The 17th marked an important milestone. Then again, “milestone” is probably the best way to put it. I’d personally call it “yaaaaaassssss”. For you see, the 17th marked the day of formalities before I officially became accepted into the MEXT undergraduate program.
MEXT Undergraduate Program: 4 years of university with 1 year of language preparatory course paid for (in full) by the Monbugakusho of Japan. Plus a monthly stipend.
In other words- yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasssssss.
I’ve been living in Japan for 2 years, privately financed. I started with the hope of getting into college through the shortest time possible. It didn’t work out as I had hoped, so it’s been language school only for me, but from the first time I stepped into the Japanese Consulate of San Francisco I always had a hope of being accepted into the MEXT. Although it’s been a grueling 3 years of applications (I started before I left for Tokyo), it’s worked out.
Of course, I couldn’t have known that months before. The time leading up to the announcement was a period of turmoil. The procedure is sliced up more than a loaf of supermarket bread. So for all you interested, stay tuned for the next article. This one is about the 17th and only the 17th.
As many of you super-sleuths have already deduced, my destination was located in San Francisco. For all you that haven’t figured that out, don’t worry. Math is hard.
The Consulate is the head of all visas, passports, and Japanese culture event planning with a dominion of a large area. It’s also the beacon of communication between the two countries. That’s why recruiting for the MEXT program goes through the consulate.
On this particular day, I was to apply for my new 留学(ryuugaku: studying abroad) visa and meet the directors for a pre-arrival orientation. Although the designated time was at 3:00 PM, I was out and about the Golden City by 11:00 AM. Word of advice guys: don’t go to the Tenderloin. Place is creepy.
I ended up not finding anything interesting.
After a lunch at Chipotle, I headed up to the 21st floor. It was 2 PM, one hour of extra time to finish the visa application before going to the meeting. I sat down, got my documents in order, and asked for the Senior Coordinator of Educational Affairs Mr. Steven Goldman.
I’ve been in contact with Mr. Goldman ever since the first year. All communications between applicants and the consulate go through him; I can honestly say that without Mr. Goldman I might have had a much harder chance of being accepted.
Around this time, I met the research student that is locating to Tokyo with me. A talented electrical engineer, she’s going straight to Tokyo University. I don’t even know where I’m subjected to yet.
At around 3 we got seated into a meeting room. Ms. Tokyo University and I were greeted by two directors, a MEXT Alumni, all introduced by Mr. Goldman. Of course, we had all met before during the entire screening process, but this was the first time we could all sit down and talk. The pre-departure meeting is basically for answering and lingering yet burning questions, and an explanation about possible hurdles with life in Japan. I do wish I had that before I left in 2015. So instead of being a briefing for me, it became an exchange of experiences between us. I guess it was more fun this way. Plus there were refreshments. Tea, mochi, and rice snacks. I was glad for the laid-back atmosphere.
Although the entirety lasted only an hour and a half, it finally set in the fact that I had accomplished something in my life. I had a way to go to college, not the traditional way but I can. Right out of high school I could’ve continued on to UC Davis, which I had already been accepted. Instead, I graduated 2 months early and moved to Japan, which I didn’t (and still don’t) know if it was the right call. Now, I at least have something to show for efforts. Plus, this time I’m being granted this chance rather than taking it myself.
Honestly, I can’t wait to start the new school year next month. One year of prep, then 4 years of undergraduate Law. Let’s just hope I don’t screw up half-way.