Engineering Manager | Trail Runner | Stockholm, Sweden

Through gritted teeth

It’s been a bit hard writing to this journal lately, because I wasn’t sure about sharing what really was on my mind. After all once something is out there is bits and bytes there will always be a way to retrieve it. There’s no going back, and eventually too much honesty will surely just blow up in my face.

Anyway, readers with a keen eye to details should already have asked themselves: if the first posts from Japan are dated from April 2004 and the scholarship is for 5 years then what the hell is he still doing over there?

Well, the reason is that I have failed. At the end of my eighth semester I didn’t have the required number of credits to graduate.

Just writing this down is hard, because I wasn’t thinking of myself as a person who couldn’t finish university on time. When it came to studies I was considered smart, successful. Well that’s the past, so now I feel very angry – mostly at myself – and terribly awfully ashamed. Not wanting to look people in the eye ashamed. (Good thing there’s this site and I don’t actually have to talk to anyone.)

After all many have overcame this obstacle before. And not even with substantial hardships at that. I can visualise their gloating faces and the I told you sos quite well. I shudder at the thought of becoming the anecdotical example reminding the future generations who come here to study what to avoid.

But really, how did it come to this?

I could put the blame on external causes. In general, Japan as a country and its inhabitants as individuals have never really warmed up to the non-Japanese. I have always been viewed as the unwanted problematic foreigner in classes and never received much help or encouragement from the professors. Rather some had me failed just on the account of being a nuisance. In addition to that the credit system is one of the strictest here in Kobe, with not much room for mistakes, at least compared to other Japanese universities. I couldn’t just take a lot of classes in hopes of passing at least a good number of them because there is a limit on how many credits a student can take per year. This limit – while more than enough for the Japanese – can be problematic if we take into account the fact that I am not quite fluent in the language just yet. Of course this has never been seen as an issue by the administration, not even when I asked if I could try and take a few extra credits’ worth of classes in my last semester. Rules are rules and they won’t be bent for some filthy gaijin.

At the end of the day however none of these matter and I can only blame myself. I applied for the scholarship. No one forced me. I knew it was not going to be a walk in the park. I knew that I shouldn’t have been lazy about certain classes, that I should have just forced myself to sit down and study all night if I had to. I should have taken the first year of language studies a lot more seriously. I shouldn’t have lost credits to absolutely stupid things like mistaking the day of the exam. I probably should have made more friends, especially with locals. Because now everyone else I knew finished and went home and I am here pretty much alone. I was even told I should have had a Japanese girlfriend: if anything that would have had a great effect on my language skills.

I didn’t do any of the above and now I’ll have to stay in Kobe for another semester. To make matters worse naturally the scholarship is over, I won’t receive a penny anymore. I’ll have to pay tuition and living expenses. And by ‘I’ I mean my parents of course. Ironically the recent changes in exchange ratios just doubled these costs. More reason to feel contrite.

But there isn’t anything else I could do. I am not about to just drop out and fill shelves in a supermarket. Even though when I finish, if I finish, prospects won’t be much better. At the age of 26 a simple BA degree is hardly impressive. Of course with no agreement between Hungary and Japan this degree will worth exactly nothing at home, as if I didn’t have one.

Well, least I have seen a part of the world most people will never, I guess.