Keiko Iwata is the representative of the NPO Heart Connections, which provides non-Japanese students with consultation services to help them solve problems related to living and studying in Japan. Iwata authored the book "Asian Spirit" (published in February 2004).
The first time Hye-gyong went to Japan was when she was 26 years old. It was the 15th of September in the year 2000.
Before she could make a solid resolution that she would go to Japan, there were a few problems she had to consider. Would she be able to adapt well in a foreign country?
What about financial issues?
Where would she live?
It would be a lie to state that she never hesitated.
"I'll discuss my doubts with Brother and Sister once again."
Hye-gyong went back to square one with the problem and received detailed advice from them. The biggest problem was finding a place to live.
The expensive rent in Japan was far beyond her imagination. Moreover, her discovery that Japanese apartments required gratuity to the owner and a few years' deposit clouded her decision.
Time passed without much thought when she received some news from Japan.
"My parents live in a house with two floors. I used to live on the second floor, but for now, I don't have any plans to go home. So, we decided that you could use a room on the second floor!"
The young man's excited voice reached her through the phone.
This became the deciding factor for Hye-gyong to study abroad in Japan.
It was finally the moment of arriving in Japan. As she walked across the ramp that led her outside the aircraft, her mind was full of anxiety and anticipation. She wondered what colors her emotions were.
"It was like I was floating. I couldn't feel the ground under my feet," she reflects on her experiences. She is now reaching the end of her second year as a researcher at the Faculty of Foreign Studies at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. She continues to study foreign languages after her one and a half years at Japanese language school, but in half a year, she will graduate.
As she worried, "What will I do next," a new opportunity awaited her just as the summer holidays started.
At times, she visits "Korea Town" in Okubo, Shinjuku Ward for a "little Korean experience." There, she can eat at Korean restaurants, get Korean groceries and cosmetics, find out about Korean music and movies, and do much more of what she used to do back home.
In front of each store, there were piles of free pamphlets. Hye-gyong picked one up and shifted her attention to an advertisement of a job offer.
It was for a small firm that was run by someone from her home country. When she contacted the company, she found out that they were seeking a replacement for a woman who was going to resign from her job to give birth. He said, "If it's okay with you, I would also like to hire you as a fulltime employee after you graduate." The president's welcoming words were pleasing.
At any rate, Japanese is fun and interesting. It is of course also challenging to learn, but Hye-gyong's experiences increasingly reinforced her that the country "suited her." She engaged in research on "conversational analysis" because she did best in this area of study.
Conversations were first recorded and then written down on paper. Then, audible emotional expressions were added to the typed document. The next step to this process was "psychological analysis." This was the type of class that she enjoyed the most.
When her mind drifted off thinking, "Maybe I'll continue going to school," she quickly reminded herself that there was a lot of studying she could do outside of school.
Next spring, Hye-gyong's fianc?, who goes to graduate school at the same university, will be receiving his master's degree.