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Friday, Sept. 27, 2002
Center caters to Japanese seeking to study abroad
By ERIKO ARITA
Planning to study abroad but don't know which country or school to pick? Dreaming of overseas study but hesitant about quitting a job to do so?
The recently reopened Ryugaku Toshokan, or Study Abroad Library, offers advice and counseling in Japanese on such problems in a private, relaxing atmosphere.
The facility provides information on education programs overseas from as impartial a viewpoint as possible, different from many agents that have connections with only specific schools.
Located in a quiet residential area in Jiyugaoka in Meguro Ward, Tokyo, the two-story house boasts some 200 books on how to study and live in other countries as well as pamphlets on about 3,500 schools in English-speaking nations.
For 4,000 yen per year, members can browse and get advice from staff on how to put together a solid plan.
The main service the library offers is private counseling on studying abroad, which is charged separately.
Rie Hirakawa, president of Travessia Inc., which operates the library, started Ryugaku Toshokan in 1999 at a condominium in Jiyugaoka. As business picked up, the library moved to the current house and reopened in August.
Currently, there are more than 3,000 members, including parents who want their children to attend elementary schools overseas and senior citizens who want to study abroad after retiring. Members are aged between 4 and 72, with some coming from as far as Fukushima and Nagoya, according to Hirakawa.
"Learning overseas has a significant impact on one's life," Hirakawa said. "I want to offer a tailor-made program of studying abroad that suits the life of each individual."
In the private sessions, a counselee may, for example, want to study in the United States to be a makeup artist. Hirakawa would make a list of professional schools, outlining courses of study, fees, locations, schedules, levels of required English competency and the number of Japanese students.
The 34-year-old director gathers information by visiting schools, meeting teachers and asking Japanese students there what they think of the institution, she said.
For people hesitating quitting their jobs to study overseas, Hirakawa often recommends taking a week off to try a short-term program. Depending on their circumstances, she sometimes even talks people out of going abroad, she said.
"I want to create a quiet environment where people can relax and discuss their plans without hesitation," Hirakawa said, adding that many people value privacy when discussing such issues.
A 40-minute counseling session costs 7,875 yen.
Counseling is also available on the library's Web site at 6,300 yen for three sessions.
Although other agencies that provide information on studying overseas give free counseling, they usually only recommend schools from which they receive commissions, she said.
The library also offers English lessons and help with school applications. These services are charged separately.
Before launching the library, Hirakawa worked at Recruit Co., a publisher and human resources services provider based in Tokyo.
She gained a masters degree in business administration from the University of Southern California as part of Recruit's study-abroad program.
While Hirakawa was planning her move, she sought advice at several agencies. But counselors offered only two options, either going to an English-language school or a university, saying it depended on the level of the language ability of applicants.
While studying in the U.S., however, she realized there were many other options, including adult education programs and vocational schools, Hirakawa said.
"It prompted me to open the library so that I could offer information on various forms of study," she said.
For more information on the library, visit www.ryugaku-toshokan.co.jp or call the library at (03) 3725-8627.