By Kazuya Muto
"I don't think now is a good time to study abroad. You're still in your first year, and you haven't made any significant progress on your major. What are you going to study in Sydney for? Why do you want to study abroad? I think you should stay in Japan and graduate here first. Then, if you want to go on to do some further study, you can go to a foreign country. You need to think carefully about your future. I think it's risky to go abroad with only a vague idea of what you want to do."
These were the words of a teacher after I'd told him about my plans to study in Australia. I hold this man in high esteem, and what he said cut me to the core. I had thought he would be pleased. I had thought he would congratulate me because he had also studied abroad when he was in high school. Instead, he reacted very differently.
So I started seriously thinking about why I wanted to study abroad and how it would affect my future. It struck me that I had no clear purpose. When I made my decision to study overseas, I was just following my natural curiosity and optimism. But the more I thought about it the more I became confused. Why did I want to study abroad?
I have always wished that I could speak English fluently like my teacher. I always remember what he said to me when he took me to New York (My teacher often takes his students overseas). He told me while we walked along the Hudson River: "If you can speak English well, your life will be two, even three times more enjoyable." This had a huge impact on me.
Because of my confusion I found I couldn't focus on preparing myself for studying abroad and sometimes I was at a loss as to what to do. But time was really flying. I had been accepted into a foreign-exchange program and there were a lot of things to do: I had been working part-time as Japanese and mathematics teacher, and I had to hand over those responsibilities to other teachers at my school. I also had to prepare for end-of-term exams at university. My final exam was on Feb. 10 and I was leaving Japan on Feb. 12.
I ended up packing my suitcase the day before I went to the airport. I only packed enough for a seven-day trip — and a sleeping bag. I don't know why I squeezed a sleeping bag into my suitcase but I thought I had to have one. When I look back on it now, packing was terrible, especially for my parents. They too had to prepare for my studying abroad. One week before I left, my parents had obviously begun to worry about me. They seemed nervous around me and they prepared traditional Japanese meals for me every day, although they never told me why.
On the day, I was to take the 1 p.m. bus, so around 11 a.m. I went to my teacher's house to say goodbye. When I got there I didn't know what to say. Finally I squeezed out the words, "I promise I will do my best." I can't remember what my teacher said. He doesn't usually say very much and has not been in favor of my studying abroad. But he saw me off until I was out of his sight. I could not help crying and I swore that I really would do my best and show him how I had matured when I was in Australia.
Finally my adventure had begun ...
Shukan ST: May 5, 2006
(C) All rights reserved