Nearing the end of A-Levels, I was wondering about fulfilling the stereotype of “studying A-Levels to go for overseas studies”, now where should I go. The U.K? Nope, too difficult, too expensive. New Zealand sounds good, oh wait, can my family afford my living cost there? There and then, let’s think about the country I went to during my Student Exchange Programme with Lions Club. Japan! That means I have to study in Japanese, right? Therefore, I started getting more details about studying abroad in Japan. Fortunately, I have a few seniors of the College studying there under the Japanese Ministry of Education Scholarship. With the details and information, I have come to decide to try for the Global 30 Program (English Degree programmes in Japanese Universities aimed to improve the professor’s English and increase the number of international students in Japan). With everything prepared, forms, hard copies of certificates et cetera, someone appeared to my strong desire to study abroad in Japan. Little did I know, it can be considered a life changing meeting.
These people were officers from Mikasano Academic Centre. My mother contacted them for my sake to inquire about the Study Abroad in Japan Program and so very fortunately, they were coming to my hometown to attend a wedding dinner of their ex-students. Surprised and convinced with the information obtained from the officers, my parents gave me the green light while I was there having the thoughts of “but, but, my research on Global 30 Program”. Well, it can be said the officer gave the final shot of “studying English in Japan is just useless, why not a new language”, thereafter, I yielded and decided to trust them. I might want to emphasize about my luck in this case, having a student quit at the beginning of the course they were offering, I was able to take the student’s place and enrol in Mikasano. Swiftly after the meeting, photos were taken, documents were prepared and just in two days, I find myself in Butterworth, Penang. It was like a dream, but was it what I really wanted?
Being far away from home, I was to stay in the centre’s dormitory, which is a cosy little house with 11 other students. Save myself of having the luxury of Wi-Fi, an almost perfect study environment through isolation from the internet. The day I arrived was at noon. After the class, I meet and greets with my dormitory mates, I had a wonderful dinner near the dormitory.
Class was taught in quite a fast pace, I was able to keep up at the early stages as I went to Japanese classes before enrolling in this course. N5, N4 was good and then, slacking and wrong approach on the Japanese grammar happened. Being one of the top scorers back in my high school gave me the fear of trying new things, afraid of making mistakes. Moreover, the pace was getting faster and faster. I seem to be unable to meet my own neither their expectations. Along with the dramas around me, I was almost derailed from my goal. Even with the help of my dormitory mates which are better in Japanese, I did not manage to pass the N2 mock test. It was a devastating blow, I wondered how do will I do in Japan. Nearing the end of the course, Mikasano’s officers had this consulting session where the students were called to discuss about what to study in Japan. I confessed that I had not been working hard enough and was ready to take the grinding path to success. On the contrary, the officer encouraged me and say that I will do just fine. On that moment, I told myself to not fail their expectations and trust.
So, at 1st of April, we flew to Tokyo from Penang. It was awfully cold for spring there. The moment we arrived at our houses in Tokyo, it was after midnight. I stayed in Minami Ootsuka Raisehouse, in a 2 rooms apartment, with my ex-dormitory mates back in Butterworth. On the next few days, Mikasano officer with full support, helped us all update our Residence Card, groceries and touring us around Tokyo, I find myself very grateful to them. As we started settling down, they left without most of us knowing.
In the first few weeks, Japan was a total disaster to me. I, being the person who is afraid of making mistakes, did not dare to speak Japanese. In fact, I could not even complete a simple sentence. However, having my ex-dormitory mates beside me helped me through the day. I did not perform well in the entrance exams of ABK, which ended me up in the 5th class out of 8 classes. After the first day of class, I instantly regretted for not studying well. Lazy, unenthusiastic, unwilling students from the October batch made up half of the class, guided by a fresh, inexperienced and nervous teacher. What a perfect combination (sarcasm). However, I do have a fantastic and experienced teacher, although her classes were very boring. Constantly hearing the heckles from the lackeys, why study? You need not study so hard, they said. Ignoring them, we, the students from Mikasano continued the spirit given by Mikasano. Eventually, the lackeys became one of my close friends in Japan. After settling down emotionally, I started looking for a part time job. I could not secure one near my house but eventually secured a job 30 minutes away from home on my second try.
