Story-telling: How I studied in Japan (tips & afterthoughts)
A story on how I came to study where I am now. With some tips & details on how to study in Japan!
Some of you may be familiar my dream to seriously venture in creative fashion. I remember I wrote an entry back in my old Tumblr, which included me writing all the things I wanted to do, with the goal that by publishing it, it would have motivated me to turn those dreams into a reality.
Well, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Hi 14yo me, we got our wish. Sometimes I’d wonder what you’d tell me these days if we ever met.
I know that a lot of you guys are curious on how I came here, so grab your popcorns. I’ll tell you a story.
My Getting there Story (From university to fashion school)
I’ve decided on one certain thing at 14: I will study in Tokyo. I will study in my dream school. I know It would be a rough ride, but I will work my flesh off if I had to.
With that, I told my parents about my plans. As supportive as my parents were, they only had one condition I had to commit to: graduate in a local university first. Pretty reasonable. I agreed, and tried to do just that.
I headed my way to De La Salle University where my dad graduated in. Like a lot of Filipinos coming of age, I mostly went with the flow and didn’t really know where life was taking me yet. I was lost and felt like I just had to take the same path as everyone else. Going to a top university was a must, and then get a good paying job after. Pretty rational, right?
Being there was such a great experience. Learning was wonderful.I dual majored in Communication Arts & Business Marketing.
Although despite being it in my pool of interest, I still felt so out of place. I mean I always have, but I expected things would have changed by then. Every second I was in a room of people, I felt like I couldn’t connect even if I tried. The school’s system I tried so hard to fit into, I couldn’t seem to gripe either. There must be something wrong with me. My heart isn’t here at all.
At most, I knew I was doing this for my parents, shouldn’t that be enough?
“It’s one of the most elite universities in the country, and like how everyone says, shouldn’t I take pride in this?”
“I am lucky to be here. Why am I such an ungrateful child?”
These thoughts would spring up to me every night before I went to bed. I am the problem and I wanted to change for the better. Even though I despised myself even more, I kept going to school. I hated it though, I was aware of this. I also disliked the strange culture we had, how it’s a must to be able to graduate in one of the top 3 universities in the country merely to safely ensure a job. I mean sure there are exceptions, but still. Sure it’s for our own good, but it’s a sucky reality to be thrown in. I knew quite a number of talented people who didn’t study in those top universities or didn’t graduate at all and were very much discredited.
What really pushed my buttons even more was the fact that I was getting delayed again and again. The fact that my program take in so many people, and yet they’re not able to accommodate more than half of everyone in that course was getting to me. Maybe I should have put down my foot sooner. Or maybe I should continue to just suck it up and put my head down. I didn’t know what to do. My current goal was to graduate as fast as I could to go to where I wanted but, is doing this even worth it anymore? I loved learning but what keeps stopping me? If they’re not letting me, then maybe I should just walk out. I don’t want to waste any more time and money.
Term after term passed and things were just getting worse by the week. My grades were fine. Yet my depression and the system delays were discouraging me to keep moving forward. I tried to talk to every dean I could to help fix the delay issue . But nope. Nothing. “If you want better facilities, go study somewhere else.”, one of the Deans told me. Sigh. If only I had more time, money and options then maybe I would have considered it.
My fate turned when I took a chance of courage one day. I’ve always been looking up scholarships and schools to go to in Japan, but I never inquired for one. Without another thought, I applied for one, sent in my documents, scholarship essays and everything. Months later, I got in! It was the first time I ever had a scholarship in my life and I cried so much I looked like a puffball. When my parents heard the news, they allowed me to have a taste of studying in Tokyo during the summer breaks.
The summers quickly ended and going back to reality made me realise a lot of things I was putting up with. I found myself a new courage in me that I never really got to use and finally put my foot down. Opening up to my parents how I really felt, it was a bit difficult to thread the words out. I wasn’t the type of person to show feelings in front of my family this way, so you could only imagine the tears I let out when I became honest. And even more of them when they understood me.
I walked out of my university. It was one of the hardest decisions I ever made. Weird questions still haunts me even until today. Was I being selfish?
Me 1: All that time and money getting wasted. You are being a selfish brat. Wasteful.
Me 2: Maybe it was a bit selfish. But I think it’s even more selfish to keep dragging this on as if I’m all alone. Everything was worth it in the end. Even the whole quitting part. I learned a different kind of courage with that. and self-love. I know it took such a long time to be honest, but I shouldn’t regret it either. That was also part of the learning experience.
My whole university life was a learning experience. It taught me so much and a lot of the things I know. My views, values, & stands were shaken up. I met the best people.
And lastly, this is when I used blogging indepthly. This has always been one of my tools to escape for a while, this is where all this whole virtual weirdness really bloomed. Milk Club wouldn’t have been launched either.
I saw something in myself that I don’t think I’d want to unmeet. I never knew I was capable of doing the things I did, you know?
