Here’s my problem with my study abroad program.
In the next week and a half, I have to:
- translate interview questions in to Japanese
- interview five Japanese people (in Japanese)
- prepare a 25-minute presentation based on that data (in Japanese)
- take a Japanese test
- listen to and critique my performance on my most recent 20-minute Japanese oral exam
- write a 600-character composition (in Japanese)
- finish writing a 4-minute script for a film (in Japanese)
- work with classmates to create the aforementioned film from my and others’ scripts
- read approximately 200 pages of articles regarding minorities and immigrants in Japan
- read a Japanese article for my reading comprehension class
This does not include any daily incidental homework that may be assigned in clas–this is just the stuff that I can see coming. And indeed, I’ve seen most of this coming from a mile away.
But I’ve been so swamped with the daily incidental stuff that I’ve been unable to make any headway on these long-standing projects. To illustrate this, in the last week and a half, I had to:
- read 20 pages of a comic (in Japanese)
- prepare a vocabulary list/task sheet for those pages (in Japanese)
- do a Japanese listening practice assignment
- read roughly 100 pages of articles regarding minorities and immigrants in Japan
- take two Japanese vocabulary quizzes
- take two kanji quizzes
- translate a dozen complicated sentences into Japanese in preparation for a test
- interview my host family about jobs and employment
- select (and clean up) pictures to showcase in my photography class
- write an article in Japanese about my experience with お正月 (oshougatsu– the Japanese New Year)
- read a Japanese story for my reading comprehension class
- write a 5-page midterm essay for Minorities and Immigrants in Japan
And that list’s probably not exhaustive. That’s mostly the daily incidental stuff that just came up. The longer-term projects, such as the midterm essay and the article on お正月 were pushed back to far later than one might consider prudent–not from laziness, but from sheer lack of time.
There is so much daily busy work simply required by my classes that I can not touch the long-term projects. I see them coming. I want to get them out of the way. But thanks to all of the stuff I have to do for class just to stay on top of the daily requirements, I cannot get a head start on them.
There are corners I can cut. I can come to Minorities and Immigrants having not read the articles (which I’m doing lately), and I can cut my sleep schedule short (which I’m doing, drastically). But skipping articles means that I don’t get as much as possible out of my Minorities class, which will bite me in a few more weeks when I have to write a final. Cutting my sleep–I’m already getting only about 5-6 hours each night anyway–means that I doze off in class (bad) or when trying to work, so I either get less out of class or my working efficiency drops. Beyond those two, I have a hard time seeing anything I can do (save for not writing blog posts, but this venting is preventing me from just completely breaking down into a nervous wreck, so I believe I can justify it on grounds of preserving my health).
This burns all the more because, for Pete’s sake, I’m in Kyoto. There are a million and a half things I want to be doing. I want to be roaming the streets, checking out temples that catch my fancy. I want to continue my as-of-yet-fruitless search for a double-edged razor (seriously; every drug store in Japan sells Feather brand double-edged razor blades, but none sell the razor itself). I want to peruse the wacky offerings of the enigmatic store called Don Quijote, buy manga at Book Off!, try crepes at a restaurant near campus, or just wander Uji and see what sights pop up to surprise me. I want to go on walks. I want to sing karaoke on Shijo and then slip into the weekend with a visit to a bath. I want to experience Kyoto again.
But I can’t. I can’t even spare time for the long-term projects that are required of me, to say nothing of my personal whims.
Rather than someone experiencing life in Kyoto while studying as a student, I’ve become a student grinding away at the piles of work he has, who just happens to be in Japan. I eat Japanese food for dinner and nobody’s speaking in English, but that’s the current extent of my daily–weekly–monthly experience in Japan. I can’t afford to do anything more.
It’s a recipe for disaster. Take one Spencer, marinated for years in “prone to stress out about work”. Coat in daily obligations. In a separate bowl, mix long-term projects. Keep separate. Sear until the juices of”possible stress relief” have all come out, then throw in a pan and bake on high until carbonized.
This is not, as a keen reader might deduce, ideal.