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A dedicated student who worked hard and missed family

TRAGIC student Nicola Furlong sacrificed much of her time at a Japanese university to work with the disabled.

Instead of joining the traditional clubs -- which form a large part of life in Japanese universities -- Nicola gave her time to the local volunteer group.

"You couldn't do that if you were an introverted type," said Minoru Shida, an aide to the head of the student-affairs division at the university.

He added: "It is also probably proof that her Japanese was above standard conversational levels."

It is another side to the young student, who was described by her parents and friends as a caring young woman. She certainly made an impression at this remote university, about two hours from Tokyo.

But it was little surprise that Nicola was homesick in this detached place, 100km north of the capital and a long way from one of the 'big-six' universities in Tokyo.

Approximately 160 international students are registered with Takasaki City University of Economics. Nicola was one of only four Europeans on a one-year exchange programme and would have attended language classes apart from other students.

Nicola's academic focus was marketing and commercial studies, a choice which probably brought her face-to-face with other students in tutorial-type settings, said Mr Shida.


The four students -- two Irish and two Germans, all female -- lived in separate apartments in the same block of simple bedsit-type apartments provided by the university and bonded in their common experience, he said.

The accommodation is far from luxurious.

"The rooms have a living space, a bathroom, toilet and sink," Mr Shida said.

"They couldn't be called spacious and you couldn't live there with another person."

A source said her German compatriots had been shaken by the killing.

"I ran into them yesterday and although they are putting on a brave face, they are shocked by everything that has happened," he said.

Nicola was known as an outgoing, bright person. She was also a dedicated student who attended classes diligently.

"She had virtually no absences," he said.

Takasaki itself is a city of about 375,000 people. The university backs on to a river with a golf course on the other side and hills close by.

It's certainly a long way from home.

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