SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English
Grib Dina “Studying Abroad in Japan, as my Choice” (Series “Studying in Japan” No. 2)
Seven years ago my friend asked me “Oh my God! You, being old enough, will study in Japan for two years? What for?” I remember this conversation well even now. I did not understand why she asked such a question to me. I thought it was quite natural for me to wish studying in Japan after majoring in Japanese language and culture. Frankly speaking, at that time I have been denouncing people, who are not interested in studying abroad for being narrow-minded. But, I realize now that it would be myself who should be narrow-minded. It took me a long time to realize it. And studying abroad was the experience that helped me to realize.
When I was in my master course, I attended an English class for foreign students. In this class, we had a discussion whether we should study the Japanese language or not. When I heard the theme of this discussion, I thought it would be meaningless because, as all of us were already studying at the Japanese university, and for sure we needed to study the Japanese language. And, contrary to my anticipation, foreign students eager to study Japanese language were in the minority. The majority of students claimed that learning Japanese language was a waste of time, as they managed to live in Japan and enjoy it without speaking Japanese. It was a real shock for me. It turned out, that it is not always necessary to study Japanese for living in Japan. That people can even live happily without learning foreign languages and without studying abroad. It even seemed to be more general and upright way of life.
At that moment I began to feel doubtful about my choices, about devoting all my energies to learning the Japanese language, about coming to study in Japan. Actually most of my foreign friends who are studying here in Japan feel uneasy for their future and seem somehow to be hesitating. And so do I. I came here intending to spend two years in Tokyo, but seven years have already passed. Still I have not finished my studying yet. And still I am not sure if I can give other people a convincing reason or excuse for spending so much time studying abroad.
The generally acknowledged advantages of studying abroad are improvement of linguistic abilities, experiencing different cultures and making new friends. I think most people would agree as well, that studying abroad makes a person more independent, helps to broaden one’s view and tolerance level by contacting with different culture. However, I have to admit, that short-term studying abroad as well can clear these points. So what were my reasons for long-term studying abroad?
Originally, I just wanted to deepen my knowledge about Japanese history and polish my ability of the Japanese language. And may be, I was looking for a chance to bring some diversity to my life, to change my “ordinary life”, as well. Though I have been enjoying my life in Russia before I came to Japan, it is also true that I had a mannerism. So I just escaped from it, and I was lucky enough to forget about the “ordinary life” for several years. While studying as a research student, and even after starting my master course, I traveled around Japan as much as possible, meeting new people, enjoying festivals, visiting museums, joining every study tour or cultural exchange available. Searching for new experience I climbed Mt. Fuji, visited Noh and Kabuki performances, watched cherry blossoms, experienced wearing maiko dress in Kyoto and samurai armor in Shimane, and so on and so forth.
But my priorities have gradually changed. My research became a matter of primary importance for me. Now I feel like being just “a doctoral course student” rather than “a foreign student”. Studying in Japan has become my “ordinary life”. It is not a constant amusement any more, but it has filled with new sense for me. Instead of sightseeing or travelling I keep to a library of my university for long hours. And if I go travelling now, it means mostly attending academic conferences or study camps. People might think I am spending dull time. But, I enjoy it.
I sometimes think how I would have been if I have kept staying in Russia not going abroad for studying. I might spend a calm life, not worrying about my future. But, I would have lost my chance to meet with a lot of people and to get new experience and knowledge. And moreover I wouldn’t have found the joy of making my own research, the joy of struggling to become a researcher.
After all, I cannot say for others whether people should study abroad or not. At least my experience helped me to overcome my narrow-mindedness and realize, that it depends, and there is no answer, that fits everybody. In my case, even if I could return to the time seven years ago, I would have made my choice to come to Japan without hesitation. Even if others don’t understand and approve my choice to have studied in Japan, I am sure that including my anxiety and worries, it was the best choice for me.
(Graduate School of Tokyo Metropolitan University)
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Mac Maquito