What Brought Me to Japan

The question people always ask. But the story usually interests professors more than other people. Mainly because they are responsible for sustainability of the laboratories and people’s stories matter for this.

I had been wanting to study in Japan since I graduated high school. I applied for a vocational study and undergraduate study scholarship program from Monbukagakusho but I did not pass both tests. But the willingness remains.

Then I studied chemical engineering in ITB, Bandung, despite me wanting to be a teacher. I chose the major because I liked chemistry and I thought it will be about chemistry. So by now everybody who knew about this misconception would already be laughing. No, chemical engineering is about physics. And mathematics, as engineering is commonly known. There goes my huge mistake I could not escape from. I tried to, but then decided to stay regardless. Hardly survived.

“What program are you in?”

After graduating I took a teaching position offer for chemistry. So there I was, having the job I wanted before studying engineering. How funny life is. Subsequently, I heard about this teacher training program scholarship from Monbukagakusho. Hello, Japan! Your path is opened again for me, apparently.

“What is a chemistry teacher doing in entomology lab?”

From the provided list of available university and majors, I chose chemical ecology in University of Tsukuba. Because, again that silly mistake, I thought it will be about chemistry. And it’s not. It’s under Entomology and Applied Zoology laboratory instead. For me who is afraid of insects, this is double challenge of unknown world. Biology and insects.

“So you are a chemistry teacher and you are afraid of insects. Then why are you coming to entomology lab anyway?”

My professors are always the first people to laugh when they heard this question. And I am blessed to be with these understanding professors to which they give remark, “I think it is very brave of her to jump into an unknown world simply because she wants to study. To learn from zero in a foreign country in a new language she could not speak in. It takes a lot of courage.”

I should admit that doing this is not as risky as taking a masters degree in a similar way, since teacher training program is a non-degree program. But given 9 months to finish the research and write a full report is something I could not take light. There were times I failed. Many times. Fell ill. Feeling desperate. Tired. Kinda regretting why I did not choose an easier way…

However, the first step I took is already a shake to the comfort zone. Steady well paid job, well companions, smart and kind children, supportive family, and so on. Here I am, living alone, with so many events going on in the background either here in Japan or in Indonesia (both private and national affairs), make do with everything I could, dragging my butt to the campus whether I liked it or not (it always gets easier once you succeed to get out of the futon). I am going to finish it and I want to finish it strong.

What brought me to Japan? My wish of learning. And the kindness of people I met.

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