I just finished reading another essay by Montaigne “on the education of children”, feeling both awed and baffled at the same time. Impressed by his deep philosophical arguments that are still pertinent to our modern days despite being written almost 500 years ago, I can feel the adrenaline rush in my body as I read through his rhetorical arguments line by line.
Life for the past few weeks had all been revolving around reading books, assignments and reports. Therefore, on this rainy Sunday, I decided to put away all my books for a while and rekindle this rusty blog. I thought: “A year has passed and I’ve written quite a few posts on some of my experiences here, but something seems amiss: I’ve never actually written anything about “how and “why” I came to Japan at the very first place.
So Why Japan?
The thought of studying in Japan never came to my mind when I first entered Canadian International Matriculation Program in Sunway University. I was initially aiming for UBC or U of Calgary in Canada, or at least a liberal arts college in the United States and even took a toefl test in advanced but all my plans fell apart when I found out that Canadian universities rarely offer scholarships to freshman but rather only after we enter its university (so that we can prove our results). It was a huge financial risk that I can’t afford to play with. Hence, I have to come up with a plan B.
In a series of remarkable events, I received a scholarship to join a student exchange program in Fukushima, Japan in 2013 where we learnt about Crisis Management, volunteering and tea counselling. It was an emotional experience for me as I came to realize three phenomena: first, the nature of life: impermanence at its very core; secondly, a sense of hope that life has to go on despite deaths and tragedies, and that the little obstacles we face in our everyday lives are just too trivial to be taken seriously, or to even set us back; and thirdly I saw the “kizuna”- interconnection of human ties that was cultivated in many Japanese displayed in the face of their country’s’ worst earthquake and tsunami was both touching and heart-warming. It was during this trip that some of my Japanese counterparts introduced me about their elite universities and even invited me to come and study in Japan. Upon returning to Malaysia, I did my research and applied to three distinguished universities in Asia.
But, How should I decide?
The results were:
|Hong Kong University (Urban planning)||25 percent|
|Waseda University (Liberal Studies)||50 percent|
|National Cheng Kung University (Environmental engineering)||100 percent + living allowances|
Even though Hong Kong University was presumably the best University in Asia, it was eliminated from my thought at first glance as I can barely afford even a semester of tuition fees and its high living cost. A liberal arts education in Japan seems very alluring to me, but I wasn’t sure if I can cope with the other half of its tuition fees plus its monthly living cost so I almost accepted NCKU for its generous offer. But when I found out that the course is heavily based on chemistry and biological sciences, I was kinda in discordance with myself (my inclinations are more towards physics). This led me into a dilemma.
Japan or Taiwan?
Torn between two risky options, I started consulting some of my “wisest’ friends but still I was undecided, for I have failed to consult the single most important person and that as pointed by my friend was..
Below are some of the most enlightening and memorable conversations I had with a friend whom I confided in.
“If you have all the resources in this world, which university do you really want to go? and Why?”
I replied: Waseda. Because I’m interested in Japan’s culture, its budo- “martial arts”, its language and life in general that makes it such a peaceful, developed and civilized nation despite going through the ups and downs of post-war U.S Occupation.
“Then go ahead. You won’t regret. Do you want an easy life, or a harder but fulfilling one”
“If you have no appetite for the course that you’re about to study, through you may feel financially secure and comfortable, you will not enjoy your life for the next four years, it will be a torment to your heart and mind. But if you love the things you study, in this case liberal arts, you will certainly strive hard to excel in it. Furthermore, you get to learn a new language in its very native country, a life-long skill which will come handy in the future ”
“and by hook or by crook, you will find the resources needed to cope with life.”
“Choose the harder path, if it means more sacrifice, even if you have to borrow money from people (not the bank unless its ptptn), do it.” Settle whatever preliminary efforts that will first get you to Japan. Settle down, then:
“Prioritize, set goals and achieve them”
“Know your weaknesses: that now what you’re desperately in need of is sustenance. Make sure you have enough money to finish your first semester and focus hard on your studies to get a scholarship if that’s what going to help you most. Remember, priority one study hard, results are important. Priority two, scour for scholarships and do whatever you can to nail them. Priority 1 leads to priority 2, but you have to keep and eye on and put in efforts to find for them. Meanwhile, If you don’t have enough money, borrow first, i can help a little here and there if needed. It’s for education, people can understand and you can pay them back in the future. Priority three, get a part time job and work your asses off to support your living if required. It may be tiring, but four years later, you would look back in time and be proud of what you’ve done for yourself. That’s what makes life meaningful. You won’t regret. Priority four, make good “kyoudai”- good brothers and friends that will help you in life. That’s the goal of a university life, the social aspect of it. Furthermore, life abroad needs earnest support and good company of friends. Priority five, gain new experiences and cherish the opportunities to learn new stuff that you can never learn in Malaysia. Most of us waste almost half of our time idling when we could have more efficiently utilize those time to read a good book, pick up calligraphy, learn a new skill, or simply write a piece of article.”
Back to 2015
Thankfully, a year has passed and I’m now a sophomore. Three more years to go but life had been much smoother and more comfortable than expected with the aid of many people, both in Japan and Malaysia. Much as how the entire “master plan” had been encoded in me from the very first place, I proceeded to obtain a scholarship that covers all my tuition fee till April next year and for the meantime, I found an “arubaito”- a part time job- as a kindergarten tutor near my dormitory so I can save up some pocket money just in case of a “rainy day”.
Perhaps I’ve written too much, and I’m now about to pack up my stuff and head to Yokohama for my Aikido training. Hope this post serve to help others who could be making a tough decision in the future and that it benefits more than a single person from whence it was uttered.
Ps: The “conversation” above was possibly synergized and distilled from many people and not from a single person.