IInterview with Manizha Rajabova, a successful JACAFA Alumni from Tajikistan, about her studies at Master’s Degree at the University of Tsukuba.
Could you describe your graduate education at the University of Tsukuba?
I became a student last year in 2020, and now I am a second-year student at the Master’s Program in International Public Policy and also part of the Special Program in Japanese and Eurasian Studies by NipCA project, which is sponsored by the Nippon Foundation.
Unfortunately, I have been studying online since October last year. Due to the COVID-19 border restrictions, we are unable to go to Japan yet, but we are hoping to travel very soon when the Japanese government allows foreign students into the country.
Even though I’m studying online, it has been an amazing academic experience so far. We’ve been studying a lot about public policy, global studies, Japanese society, economy and culture as well. Moreover, there have been a lot of intensive courses in Central Eurasian studies, because the SPJES program aims to establish connections between Japan and Central Asian countries (and Azerbaijan as well). Another interesting aspect of our program is its focus on the Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations. So, in the course of these two semesters that have already passed, we have studied SDGs intensively and I have learned a lot about current issues that the global society faces. Also, currently, I am trying to concentrate all of my attention on my research project.
Can you tell us about your current research project?
I would love to tell you about my research project! This is something that I am passionate about and I am working on it since the first semester of my studies.
The tentative title of my work is “From Brain Drain to Brain Gain: Motivations of Tajik students to return home”. This is research concentrated around Tajik students who have studied abroad and had opportunities to stay in the countries of their education but eventually, they have decided to come back to Tajikistan, to their homeland and stay here. Why have I decided to write specifically about Tajik returnees is, because, according to statistics, the majority of international Tajik students remain in the countries of their education. And I wanted to study this in more detail because there is little research made in this area, and mainly it is based on statistical approaches.
But what I wanted to do is to interview people, to interview the actual returnees to understand their motivations and the reasons behind their decision. I hope that the research I make will inspire Tajik students to return home, to value their country, traditions and culture.
So far, it has been an amazing experience as I was able to interview many interesting people and listen to their unique stories. My defense is scheduled to be held next year in the summer. I am not sure about the exact date yet, but I do hope that I will be able to defend successfully and contribute to the academic knowledge and the understanding of this issue in Tajikistan and Central Asia in general.
I am not sure if I can advertise my research here, but if someone who will be reading this is interested to participate, I would be really glad to interview them as well since I’m still gathering data!
What impact has JACAFA had on your personal and professional development?
It would be an understatement to say that JACAFA had a huge impact on my life post-grad because JACAFA had made so much more for me in terms of personal and professional development – ever since I became a scholarship recipient in 2019. This is something that continues up to this day because I am an alumnus now. First of all, JACAFA is the reason why I’ve learned about the SPJES program at the University of Tsukuba. Kyoko-san mentioned this program to us during one of the Bishkek Workshop Seminars, for which I am forever grateful. Arigato gozaimasu, Kyoko-san!
JACAFA also helped me a lot in terms of my network development because I have met so many people, so many outstanding professionals in their field. They are like role models to me, people whom I want to learn from.
Furthermore, I strongly hope that the new generation of JACAFA fellows will also follow the example of senior colleagues. JACAFA gave me enormous opportunities to study with fewer things to worry about, to grow as a professional and to succeed in the academic field. I think that these opportunities are priceless, they are not available to just anyone. We must value it and use it to its fullest to prove that we are worthy to be ambassadors of our countries within the JACAFA community.
What are your future plans?
I think that trying to schedule your life so far into the future is not that smart since the COVID pandemic is still a problem, a global problem that must be taken into consideration when someone’s trying to build his or her plans for the future. I can say with certainty that for now, my plans are is to concentrate on getting my Master’s degree and, as a student, to perform to the best of my abilities. I will be in the SPJES program for another two semesters, which means that I will be enrolled until September 2022, as my program was extended because of the COVID pandemic. Initially, I was expected to graduate in March 2022. But Nippon Foundation thought about the current situation and generously extended our studies to give us a chance to experience life in the academic environment in Japan. After getting my Master’s degree (if I will be deemed worthy by the examination committee) I plan to work and get real experience before thinking about getting a PhD. I hope to pursue a career in the area of International Public Policy or International relations because this is something that I am passionate about.
How do you spend your free time?
I enjoy reading books. I love fantasy novels like “the Witcher”, “Lord of the Rings”, basically anything that concerns magic and dragons! One of the books that I have finished recently is “Six of Crows”, so I would recommend it to anyone. I also enjoy playing computer games. It is a very safe hobby for a COVID-19 environment. My favorite genres are RPG, indie and storytelling games, as well as some action adventures. I also enjoy spending my free time walking around the city: If I am in a new place, I always take photos of local architecture.
What advice would you give to bright young minds who wish to continue their studies for a Master’s Degree?
This is something I wish someone told me in the past when I was worrying about all the things – my studies, my MA degree, etc.
There will be many times in your life when you’ll doubt yourself. You may doubt yourself every step after your Bachelor’s degree, thinking about whether should you go work straight away or should you go to Master’s. You may be unsure of yourself wherever you qualify for a promotion, or if you are ready to try a new path in your life in general – there are a lot of examples. Back in the days, I was doubting myself every single day, over big and small things, it didn’t matter.
But if you have an opportunity, if it falls right into your hands – grab it, even if you are feeling unsure.
You will doubt when you will be filling up your applications, but please make sure that you can overcome these doubts and hit “send” in the end. You will hear a “no” a hundred times in your life, but one single “yes” can become a life-changer.
It is a skill, actually – not to give up, because a “no” can be discouraging. I know that because I’ve had so many unsuccessful applications and interviews in the past that you wouldn’t believe me.
People have so many recourses to reach out to their dreams and accomplish their goals, and I think that every single person is capable of achieving anything, if he or she tries hard and doesn’t give up.
My message is to never doubt yourself, because you are so much smarter and so much talented than you think you are.
Thank you for your meaningful answers, motivating story and allocating your precious time for this interview.
We wish you to achieve your goals and to develop professionally in your field and make your positive impact towards the development of international relations between Tajikistan and other countries.
Interviewed by Doniyor Makhmudov, JACAFA Alumni from Uzbekistan