vom Planeten Erde nur mit eineme Raumschiff.” Es gibt noch immer gravierende Unterschiede die einen Ueberraschen koennen, oder sogar unvorstellbar freundliche Japaner grob erscheinen lassen koennen. Wenn man auf eine solche Instanz trifft, sollte man diese gemach als “kulturellen Unterschied” vergessen.

Wenn ihr das im Hinterkopf behaltet, wird Japan fuer euch eine Menge Wunder bereithalten. 🙂



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