Studentische Monatszeitung für Duisburg, Essen und das Ruhrgebiet


Exchange preparations with a dash of mental difficulties

[Picture by Gastautor*in]

13.05.2019 14:04 - Gastautor*in

In the following, I will give you an insight into my four “exciting” phases prior, during and after my application process for a stay abroad in Japan. Currently, I am close to my masters degree and I had this brilliant idea to apply for a student exchange before writing my thesis and prior to my entrance into a degenerate business jungle. I observed various developments of my behavior during the process of my preparations. Here are some impressions of the different phases I went through.

Phase 1: 

Endorphins and their impact on my anticipations. My excessive euphoria made me believe that my year abroad was going to be be the most exciting experience of my life: New friends, to boost my self-confidence, improve my Japanese language skills and loads of Japanese food and treats served by super cute girls in puffy clothes (I do, by the way, not approve this kind of things designated to pleasure men).After a stressful month of writing an application, which was based on 90% of lies, trying to get a letter of recommendation from my professor and reading every headline of the Japanese media, my interview was coming up.

I imagined three white men, who would press every little bit of dignity out of me, but the situation was a little bit more chill than I expected. Two women and a Japanese professor initiated the interview. 

To keep it short: The interview was a disaster. One week later, I got a negative response. Which was ok, because I expected it to turn out that way. I finally got a positive answer from another exchange application, to which I applied also and on which I had tried my best. It's an alternative exchange program, but opposed to the prior, it does not offer the option to get enrolled at a Japanese elite university.Finally, I was able to tell myself: I did it! I got an affirmation! I would spent a year abroad and all my efforts were worth it. This would become the year of a lifetime! But stop. Hold on a minute.

Phase 2: 

Knock, knock. Who’s there? It’s me, reality! I remembered that there was currently something particular going on in my life: In fact, a relationship. A really good working relationship! Another question I kept asking myself was: Granted that I am a misanthropist, how could I possibly make new friends? But more important than this and much worse is the question: Will I starve to death? I am sorry that I am this polemical at this point, but as a vegan there is no easy way to get good food in Japan. The Japanese cuisine is addicted to fish sauce. You can compare it to the consumption of “Maggie”, which is excessively used by all authentic German potatoes. But in Japan, it is used by a greater extent: ramen, soups, noodle dishes, snacks, even salat dressings are set with dashi. This will definitely be a huge challenge for my daily diet. Even YouTube can not help me out with some good vegan food hauls! 

Another aspect which makes me worry is my collection of tattoos. Many Japanese people will connect those to Yakuza members. Even if a gaijin (foreigner) often may be excused, there are also situations in which Japanese people stick to their rules. A huge number of onsen (hot springs) are a taboo to tattooed people. Many even are not aware of this: Also an access to a public gym will be very difficult indeed. There is the intention of boycotting the Yakuza mafia who still has a huge influence in Japan. So after my phase of realizing things which I will really miss during my stay abroad, I kept finding myself in a really bad place. Everyone in my personal environment was so happy for me. But it was me who did not want to talk about it anymore. It was unpleasant for me. Especially because of the fact that this opportunity is a damn privilege!

It is a privilege to get a chance to join this kind of adventure.

Phase 3: 

God damn! Think positive!I decided to touch base with myself and talked to my friends about my feelings. Meanwhile I could not transmit any visible sign of happiness. I felt bad, because I was not showing any appreciation or joy. Because the point was this: I was not able to do so. I also had lots of talks with my boyfriend. There was a bunch of stuff we needed to talk about! How should our relationship continue? Should we shape it in a open way? Is monogamy an option at all? We would be separated from each other for one year in the primetime of our lives. At this point, such kinds of questions needed to be answered. Not at least because of other long distance relationships which I observed with my friends and which ended not very well in most cases.

Phase 4:

Somehow it will be working. It is definitely a privilege to get a chance to join this kind of adventure. Not least because of the huge costs and the need of an enrollment. Apart from the application procedure, which demands immense resources of time and implies vast amount of mental stress. But despite of everything, I think it is also important to say „no“. Say no to an adventure which costs you a massive quantity of power in preparation. This has nothing to do with failure. To conquer your fears and getting ready for a year abroad is definitely a huge thing! But listening to your inner self and taking care of your mental health is also very important, even more significant. 

For my part, I started thinking about all the consequences a long time after my affirmation. Which is fine, too. Many things still seem extremely surreal. To me, it is like I am thinking about so many negative things that could happen while spending my year abroad, that there is no space for positive thoughts. They get pushed away. I want to give this exciting experiment a chance in the hope of a surprise. I do not want to be annoyed with myself later, if I did not grab this possibility. I have to make space for more positive thoughts and give them a chance to amaze me.

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