Summer School in Trieste
During summer vacation, I visited Trieste, a city in the northeastern part of Italy, for three weeks to attend a mathematics summer school and a conference. I would have never imagined when I was in high school, or even as a freshman in college when I decided to pursue the field of mathematics, that I would have an opportunity to visit a foreign country to attend a math conference.
During the first two weeks, we had summer school, and there were some lectures to attend to just like at universities. We had a full schedule starting at 9am and going on until about 6pm, in which we solved practice problems and had tutorials where questions could be asked, with short lectures in between in which everyone’s researches were presented. Summer days in Europe are long, and at 6pm, the sun felt like it was still about 3pm. If I still had some energy left in the evening, I would sometimes swim at the beach right by the guest house where I was staying. At sunset, the surface of the sea shimmered in gold and was a very beautiful sight.
As expected, almost all communications including the lectures, asking questions, and just chatting with friends, were in English. Some of the interesting conversations among friends were on who was the greatest mathematician, and whether having tried eating snakes and jellyfishes or not. I did not think that my English was good enough to speak freely about my thoughts and opinions, so I tried my best to be a good listener. I was surprisingly feeling stressed out about not being able to say out loud what I wanted to convey, and was secretly happy when I had the opportunity to eat out and talk with other Japanese researchers on the third week.
Although I felt the language barrier, talking about each other’s researches with friends, solving problems together, and going sightseeing on the weekends were very good experiences for me. One particular friend from Israel greeted me cheerfully in Japanese by saying 「おはよう!(good morning) 」, and I was so happy to hear someone talk to me in my own language that I asked him how to greet people in his language and greeted him back in Hebrew. There was also a pregnant participant who had brought her daughter along, and when she asked me if I was Japanese, I was a bit startled at first, but when she asked me to make something out of origamis for her daughter, I made cranes and flower medals out of papers cut into squares and gave them to her. I was getting a little tired of the English environment, and these incidents cheered me up. The third week, which was also the last week, was the conference. During the conference, there were many lectures to attend to. To be honest, all the lectures were difficult for me, and all I could do was write down words I did not know and to look them up. It was nevertheless an eye opening experience to see researchers enjoying chatting with each other between lectures, and to also see them having discussions at the many blackboards placed throughout the hall. During my high school days, I silently worked at solving problems in solitude, but this experience gave me a whole new impression on mathematics.
Learning new things from the lectures, getting influenced by foreign students full of energy, and finding people having discussions using black boards cool, the three weeks were very fulfilling days for me, in which I was also able to envision the things that I would like to challenge myself with more in the future.
I hope to make this experience and the friends I met during the three weeks, the nourishing foundation of my future research.
＊The information in this article is as of the time it was written, and may have changed since.