International students enrolled in Japan’s universities need clarity over when they can return. The country previously stated it would accept foreign nationals (including those enrolled to study in Japan) in November but with the new Omicron variant, the government has put a new ban in place,stressing many stranded students.
Not only do they deal with time zone differences while learning remotely, but the continuous u-turns, ups and downs with Japan’s travel ban has turned many desperate. On Twitter, scores of concerns flood the hashtags #educationisnottourism and #japantravelban.
2022 is looming around the corner — still, for those who chose to study in Japan, the country remains shut to them. Axel Doucet, a 21-year-old exchange student from Lille University, is one of them.
He was supposed to join the Japanese Language and Culture course at Gifu University before the pandemic turned his study abroad plans upside down. We caught up with him to learn more about his situation and whether he plans to study in Japan still:
Why did you choose to pursue your course?
I’ve always had an interest in Japan since I was young — I was intrigued by the culture, traditions and landscapes of the country. I started to learn Japanese on my own when I was 14.
Then, I pursued history at uni in France and I was able to learn Japanese with a professor. I’ve worked so much because I wanted to study in Japan for the last years of my undergraduate programme.
I also worked hard to save money as my family don’t come from financial abundance. I put my life on hold for the last three years so I could study in Japan.
I was supposed to head to Gifu University in September this year but now I’m stuck in France doing remote classes at night. I’ve lost a scholarship, a dream and gained physical and mental health problems.
More than wanting to learn Japanese, I really wanted to study in the international tourism and luxury sector there. I had the hopes to study in Japan to one day use my skills in a job there.
At uni, I study languages (English, Spanish and Japanese) along with tourism and history.
What’s the most difficult part of not being able to study in Japan right now?
My biggest obstacles are feeling alone and misunderstood. Many people around me think it’s tough to wake up each night from 2:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. to attend classes, but it’s not the hardest part of this whole thing.
The most complicated thing is to have worked this hard and sacrificed many things with no light at the end of the tunnel. Moreover, we (stranded students) are left feeling alone in the dark in this journey.
We’ve had to overcome so many false hopes and empty promises and that was very difficult. Now, with the new Omicron variant, we’ve been left stranded yet again.
#japantravelban #japan #xenophobia foreign students can’t enter the country, while rich people and businessmen can. 10 days of quarantine will be enough to prevent japan from covid. So STOP being xenophobic ! pic.twitter.com/xxM1cLkcph
— Ancalim World (@DoucetAxel1) December 13, 2021
What steps should be taken to help stranded students now?
The most important thing that can be done is to give us a real timeline and go through with it. The Japanese government requires 10 days of quarantine, many PCR tests and to be fully vaccinated — these preventative measures should be enough to allow students and workers back in the country.
Why can short-term business workers enter and only spend three days in quarantine? I think most stranded students are prepared to go through whatever quarantine measures they have and regulations just to get back on campus.
What about your uni? Are they helping in any way?
Gifu University is absolutely amazing — the teachers are kind and understanding. They often send us messages to check in on us and feel sad that they have to teach us remotely. I’m grateful to learn from them and get online to see my classmates too.
I really hope to meet them in person soon.
What backup plan do you have?
Unfortunately, I don’t have a backup plan. My exchange partnership between my uni in France and Japan is a one-year programme and I won’t have the chance to do this again. I used my only scholarship to study in Japan.
If I can’t go, I’ll have to continue my studies in my home country — in international tourism and events. My aim to study in Japan was to work in building a bridge between the country and France but if I can’t master Japanese, it won’t be possible.
To be selected to study abroad, you have to get the best grades and stand out. Japan will end up losing the cooperation of thousands of students who are unable to enter the country.
What would you recommend to those who want to study in Japan?
It’s a hard question as three months ago, I would have been very optimistic. I don’t want to share negativity but I think the situation is really bad and isn’t stable enough to have a dream.
Foreign students need to be aware of the situation before making the choice to study in Japan. I would recommend choosing somewhere else while waiting for things to clear up.