RANKING among the top universities in the world, Tokyo University remains a world-class option for many, many students to end their academic life there. Historically, not many Cambodians have made it the citadel. But for those who have, their stories are as incredible as the Tokyo University itself.

This year marks the fifth year Um Chanpiset has moved to Japan to accomplish his dream of majoring in mathematics. The 24-year-old Kompong Cham province native has stayed on course by passing into Tokyo University for a Master’s Degree in Mathematics in September just past, making him the country’s best success story in math so far.

Chanpiset graduated from high school in 2013 where he became a math prodigy as the national winner in Cambodia during his term of 2012-2013.

His distinguished high school accomplishments won him many scholarship offers from top universities in Cambodia, but among them he chose Zaman University, to major in Civil Engineering.

Within just one year, Piset’s stroke of genius in math captured the attention of his lecturer and many of his contemporaries and professors who then encouraged him to pursue an oversea scholarship.

Now well into his journey, first of passing the MEXT scholarship (which is fully-funded by the Japanese govt), it took Piset two months of intensive training and preparation to qualify. It is a strenuous exam, sitting in the exam room for one whole day solving many science subjects. Piset put in every effort to grab the opportunity. After two weeks, among 60 outstanding applications in the nation, only two undergraduate students passed the scholarship and incredibly Piset was one of them.

When chasing his academic ambition, Tokyo University has always been in his bucket list. In 2018, Piset applied to pursue a Master’s Degree in pure mathematics, which to his surprise, Piset got successful selected by Tokyo Mathematicians Committee for a full scholarship at Tokyo University.

In order to pass into Tokyo University, Piset had to outshine 120 outstanding math competitors from all over the world and significantly, up against math geniuses from Japan too. Getting through a number of competitive processes, Piset finally became one of 40 recipients who were successful for a full scholarship in mathematics at Tokyo University.

While math is one of the most quizzical subjects that not many students choose, the inquiring Piset is quite at home with problem-solving through critical thinking. “To know what is true or false, calculations can get us accurate information for the answer,” he added “Math helps us solve the mystery and shows us the true fact.”

Due to its complexities, many students find it subjectively complicated to study, but Piset is quite at home and tells why.

“Math absolutely involves much mystery in solving and analysis. And the gap of mathematics is quite big, like for instance, I find mathematics in high school and college are so different. In college, learning mathematics is more like a philosophy. Everything is more abstract and required more of our imagination.

“Everything depends primarily on your way of thinking. You need to clearly identify your goal when solving a problem because there is always a key to every locked door. Mystery and puzzles contain a variety of solutions to solve it,” he said.

Piset also shared his technique to be good at math in that “everything comes from practice, every mistake you have made in practice is a lesson learnt,” he added.

The advanced technology, prominent developments and distinctive civilization of Japan, has made an impact on Piset, who said that “Such a fast evolution and strong economic growth are possible in Japan primarily owning to the huge number of research centers in Japan. Their city-state is become more prosperous because of new discoveries in modern technology and science which is a proficient tool for human development”, he added.

Having been in Japan for four years, his impression of Japanese students is their hard working character and discipline. “Japanese students are very committed and take education very seriously,” he added.

Piset’s message to young people is: “You need to be more confident and believe in your true self and potential, your journey will be tough and hard but you will be satisfied with the result.”

- Tags: Tokyo University, Um Chanpiset

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