One NJ exchange student’s rotten experience as a J MOE-MEXT ryuugakusei

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Hi Blog.  What follows is a guest essay from a 3-year exchange student on the GOJ dime who has come to Japan to study and found it highly undesirable.  Others who have had similar experiences, please comment.  All names etc have been changed to protect the guilty.  If interested in getting in touch with the author, please contact me at debito@debito.org and I’ll forward your enquiry.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

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GUEST ESSAY FOLLOWS

My name is Laura Petrescu, and I am a Monbukagakusho-MEXT scholarship grantee that has been living in Japan for almost three years. When I came here, I was expecting a high-quality academic environment and an overall positive experience. I was disappointed time and again by irregularities, double standards, absurd situations and blatant displays of racism.

Therefore, I thought I’d share my ryuugaku experience so far. I think that by getting the word out I’m giving prospective foreign students a chance to learn ‘other’ truth about living and studying in Japan. On the surface, things might look good – after all, who would say no to going to college for free? Still, there are many things that can turn an average ryuugaku experience into a complete disappointment and a waste of time.

A little background information:

I came to Japan in spring 2007. I spent my first year in Japan at the former Osaka University of Foreign Studies (currently, the Foreign Languages division of Osaka University). Here, myself and other foreign students studied Japanese and other tangent subjects.

At the beginning of our second year here, each of us was sent to a university (supposedly) of his or her choosing. Things went downhill for a lot of us afterward, and plenty of people have already given up their scholarships and returned home. Those of us who stayed are still dealing with the ups and downs of an inherenty flawed system that seems to care more about pretty numbers on a sheet of paper, and less about the overall well-being of each of us, as a person.

What follows are the ten major reasons that essentially ruined the whole “Study in Japan! Free forever!” thing for me.

#1. Double standards for Asian and non-Asian foreign students at OUFS
At the OUFS foreign students’ dorm, Asian student groups were allowed to get away with pretty much anything, from shooting fireworks indoors and setting a curtain on fire (subsequently leading to foreign students’ parties being banned on campus grounds) to using shower stalls as public restrooms and even cheating on tests. Several students displayed an increasingly reckless behavior and walked away with a mild warning and nothing more.

On a side note, the regular Monbukagakusho newsletter that gets sent to all foreign students mostly features Asians and information for Asians looking for jobs, etc. I think I’ve only seen a non-Asian interviewed once.

Back to OUFS, non-Asian students were harassed and ridiculed by teachers and dorm staff on several occasions. One particular incident comes to mind, where a white girl’s Japanese language abilities were ridiculed in class by none other than her teacher, to the point where she broke down crying. The Asian students in said class (two Koreans and two Singaporeans) watched and laughed. For the record, the girl had passed the JLPT-1 examination and was one of the best Japanese speakers I know.

Half a year later, Asian students had a barbecue. When non-Asians did the same thing one day later, the dorm supervisor called the campus guards and we were forced to “cease and desist” immediately. We asked why there was no problem if Asians did it, but if we did it, we were somehow in the wrong. Mid-conversation, he turned, said something unintelligible in English (even though we’d all been talking to him in Japanese the whole time) and stormed off.

Another time, due to a faulty English translation of a notice, almost all foreign students ended up locked out of their rooms. All rooms were scheduled for a fire alarm maintenance, and al of us were notified. The Japanese notice (which most of us couldn’t read at the time) added, “出かけるときは鍵を持って行ってください”. The English translation was, “Please keep your key.” Guess who got yelled at when gingerly trying to point out the mistake: a native English speaker, who was told by the dorm supervisor something along the lines of, “I studied in the US for 10 years, I know English!” and promptly dismissed. I got yelled at too, when I politely asked the supervisor to please let me in my own room.

#2. Pressure and “mind games” at OUFS
As far as “mind games” go, myself and another student were in dire straits for having missed some classes (although it was never made clear that attendance mattered, and in both our countries attendance does NOT count towards a grade). On a side note, I missed most of those classes due to medical reasons. The program supervisor set up a “trial” with the two of us, himself and another teacher, and spent an hour and a half making us believe that we’d screwed up irrevocably and we’d face grave consequences, possibly even failing the year and being deported straight away.