(Some existential thoughts I’d go over: “What if I just went to Ateneo, took up my second dream course (ID) there instead? What if I just went to a fashion school in Manila? what if I just sucked it up and stayed in DLSU? Would I be doing the same things I would be doing now? Would I have been stronger? weaker? would I not have a good job? would i fail? would I have stayed with my first love? would I still have made milk club? would I have been forever be in denial of my mental disorders? would I have met these people anyways? would I have met the same second love anyways? would I have loved it? would i have hated it the same” Overthinking is such a really bad trait to have sometimes, I know. It’s no use to dwell that’s for sure. All i know is this is what’s real now, and that’s okay. )
With the determination of not looking back, I took off to Japan with all my savings. Took another year to polish my Japanese. Applied to ESMOD, grabbed that scholarship and made it. The essays and interviews I did consisted of mainly this story. My determination to catch these dreams & specific details on what they are and why I want to make them into a reality.
My past experiences weren’t what I wanted, but they were needed. Another chapter ended but I’m still running through new ones. I want to make my own lifestyle brand. I’m doing it for myself, and as cliche as it sounds, I also want to do it for my country & share it to the world if I could. Exploring even beyond what I’m capable of and testing my limits as much as I can. It’s the failures that keeps me going! As a person from a third-world country, I know how much of a privilege this is and I’m always thankful for it.
To anyone struggling to drop out, shift schools, study abroad, or make big school decisions in general,
One thing to remember is that everything will be okay. Wether you stay or you change, that is up to you. But whatever you choose, just know that all paths will never always be a happy one. There’s always something to sacrifice and that’s the beauty of it. I think if life was just given in a perfect golden platter then it wouldn’t be much meaningful, wouldn’t it? So be more certain.
If you’re struggling from the Philippines,
Just know you’re not alone. It’s hard to not care about what other people may think, but this is your future that you have in your hands. This is yours!! Not anyone elses, no matter what.
Being in a top university means nothing if your heart isn’t in it. It’s probably elsewhere waiting for you to come find it.
Throughout everything, my best friend from high school was the one that really pushed me to pursuit my happiness already. He saw what I was going through and kept insisting that I can do a lot better somewhere else to reach my own potential. My best friend, who came from the same place as me, got a scholarship from California for his art and went straight there after high school. He has no relatives there and started ultimately fresh. He’s worked under several big animation studios like Pixar and I’m so proud of him. My point is, I know a lot of people who are struggling with going a different direction but can’t because of the stigma in our country. So if you can do something else, don’t be afraid to step out of that comfort zone. If you’re planning to work abroad, it (almost always)doesn’t matter. Some of my family members and friends who ended up graduating from a top-tier university in our country wasn’t rightfully recognized as the standards are not known/the same.
And to everybody,
I know it’s hard to believe sometimes in a world where everyone else seems to be so much better and you seem to just be stuck, but do trust me when I say that you have all the time in the world right now. No matter how old you are it’s never too late either. Everyone is walking their own path and struggling with their own demons, and you’re struggling with yours. Your time will come so you just gotta keep doing what you do!
Tips on how to study in Japan
Check your local universities if they have any possible student exchange programs abroad. If your grades are magical, this is probably the easiest way for you. Everything is usually processed by the school body themselves so there’s less work to be done.
Discover what you’re interested in studying first. From there, google search college/universities that provide those programs. Note that almost all educational institutions require you to pass a certain level on the Japanese Language Proficiency test or study in a Japanese language school for a certain amount of time.
Search for language schools in google. Personally (and obvi), I searched “Japanese Language Schools” on google and a lot of nice schools pop up on the top page. Good news is that it’s always foreigner friendly.
* Once you have options, inquire the school directly. If they have a website, they usually have a contact/email page for you.
* If the site and contact page is only in Japanese and you can’t understand, I suggest having someone you know how to speak Japanese guide you with the process.
Every time I inquire a school, I always asked if they have scholarship programs. With this, I suggest to do the same just in case they do provide them.
Check your respective government’s/local Japanese embassy if they have anything posted. It doesn’t hurt to apply!
Scholarship requirements vary so I suggest to contact your chosen school directly for more details. Personally, I mostly had to do essays on mine and interviews. For the Japanese language school, I personally never had to be physically there since they only required documents.
Don’t be discouraged to apply and inquire as much as you can. Scholarships are there for a reason.
Requirements vary for each school so I suggest to contact your chosen school directly for more details.
Always ask the chosen school for details on Visa, and if the processing will be on their behalf or yourself.
Schools usually provide/suggest some places nearby their area. However, unless you have a scholarship, it’s not usually free.
If you’re only studying for a few months to a year, Sharehouses are a wonder. Not only do you get to make friends, but it’s a lot nicer to your wallet if you’re going to be living in Tokyo.
Some sharehouse suggestions: Sakura House, Oakhouse. Google search for more suggestions, the top ones are usually very great.
Personally, if you want to study well in another country, I think it takes a whole lot of perseverance and passion in you that you have to nurture out. And trust me, it can be somewhat exhausting sometimes. To be alone in a foreign country is a little bit scary too, but the learning experiences to everything and everyone you’ll get to meet makes it all worth it. If you’ll be there, even in the gritty non-fairy tale parts, then you’ll do amazingly.
I hope you find this helpful, good luck! x