My Way to Japan

My Journey to Japan
Ngo Van Quyen Updated in February 2023

“When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all… Grow up, get a job, get married, get a house, have a kid, and that’s it. But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker. And so much madder. And so much better.” This is a quote by Elton Pope.

If our life is considered as a journey, then we, as travelers do not want to finish it too fast. A straight line may be the shortest distance between two points, but it is by no means the most interesting. So, you might want to try to find many other ways on how to proceed with your journey. No matter whether it is interesting or not, sad or happy, you will gain experience. For me, coming to Japan was one of the most impressive experiences in my life, though not something like heaven, but an opportunity of a lifetime.

Once upon a time, in a small village far away, there lived a little naughty boy who wished to travel around the world. Many years have gone by, but his desire to travel kept on burning. And now, the little boy has become a postgraduate student at JAIST (Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology). It is a fascinating dream come true story for the little boy.

My journey to Japan started when I was the monitor of a postgraduate class in Vietnam. One day, when we were doing our best to finish the courses, the academic staff informed us that we had a chance to study in Japan for the rest of the program. We were so excited, but later, we realized that the number of students to be given the opportunity is limited.

Then came, our first challenge: Be the chosen ones. That sounds like an insurmountable task. In fact, all we had to do is to prepare a detailed CV, aligning our working experience to the laboratory requirements and then to choose the most suitable one. After that, the supervisor interviewed us to ensure that our experience match the lab requirements. After online meetings, some of us were accepted.

After receiving the confirmation mail, we had to prepare several certain things including a visa. I have been to Japan for few times; however, this is the first time I had to apply for a visa not directly from the embassy. I had to find some agencies which help to do this for us. After a week, I received the visa and finished the other paperwork. All that I had to do at that time was to hand over my routine research work to my colleagues and book a flight ticket by myself. My school only gave me some guidelines on how to get to the school in Japan, and I had to decide on the route.

If you are planning to travel to Japan during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are a few important things to keep in mind to ensure a safe and smooth trip. First, if you are entering Japan, you must have a negative COVID-19 test result taken within 72 hours prior to your scheduled departure time. It is important to note that the 72-hour window is counted from the time your sample is taken, and not from the time you received your results. Additionally, if you had already been vaccinated with vaccines not recognized by Japan─the so-called “yellow” countries designated by Japan─you had to isolate yourself from others. I had to stay at the hotel for 4 days without any customer service. There was no new replacement bedsheet, no food being served, no daily cleaning of the room and on top of that, I have to buy food from 7-Eleven convenience store twice a day.

Last but not least, the great mistake that I did was not exchanging substantial amount of my money into the local yen currency. On the first day at the dormitory, I was shocked when I realized that I had to buy all the necessary furniture. There was no stove, no blanket, etc., and my school dormitory was far from the supermarket. My experience of coming to Japan as a student is like a horror movie, surprise after surprise.

Now, since I have studied in Japan for a few months, I have become familiar with the surroundings and the step-by-step of doing things. Many people asked me if I am happy to be in Japan as a student, but I prefer not to answer this question at this moment. Basically, we are born to live a happy life. Thus, culture, politics, institutions, education, science and technology are meant to create “happiness” in people.

However, my purpose of being here in Japan is not just to obtain these worldly things but about to create a better me. Some people seem to live and achieve more in 20 years than others do in 80 years. It’s not the length of time that matters, it is the attitude of the person. In the end, we are all part of the human story and also having our own life story. Just make our life story a good one!

In summary, my way to Japan is just a piece of my life story which may help you to avoid some unexpected situations or to prepare for a good journey. Hope you have a pleasant travel and experience unforgettable stories. Good luck!