At the end of the meeting, he gave each of us a paper that said we renounced our scholarship benefits then and there. And all we had to do was to sign on the dotted line and that would be “better for us, right?”. Naturally, we both refused, much to the supervisor’s bafflement. Ironically enough, an Asian student had an even worse attendance record, but they never attempted to pressure him into giving up.

#3. Poor-quality teaching and evaluation at OUFS
Some teachers at OUFS were, in my humble opinion, hardly qualified to teach. One spent most of the class time talking about anything but what he was supposed to teach, and even going so far as to ask inappropriate questions, such as, “So, do you have a boyfriend yet?”. He’d skip from topic to topic, ramble for a bit, then move on to another topic before just as suddenly going back to supposed “teaching”.

Towards the end of the year, the same teacher called me and another student to his office and proceeded to tell us that, due to poor attendance, he would be “forced” to fail us both. He then asked us why we missed so many classes. I answered first. “You weren’t teaching anything”, I said. “And also, your class has nothing to do with my major. It’s boring. And I don’t care.” The other student said nothing… and in the end, we both passed. The bottom line is, nobody failed their first year at OUFS. The program was simply made that way.

Exams were a major pain for hard-working students. Students who couldn’t speak a lick Japanese scored top grades, while people who actually studied everything there was to study scored 80% or less. The reason? Exams always consisted of the simplest possible Japanese language questions, so that everyone would supposedy pass with flying colors. It was easy enough to lose sight of simple Kanji characters when you spent weeks drilling complicated ones into your head. To make things worse, classes moved at a pace too quick for anyone to actually understand everything, and revision time was basically limited to one or two pop quizzes a week, with new stuff to learn following straight after. The bottom line is, students who couldn’t speak a lick of Japanese got into top-level Japanese universities, while fluent speakers / writers had to settle for the “average” ones.
Besides the language itself, we were taught Economy, Culture, History and Politics in Japanese from day one, even though more than half of us had zero Japanese knowledge (our orientation guide specifically stated that no previous knowledge of the language is required – apparently, that changed from 2008). Our textbooks were in intermediate or advanced Japanese with plenty of technical terms. Some of the teachers didn’t even speak English, so they couldn’t help us understand things better, either.

#4. Disregard of personal university choices
Myself and another student with poorer grades than mine both opted for Osaka University as our first university of choice. Inexplicably, he got in, while I was sent to Tokyo ○○ University (third on my list). I had solid reasons to stay in Osaka (Osaka University had the exact course I wanted to major in, while the other one did not; and also my fiance of that time lived in Osaka with his family).

I went through every possible avenue to try and overturn the decision, but what chances would I have against a system that just doesn’t care? I wonder what was the point in making us write our “choice list” (入学希望大学リスト) in the first place, when it was clear that: a- “advanced” students were among the only ones who got into their university of choice, and b- the selection criteria were shady to say the least.

#5. Misinformation by Tokyo ○○ staff at orientation meeting
At a university orientation meeting (大学説明会) at OUFS, I asked the Tokyo ○○ representatives whether I’d be able to obtain a practice license if I completed a bachelor’s degree . The answer was, “Yes, definitely”. This is what made me include Tokyo ○○ on my options list to begin with. I only found out much, much later – after my entrance examination – that this was not the case, and I would need to also complete a masters’ course in order to get my license – maybe.

#6. Injustice at Tokyo ○○ and no intervention by university staff
This one still stings, even though it’s been more than a year and I’ve passed the class (courtesy of a much more understanding teacher) since. In my first year, my Information Technology (情報処理) teacher failed me, even though:

– My highschool major was Information Technology;

– I knew more about computers, operating systems, standard programs, programming languages and the Internet than anyone in that class, including the teacher;

– I had a good attendance record that was not in violation of university rules;

– I completed all my assignments on time, including my end-of-year presentation;

– I’ve been using computers since I was 10, and sitting through half a year of, “This is a computer. To turn it on, you press this button… no, not that one!” was a sheer nightmare.

The teacher came up with an extraordinary set of rules so he could fail me. I wrote to the teacher, then went to the Student Affairs division, then all the way to the head of my faculty — where I was promptly told that it was “his class, his rules”. The IT teacher even made an error while tallying attendance records (and I had proof). That was never even brought into discussion. In the end, I had an uncontrolled burst out (a sarcastic equivalent of “O rly?” in Japanese), for which I naturally had to apologize afterward. Nobody apologized for the “discomfort” this situation had caused me.

