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Saturday, January 29, 2022

The French student exasperated with updates on Japan borders

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Stranded students are eager to learn about the latest in Japan. Will they be able to resume classes on campus soon? Will they have to quarantine? Will they get the full study abroad experience? When will all this happen?

Updates regarding Japan, however, do not answer these questions well enough French student Alia Galette Pandel, who is currently attending a dual master’s degree at INSA Lyon University and University of Tohoku.

“I was supposed to travel to Japan in October last year,” she says. “Due to the pandemic, Tohoku University asked me to postpone my program to start in April of this year, and I naively accepted the thought that things would be back to normal by then.”

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Things did and did not. We caught up with her to find out why she was frustrated about the Japan-related updates and how they affected her:

Where does your interest in your course come from? Go through it.

I chose INSA Lyon, a high-quality engineering institution in France because I can study sciences without giving up languages. This university has many partnerships with different institutions around the world and is also very international.

After two years of preparatory class, I decided to major in Materials Science and Engineering. Here, I learn about different types of materials with applications in every possible field.

The focus is on understanding how the microstructure of macroscopic properties is formed. A wide range of techniques for material characterization are also studied.

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I have also felt a lot of concern about issues of climate change and it has become self-evident and necessary for my future job as an engineer to be centered around these issues. I needed to do my part to help reduce society’s impact on the environment.

As a future materials engineer, I would like to design environmentally friendly materials that use renewable resources and can be recycled or biodegradable.

What made you want to study this in Japan?

My love for Japan began in a rather ordinary way. I discovered the country as a child through anime and manga. From there, I researched the culture, cuisine, way of thinking, etc. and loved what I discovered.

I chose my unit in France in part because of the many exchange programs it offers, and one that piqued my interest, in particular, was in Japan. When I first started uni, I had to choose languages ​​and of course I learned Japanese.

Studying in Japan was (and still is) my dream. I studied hard and applied for dual masters degree at Tohoku University which is four years in France and one semester of Japanese language classes with two years of masters studies in Japan.

How was it for you to study remotely?

I was supposed to travel to Japan in October last year. Because of the pandemic, Tohoku University asked me to postpone my program to start in April of this year, and I naively accepted the thought that things would be back to normal by then.

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Between October and April, I returned to my home university as a regular fifth year student. With the lockdown in France, most classes were online anyway. Since I’m not a MEXT student, DJ, or athlete, I wasn’t able to travel to Japan in the spring.

I did Japanese lessons online in the Japan time zone which was about 15 hours a week and a lot of personal work in between. Since the beginning of the fall semester in October, I am a first-year master’s student at Tohoku University.

Now, I’m taking science classes online and have to use my home university to get to the lab. However, I haven’t been able to start my experiments for my master’s thesis yet which worries me.

With no updates on Japan and your studies resuming there, what are the toughest challenges you face?

During language classes in the spring, studying in impossible times wasn’t the worst for me. While it was difficult (and I don’t want anyone to go through it), my teachers were kind and the classes were very interactive.

I am amazed at how humans can adapt to all kinds of situations. For me, the hardest part is the lack of social interaction, not getting to know your classmates or teachers, not meeting people in real life and staying at home.

Although we ran a weekly online meeting, not many students participated. Another challenging thing is to live in constant doubt and uncertainty – not knowing where you will be and what you will do.

I haven’t been able to plan much as I’m still hoping something positive will happen with the updates in Japan. The lack of timetable and standards for border news is insane.

There was a fake relaxation of the frontiers measured by restrictions on contingent-owned equipment release dates and ridiculous paperwork making me despair. It’s hard for people to constantly ask me about Japan and for months on end, I have nothing to answer for.

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Throughout all of this, I am grateful to my parents and close friends for their endless support and belief in my success.

What do you think should be done to help and support students stranded in Japan?

Let the holders of 2020 and 2021 owned equipment enter before the end of this year without any complicated procedures. Increase daily capacity, keep borders open even if another wave comes.

Japan needs to learn to live with COVID-19 just as other countries have done. Reducing the quarantine period for vaccinated students from 10 to 14 days requires a lot of money from students who do not necessarily have them.

How about your unit in Japan? Do they give you enough support?

I don’t know what to answer here. Recently, there have been a lot of answers like “Please wait patiently for more updates and detailed information while enjoying your online studies”. I’m tired.

What is your backup plan?

I’m not giving up on Japan because despite the difficult situation, I’ve already invested a lot of time and energy.

What advice would you give to foreign students who want to study in Japan?

Due to the lack of updates about Japan and their travel rules, I don’t think I can give advice. I, myself, would very much like to know what it was like to study there.

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