By Kazuya Muto
I was very sad after my girlfriend left, but I didn't have time to mope. Classes started again and it was back to school, with three essays due in one week, the first 1,200 words long, the second 1,500 words long and the third 2,000 words long!
Essay writing in Australia is very different to Japan. You're not allowed to just state an opinion. You have to back it up with evidence, and discuss it in relation to other opinions that have appeared in your reading. That's why you'll see most good essays peppered with phrases such as, "So-and-so mentioned, insisted, argued, pointed out that ... ."
So you have to do a lot of reading in advance, and that is pure torture. For example, just to write a 2,000-word essay, I have looked through more than 40 books and journals for passages relevant to my essay topic. For my most recent essay, though, I used only 15 references.
It's tiring work. During the week before my essays were due, I didn't sleep much more than four hours a night, and on the night before each deadline I didn't sleep at all. But I find I can do this, because I know it's not only me who's going through it, but a lot of other students as well. Also, I don't want to fall short of my parents' and my teachers' expectations.
It's also very solitary work, and I find that very trying. Eating alone is not something that I like to do, and I find myself doing this more and more these days. I share a house with other students, but each person has his or her lifestyle, so we seldom are in the same place at the same time (except for the occasional party).
And everyone's working. They're so busy studying that on most nights I find myself at half-past 10 (I normally stay at university until about 10 when the library closes) alone in the large kitchen cooking. When you're feeling tired, this is hard, and you end up losing your appetite. I've actually lost weight since I came to Australia — about seven kilograms — although that's not all to do with studying. There have been the emotional stresses and strains of my relationships with my friends as well.
But these days I'm getting used to it and I'm putting on weight, which is good, but I would like to eat more often with others. Eating with friends would help to reduce stress and bring some much-needed energy into my life.
It isn't only me, either. Quite a few of the other international students I've spoken to have told me that they have experienced similar problems. If you ever have the chance to study abroad, be prepared, first of all, for having to endure periods of great loneliness. And even if you find some good friends, loneliness has a way of sneaking back into your life now and again.
It's not all bad, though. Loneliness may make you sad and tired, but sometimes it helps you grow as a human being.
Shukan ST: Nov. 10, 2006
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