Life as an international student in Belgium


Natsuki is a Japanese student completing a six-month internship at Sofico in Belgium. So let's get to know her a little better. Cultural differences or similarities?

Let’s start with a small introduction, tell us about yourself. What is your field of study?

I'm originally from Tokyo. My Bachelor's degree was in Informatics and Engineering because there was no specialized degree at that level of study. I was one of the few girls who studied it; there were 99 % boys in the course. Now I'm pursuing a Master's degree in Computer Science, which is why I came to Belgium a few weeks ago for an internship at Sofico. I also enjoy various activities, such as surfing and swimming in the sea.

How was it for you to study such subjects?

It was challenging because I hated math at the time. When I was in high school, I wanted to learn more about physics. I expected it to be more interesting than it turned out to be. As a result, I decided to apply for Informatics.

What was your childhood dream job?

I was fantasizing about becoming wealthy. I thought at the time that medicine is a rewarding career in which I might make money. Until I saw some blood and realized this was not going to be my cup of tea.

Are you enthusiastic about your job at Sofico?

Yes, great job. I'm working on smart contracts and blockchain, which is an extremely new technology. So, this is my first experience with blockchain systems, as I have never done anything like this before. I had some knowledge from my master's courses, but none of it had anything to do with smart contracts.

For me, it's a mix of joy and challenges; one has to study everything on one’s own because there is no academic background on such cutting-edge innovations.

For me, it's a mix of joy and challenges; one has to study everything on one’s own because there is no academic background on such cutting-edge innovations.


What’s the main purpose of smart contracts? How do they work?

That is going to be difficult. It's a tough concept to explain but smart contracts basically are code that can handle business transactions and make sure that these transactions are secure, fast, cheap and accurate. This contract is automatically performed when certain conditions agreed upon by the parties are met, making the process considerably simpler, quicker, and more dynamic. This could be a particular action or deadline. Smart contracts, without a doubt, will transform the world.

Smart contracts have a wide range of use cases, from finance to mobility, which is what Sofico is looking at to prepare for the future. 

However, there are certain security risks. We don't know how easy it would be to hack it. Also, because there aren't many individuals working on smart contracts yet, development isn't moving as quickly as I'd want. A lot of work should be still done.

Smart contracts, without a doubt, will transform the world.


You've been an intern at Sofico for a few weeks now, how do you find the working atmosphere here?

The people here are quite friendly, and the atmosphere is pleasant. My supervisor is a person who is easy to talk to. Working here is more comfortable than working for a Japanese corporation.

In Japan, the rules are stricter, and everything must follow a formal process; nobody does this in Belgium. In Japan, you must comply with severe rules.

What recommendation would you give to students who are applying for the same internship as you did?

Give it a go! Don't be frightened, be open to new experiences, and live life to the fullest.

Don't be frightened, be open to new experiences, and live life to the fullest.


Would you suggest Sofico to a future student as a starting point in their career?

Yes! Sofico is a wonderful company with recent technologies and a pleasant working environment. It's simple to attempt something new because no one will judge you if you make a mistake

How do you spend your evenings and weekends in Belgium?

I enjoy going out and discovering new pubs and trying different beers.

Have you visited other cities, rather than Ghent?

Yes, Bruges, Leuven, Brussels, and Antwerp are all lovely but Ghent the most so. In Brussels, for example, there are a lot of homeless people and I don't feel safe. I've never seen so many homeless people in Ghent. In Ghent, you'll also find a castle and a magnificent river.

What is the biggest difference between how people spend their free time in Japan and in Belgium?

Adults in Japan do not go out as much as students do. They don't take the opportunity to create new acquaintances. People here, on the other hand, like making new friends and are really open. I believe that Europeans enjoy discussing politics and religion. In Japan, such topics are never mentioned.

Let's talk about the future. Do you have any dream or perhaps a goal that you would like to achieve in the near future?

Sofico is one of my aspirations because I want to work here full-time. I also wish to work as an IT consultant, combining my technical expertise with my commercial skills. I'd like to assist others with their problems as they arise.

After all, I received an offer from a Japanese IT consulting firm, but they are too domestic for me. Accepting the offer is not in my plans. I would prefer to remain in Belgium.

Can you recommend a Japanese movie we all should see?

I'd recommend an anime, but many people are already familiar with it. You should look for My Neighbor Totoro if you have free time. It's a lovely and gentle film.


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