#7. Little to no support for “gakubu” foreign students
I’m a foreigner. I was only given one year to master the Japanese language so I could take courses in Japanese. Is that enough? With a complex language such as Japanese, definitely not. Sadly though, most courses were exclusively in Japanese, with tons of references, print-outs and projects in Japanese. Some teachers were very supportive, yes. But other teachers were not.

Some didn’t even allow the use of electronic dictionaries (電子辞書) at end-of-term examinations. While my listening and understanding (聴きとり) are on a fairly good level, academic language has never been my forte. One particular teacher didn’t want to give me the extra time I needed to finish my paper (I write very slowly), and consequently, instead of getting an A, as I should have, I got a D. I knew all the answers. I just didn’t have time to put everything on paper.
To put it bluntly, my grades sucked, and I gave it my all. At least in my first year. By the second year, I’d already earned myself the “honorable” status of being the perpetual “dumb kid”. In my country, I graduated high-school with full marks and was among the top 10 students in my promotion country-wide and with several national and international awards under my belt. Go figure.

#8. Inappropriate (and sometimes racist) student attitude; teachers do nothing
My first-ever group project at Tokyo ○○ was a four-people effort to do some research on a key Buddhist figure. After groups were made, one Japanese student exclaimed, “I can’t work with a ryuugakusei! You’ll just mess things up!”

In my second year, on a different project, I became the resident ghost: I’d speak, and the others would pretend they didn’t hear a thing. Once, I gave a suggestion and was met with silence. A few minutes later, a Japanese made the same suggestion and was granted the standard “Oooooh, you’re so SMART!” response. On the same group, I was told, “You Americans don’t understand how the Japanese think, so your opinion means nothing.” Excuse me? I’m [Eastern European]. And my opinion should weight the same as everyone else’s – if not more, considering I’ve seen the world, whilemost of these kids have lived their whole lives in their own little fairytale bubble.

#9. “If you’re sick, that’s unfortunate, but I don’t care.”
This one nearly had me in tears. I missed a class twice, both times for medical reasons. I let my teacher know and brought proof from the clinic. His response after the second time? “If you miss one more class, you’ll fail the course” – which, by the way, is compulsory. At the time of my second absence, I was a flu suspect and was expressly told to go and get myself tested ASAP, and do NOT, under any circumstances, set foot inside the campus (this was during the swine flu hysteria). Hypothetically speaking, if I had any kind of flu, this could have started an epidemic at school. Guess who would’ve gotten the blame later.

#10. “Me” vs. “them”
I’ve had plenty of cases where I’d try to strike a conversation at university, only to be met with the standard “Wa~i! It talks!” response. Nearly all the conversations I managed to have were the invariable “gaijin”-themed discussions: where I’m from, what things are like “over there”, why I came to Japan, etc., etc., interlaced with the typical “Sugo~i! Your Japanese is SO good!” (and variations). This thing dragged on even with people I’d known for months. It gets tiresome after a while. I was never a part of my class, per say; always left out of conversations, decision-making in projects, “nomikais”, etc. And I tried. I really did. It’s almost like there is an invisible wall between me and the rest of the students in my class.

To sum up…

Some people might say, “You knew what you were getting into when you came to Japan! And if you didn’t, all you had to do was research!”. I got most of my information from the Japanese embassy and from general advice websites by MEXT and JASSO. I had no idea what I was in for. That’s part of the reason I decided to write this open letter.

Yes, throughout these three years, I met some extraordinary people at both universities who genuinely tried to help. As an old [Eastern European] saying goes, “One flower doesn’t bring springtime.” It seems to me that foreign students are little more than pretty numbers on a paper as far as MEXT is concerned. (Oh, on that note, last year they cut down our scholarships in an effort to get even more foreign students into Japan, when our current scholarship was not enough to cover living expenses in certain areas to begin with – especially in Tokyo, where rent alone is sky-high. And they got away with it. Naturally.)

On the outside, I may not seem like a “serious” student as far as the Japanese standards go. The truth is, I’m already starting to give up. I realized that even though I did my best, I would never raise to the expectations of my university – especially where written papers and attendance are concerned. It still puzzles me how Japanese students can drag themselves to class even when they’re  so sick they can barely stand. I’m sorry, but I can’t do that. Doctor’s orders. (Of course, I have no paper to prove it, because my physician back home is not Japanese).