After starting my part time job, the Japanese I studied finally came to use. There, I get to earn for my living cost in Tokyo and practice Japanese. I had the thoughts of my co-workers getting annoyed for bugging them with Japanese questions, turned out they liked the inquisitive me instead. Of course, I put my heart into work and give my best, which earned the appreciation of my co-worker and boss. However, work was not the main focus of my first year in Japan. I did flip some books when the 1st EJU was around the corner. Armed with the knowledge from A-Levels and an over-confident smug, there goes my first EJU, my most terrible results ever. Thereafter, I realised that the Japanese wants perfection and precision in their examinations. There is when I started to change my approach on my studies.
After the EJU, JLPT was coming up. I faced JLPT N2 slightly better prepared this time. Alas! I passed, even though not in a pretty manner, but I just study Japanese for only 5 months. There was no rest at all for the first year in Japan. After JLPT and summer break, I had to prepare submitting my details to Yamaguchi University, a national university which was considered the ultimate goal of us Mikasano students. It was disastrous preparing the documents with my class teacher, nit-picking on the small details. Getting scolded for the small errors and labelled not listening to class for not remembering something she taught. However, it all passed smoothly but not my application, I was not selected by the University. That was at the end of September, where the Mikasano officer was bringing the October batch students from Mikasano to Japan. He got to know I was not accepted and tried very hard to cheer me up. The fact was, I was not upset at all, it was perfectly normal to not be accepted given my terrible EJU results. Therefore, moving on to trying other universities.
By then, it was high time preparing for the next EJU. This time, I worked extra hard in Japanese and Math with the help of a fellow from Mikasano. Before EJU, we were told to go for a backup university. Slightly rushed, I went for an interview of a private university which was one of the cheapest. With the agonizing practices with my class teacher and the helpful advices of the experienced teacher, I managed to pass the interview and was offered a place. I was elated having a guarantee of another 4 years in Japan.
After a month, well prepared, I walked into the halls for the 2nd EJU Examinations. Came out with a better Math results but disappointing Japanese results. However, all hopes are yet lost, I applied to 3 more National universities and I was accepted to one of them which my 1st choice and it is Nagasaki University. Why universities in Kyushu? It’s just because I like Kyushu Island and my host family currently resides in Sasebo, Nagasaki. With this enthusiasm, I burned 2 months of my part time job pay. First, I went to Nagasaki, and was devastated by the interview examinations. Even with the past questions given by seniors, I was unable perform well. Other than that, I lost my wallet on the way to Nagasaki. Well, a terrible trip indeed. Like EJU, all hopes are not lost, my wallet was found by my host family’s friend in the train, and I got to know the results of my JLPT N1, wasn’t a beautiful one but still I managed to pass, that’s what matters. My host father told me that I am very lucky and perhaps the luck will go to Nagasaki University’s examinations too. A few weeks later, after entering an airplane bound for another National university enrolment exam, I received news that I passed Nagasaki University. There, I lost all will to go for examinations and flunked the 2nd University. Likewise, I did not go for the 3rd University examinations and instead to save money, I went to Nagasaki to look for an apartment. My class teacher was furious and happy at the same time knowing I flunked the 2nd National University examinations and passing Nagasaki University respectively.
The whole long year in Tokyo taught me a few things. First, to work hard for what you want. Second, to not give up. Third, to appreciate the people around you. Therefore, I would like to thank Mikasano’s officers for this opportunity, my friends, my parents for making this possible and lastly my Japanese teachers. Before leaving, I received letters from my teachers and gifts from my part time job manager. To sum it up, it will be an unforgettable year in my life.
P.S. Don’t get addicted to games here! It will kill your studies like what it did to my roommate. 乖，听话，照做!!!