My name is Park Hea Jin, and I am studying in the fourth grade of the Department of Political Science, Faculty of Law, Keio University.
Already seven years have passed since I started preparing to study in Japan. In those days, along with my classmates, I was fascinated with the culture of Japan. It feels like only yesterday. On completion of my four years of study in Japan, I am now close to graduation from university and I have already got a job offer in a world-class advertising company that I have long dreamed about joining. I am now preparing for my first step as a fully-fledged member of society from the forthcoming April.
A young 16-year girl who had never thought about what she wants to do and what she wants to study, has grown up a little bit while studying in Japan and is now preparing to become a member of society. Although I have some trepidation about facing the world, I believe in myself and know that I will be able to complete the next journey to reach my target destination now that I have successfully completed my studies in Japan.
1. My life during preparation for the entrance examination
I remember the time when I decided to go to Chan Sugyon Language Preparatory School with my friends. I memorized all the names and songs of Japanese entertainers but I could not even remember Hiragana properly. Once I started going to the school, I was full of confidence and began to prepare to study in Japan. What threw me into despair was that my school evaluation was not so good, and my mother’s reaction was strong. Due to my poor evaluation, my teacher Mr. Chan Sugyon promised that I would only be permitted to register at the school under the condition that I was within the top ten students in the next mid-term examination. However, I was helpless and I could not do anything due to my mother’s misunderstanding and anger at the blameless school, saying that since she would never allow me to study in Japan, the school should not plant such an absurd idea in the mind of her innocent daughter. A few months later, I had persuaded my parents to support me and I studied with concentration and determination in order to upgrade my evaluation. I kept my promise with my teacher, and managed to raise my school record from the bottom to the top of the class and I begun preparing to study in Japan. My parents were pleased to see me study with such enthusiasm and gave me permission to go. However, the hardship experienced in the process of preparatory study for university, which I had started without knowing anything was beyond comparison, and there were many twists and turns involved in achieving the school record and obtaining permission from my parents. In addition, I was concerned that even if I worked to my maximum ability I would never be good enough to have lectures and compete with Japanese students in their mother tongue who had studied to enter the prestigious university from childhood. Whilst my anxiety was growing over whether I would ever get to study in Japan, Mr. Chan Sugyon tested my limits with more homework and encouragements and spurred me on. It was a difficult schedule, learning all the time without even taking Sundays off. My Japanese vocabulary notes got thicker, and I organized my notes on “Japan and the World” in order with many underlines in various color pens. I made lists of papers submitted with writing exercises of 30 to 100 times without space for vocabulary mistakes in the examinations and the sentences of various lengths. These notebooks, capturing my trials and tribulations during my preparatory studies, now lie on my bookshelf at the corner of my room, bringing me memories of the difficulties and the feelings of dejection that affected me at times. I realize now that these notebooks were, in fact, the building bricks that enabled me to pass the university entrance examination and enhanced my college life.
I knew nothing about study methods or study habits but my teacher taught me to set strict goals and to think by myself and make the right decisions at critical moments. My parents anxiously watched over me and must have felt great relief as I succeeded. I am now preparing to take my first steps as a new member of society.
2. Student life in Japan
A single phrase represents my student life in Japan: “Take on many new challenges and make many friends.” I was interested in solving the problems of poverty and have participated in many activities such as in a circle conducting overseas voluntary services in the first year, voluntary services in Nepal, the foundation of a fair trade promotion circle, and research on the problems of poverty in a seminar (a small group research circle mainly started from the third year). Beside those activities, I have had some experience of Japanese life other than university; for example, I participated in a performance as a vocalist in a band circle and had a part time job in a restaurant that opened in front of the university. I believe it was a great experience and good fortune for me to do so many things with Japanese people in the Japanese language even though I would have done the same activities in Korea.
I was also fortunate to make so many friends. I came to Japan with fear in my heart, “What shall I do if I face misunderstanding because of cultural differences or I cannot get along with other people?” These apprehensions completely vanished. Many international students are concerned about cultural differences. However, they are not a barrier to getting together with other people in spite of the differences in character. Once you approach other people and try to understand them, they will turn to you and try to understand you. By approaching people with a positive attitude, I was able to build close friendships. My new friends were the source of my power to live and study in Japan. I would have been very lonely if I had no friends in Japan because I had no family or old friends around me. Moreover, my new friends enriched my understanding of Japanese culture and enabled me to share my experience of Korea with them.
I endured the strenuous preparation for university based on my passion to study in Japan and really enjoyed being able to follow my own interests. When I look back after completing this process through which I gradually matured, I realize that my time in Japan was very fruitful. Therefore, I encourage you to stick to your targets with patience and aim to fulfill your dreams based on a good campus life full of passion and excitement.