ENDS

105 comments on “One NJ exchange student’s rotten experience as a J MOE-MEXT ryuugakusei

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  • I read Laura’s article and almost all of the comments with interest.(I mostly agree with Mark Hunter and AnotherViepoint, these two fully comprehend the situation!) I really feel I should react.

    I have been a MEXT scholarship student for more than 5 years, and I also share the same East European background with Laura. I have also studied in Western Europe, so I can compare the academic situation there and in Japan. I will add that I also worked in Japan, so I know well about the work situation and what problems a foreigner inevitably faces.

    First of all, as a fellow student, I do feel sorry for Laura’s experience. It is completely different from mine, because the day I was given the scholarship has been the happiest in my life. I have never ever for once regretted coming to study to Japan and I had a very good and rewarding experience here and I still like the country as before, even though I did encounter difficulties too and many times wondered why things work the way they do. OK, some people will now dismiss me, saying that “because it did not happen to you, it does not mean that problems do not exist”, but I promise to get to the point.

    I do NOT disregard Laura’s experience, but things DO happen for a reason.

    Let me put it bluntly- if you come to study to Japan, your experience will largely depend on the degree of your Japanese language ability. I think it is only natural. People who come with zero Japanese ability WILL be confused hundred times more than those who mastered the language before coming. Laura, I AGREE: it is abolutely impossible to master the Japanese language in 1 year to academic level, no language genius could do that. I did study Japanese before coming to Japan and passed my JLPT Level 1 before coming here, and in my opinion it is natural to master the language of the country you want to study in, is it not? England, US are very strict on the TOEFL scores, are they not? Japanese language is complex and has many nuances, so unless you reach it to a high level, you will always have problems understanding what is happening around you and how people are treating you.
    So even if MEXT brochures do not tell you explicitly you need to know suffucient Japanese, the reality is: Yes, Japanese people will treat you differently according to the level of your Japanese language ability.

    Laura’s experience would have been MUCH different if her research before coming to Japan had included more study of the language itself. Now, one thing where I DISAGREE with Laura and I wonder why noone until now reacted to this is:
    “It was easy enough to lose sight of simple Kanji characters when you spent weeks drilling complicated ones into your head.” This is ABSOLUTE NONSENSE, anyone who ever seriously studied Japanese would disagree with this statement! You just completely miss the point about the logical structure of the kanji system. So, you really insist that the students who scored highest were those who knew only the basic Kanji like Yama etc? And you-who knew more-got lower marks?? This is ridiculous and completely twisted!!

    Another thing: Laura always says she did this and that. Does she ever say: Perhaps I should have done this and this better? You know, people are humble and do reconsider the way they did things and should try their best to be objective.

    I will give you 2 examples at least:
    1) “My assignment was marked as “failed” because of a “bad formatting” issue… even though the requirements did NOT mention anything about formatting (alignment, colors, w/e).”

    Well, I consider it normal to check any requirements in detail before submission. Anyone accustomed to Japan will know that the Japanese pay attention to small details and this is true for university as well as any company. Not everything is served to you on a plate with detailed info, you know. If you are asked to submit something, just check the requirements to the slightest degree possible, this is my best advice. You will learn that many things (if not most) are not said to you so clearly in Japan as in the West, so be attentive to details and do not blame others for not giving you the information!

    2)”It still puzzles me how Japanese students can drag themselves to class even when they’re so sick they can barely stand. I’m sorry, but I can’t do that. Doctor’s orders. (Of course, I have no paper to prove it, because my physician back home is not Japanese).”

    Laura, I am sorry that you have some chronic health problems. I think if you have some health issue, you should reconsider studying abroad before coming in the first place.

    Another thing is that if it puzzles you how Japanese students attend classes even when sick, then you still do not understand the Japanese way of thinking and taking responsibilities. I was puzzled too at the beginning, but now I understand their way of thinking, so I consider it proper to attend my classes WITHOUT FAIL, even when I do not feel well, have a cold or anything else. I would never miss my class, unless I had a serious accident and could not move my legs. It is a sense of responsibility. And in companies you get it even in a harder way, you would be puzzled million times more, I guess: Let me give you an example: You were really sick and missed a few days of work, so when you come back to work you DO apologize to your colleages in a Japanese company for putting them into trouble by your absence.
    For any teacher (Japanese or any other nationality), absence of his/her students is surely a problem, so I cannot see why you complain about the warnings you got.

    Overall, I think you are still not able to see your experience objectively enough. It is not so nice to discourage some prospective MEXT students from coming to Japan by your experience which (I guess) you wrote while feeling things too intensively.

    People are responsible for their choices. Your account will never be fair unless you revise it with reconsiderations (as I wrote, your experience would have been different if you HAD studied the language before coming and you should not write just like a victim of some incomprehensible circumstances: I did this and that, but the result was…)

    In my opinion, you basically lacked communication with your academic advisor. You say: “I was also expecting to be able to sort out any issues by taking it with university professors or staff..” Just how much did you really try?

    I just hope not too many prospective MEXT students will be discouraged by Laura. I think MEXT students should be grateful for the scholarship (even if it was reduced, yes) and try their best to make most of their time spent in Japan and use their experience in their careers. I had to do part-time job while studying in the UK, so I felt grateful for my chance to devote all my time in Japan to my studies, thanks to the MEXT scholarship. I come from a poor background in Eastern Europe, so I would never have been able to study here without the scholarship.

    Last but not least, I am in no position to comment on how adequate Japanese language classes are (or are not). I did not have to attend these, so I have no personal experience of them. I still believe you should have a fair level of Japanese before coming to Japan (JLPT 1 or at least JLPT 2). This will help you avoid Laura’s experience and confusions.

    If you studied in the UK or US and published your account, I think you would get a comment: Take it or leave it! I was in the UK and only once I did voice my small complaint, but was told: If you do not like it here, just go back home. I think you would never have any Japanese telling you that bluntly in your face, or would you?

    No country is flawless or perfect, is it? It is easy to find faults with the system (I agree some things should be improved indeed), but instead of bashing Japan and MEXT, why not to give it a try and get to the bottom of things- there is a reason for the Japanese behaviour which puzzles us, foreigners.

    So if you come to Japan, just do try your best to adapt yourself, which is, after all, true for any country, is it not? Laura thinks she did try to do what she could, but I disagree.

    — And I disagree with your overrosy rendition of things here. You had me until you wrote:

    “If you do not like it here, just go back home. I think you would never have any Japanese telling you that bluntly in your face, or would you?”

    Are you seriously saying this? Or have you been that insulated from debate in Japan despite your self-advertised fluent abilities? I’ll approve this comment, but there’s something definitely suss about you, as if you’ve been entrusted with the role of damage control for programs with a lot of flaws.

  • I’m always fascinated by the Japan other people live in. What I mean by that is that their experiences are so different than mine that it seems that are living in another country.

    “Anyone accustomed to Japan will know that the Japanese pay attention to small details and this is true for university as well as any company. Not everything is served to you on a plate with detailed info, you know.”
    A co-worker and I have had many conversations about how the Japanese teachers spoon feed the students everything and the students take almost no responsibility for anything. Admittedly, we’re teaching high school, but some of the students are only a month or two away from university. It must be a real shock to go from no responsibility to total responsibility.

    I’ve also had the experience of having students make some sort of mistake, that when I look at, is a legitimate misinterpretation of my instructions and so have to give the student credit or go out of my way to help them fix the problem. It’s my fault for not explaining properly. I do, however, get really irritated when the students make mistakes that I explicitly told them to be careful of, three or four times.

    Japanese people apologize for being sick? Yes, some do, but then, so do I, to the people who have to do my classes when I’m gone. On the other hand, I have teachers that I’m supposed to teach with who don’t even bother to tell me that they have planed absences and I go to class and spend the first 10 minutes wondering why they are late and the last 40 minutes wondering where the hell they are.

    I would way rather have my students stay home when they are sick than come to school and give me and their classmates whatever it is they have. Besides, they just spend the whole class with their heads on the desk, feeling miserable and not paying any attention to what I’m teaching anyway. I have no problem giving them some tutoring to get them caught up when they get back to school.

    — Well put. The person you responded to send another long scribbling saying once again how he felt for Laura yet it must be her fault. I deleted it. There’s something fishy if not screwy going on.

  • Reading this post and the following letters has been an interesting experience.

    While as an exchange student for a year in ’05 I did not have anything like Laura’s experience, I can relate on the level of education quality.

    Coming to Japan with two years of decent quality language study in an Australian University, I was placed into a relatively high level language class at my host university. Unfortunately I found that my teachers were almost entirely unqualified to teach. Two in particular were flat-out weird/on the edge of some kind of mental break-down. Classes generally consisted of photocopied textbook pages given with no particular system in mind at all. One guy would just alternate between rambling at us or playing a video. Furthermore, between the different teachers there was no overall curriculum in mind.

    Now, what happened next might sound familiar to a lot of readers. Myself and my Australian friend from the same uni were disgusted with the overall situation and spent a lot of our free time venting in English to each other about how terrible the whole thing was. As far as language study went, we resolutely attempted to hammer together our own approach from word cards and various books, with some small (but relatvely measily) progress. If I hadn’t had a lovely Japanese girlfriend at the time I probably would have majorly lost the plot (instead of in a minor way at several points). The result of all this was that I came back to Australia with intermediate Japanese, when I had anticipated really reaching an advanced stage.

    This is the danger as I see it for people used to a quality university Environment. Funnily enough, some of less perceptive exchange people had an easier time (if not a more productive one), because they never really payed attention in their classes back home anyway. As long as their Japanese teacher smiled at them they were happy to go get drunk and talk in English about shopping at the local Izakaya.

    To get to the point: A bad university experience like this (among other things), can turn you against the country in general, and really guide your own behavior towards things which will only make it harder for you to have a good time. In other words, things compound on themselves. The more I hated classes, the more time I spent with my friend complaining about them in English, the less time I had to attempt to make Japanese friends, etc. This is why I think people can have widely differing experiences, such as expressed in the above comments. A good host family, a couple of drinking buddies, a half-decent teacher and somebody might have an absolutely fantastic time. That doesn’t make Laura’s experience any less representative of what can happen to you in Japan.

    I say to any students considering coming without already having a strong basis in the Japanese language: think again. I’m not saying don’t go, but you are running a big risk of having a majorly s**t time.

    To conclude, I’m actually applying to go as a MEXT student for next year. What I hope will make this time a different experience for me is firstly, that I’m expecting very little of my teachers or of the uni in general (even if I get into Kyoudai as I hope). I intend to use the time to focus on an area of research I have already spent a lot of time working on in Australia. So long as I keep up appearances hopefully I won’t have many impediments, even while I don’t expect much guidance. Secondly, I intend to arrive with as close to fluent Japanese as possible. Thanks to http://www.alljapaneseallthetime.com/blog/ I have really re-thought my approach to language study over the last few weeks. I now only watch TV in Japanese, only read in Japanese (unless its for work), and listen to Japanese radio all the time. I also use an SRS (anki in my case). This has already started to make things flow a lot more naturally for me than I could ever get from grinding textbooks. I’m also on my way to making several Japanese friends here in Australia, some of whom I hope will be around when I get over to the country next year.

    While not at all downplaying what is wrong with the Japanese education system (heck, why stop with the education system?!!), I think that it can often be our own expectations and attitudes that (even while justified!) create the biggest barrier to you having a good time. The challenge is to find a way to somehow bottle or subvert the bad things and turn them into good ones.

  • Northeast Japan MD says:

    The Monbusho ( Monbukagakusho MEXT ) scholarship got slashed (or to be more precise, outrageously cut) again.

    Coming to Japan as a scholar and enroling in a MSc or PhD course is not a free ride, unlike some blissy ignorant will eventually comment.

    Rather than that, people who come to Japan under Monbusho scholarship are investing an important time of their life into it. And that is priceless.

    Personally, I only came to Japan to get a PhD through Monbusho because I used to be married to a Japanese local, and I promissed her that we would move from my home-country to hers. Despite he fact that in my homeland I used to make more than twice to three times the money I get here, had my own apartment with everything in it, a dog, and a brand new car.

    Love (or the shadow of it) makes people go crazy sometimes.

    Now that I am divorced, I am re-thinking about whether I should go on with this waste of time. Specially after getting the news of the 10,000yen/month decrease in stipend.

  • Bit of an old post, but #103 is me. Heehee. Oooh boy. Well that was naive of me. I did get into Kyodai, and then graduated safely with a masters degree. Met some very nice people. But the environment overall was quite tough. Emotionally it was harder than I anticipated, and then it got worse. Thankfully I met a lovely girl from China. Unfortunately she got a job here in Japan and now is paying dearly for it. We probably won’t be around for very long. What a country.

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