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Living & Learning: Japanese students overseas / Intense, challenging but, an exhilarating pursuit

Courtesy of Mayu Noda
Mayu Noda, second from right, with school friends

By Mayu Noda (University of Oxford) / Special to The Japan News This column features reports by Japanese students currently studying overseas on their lives on and off campus.

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Posh, prestigious, academically rigorous, elitist. The name Oxford carries with it various connotations, both positive and negative, many of which I apprehensively braced myself for before entering the university. Following my first year at the University of Oxford, however, I now just call it “home.”

I thank the longing for a well-heated bedroom that prompted my application to St. Catherine’s College. As Oxford’s youngest undergrad college it perhaps lacks the sense of historic grandeur that the turreted edifices of the older colleges offer, but also the snobbery and pretension often associated with them.

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I would be lying if I claimed that my time at Oxford has been all fun and games: “Holidays” involve much independent study and, harrowed by the heavy workload, I have shed many a tear in my tutorials. However, the satisfaction of overcoming the challenges that Oxford poses renders the occasional miserable sniffling worthwhile; one is forced to learn quickly at Oxford, and much of what I have learned is also applicable to life outside.

Sleepless nights fueled by chocolate and the fear of incomplete essays, a weekly occurrence in my first term, were unrepeated in the following two terms as I managed my time more efficiently. The bewilderment that I initially felt toward the vast academic freedom that my English Language and Literature degree affords me gradually transformed into the exhilaration of pursuing what truly enthralls me.

The individuals I encounter are fiercely intelligent and fascinating, much less due to any schooling they have undergone prior to university, but rather thanks to their own intellectual curiosity. The relationships I have with my friends consist of trivial banter that can shift abruptly to a heated discussion surrounding any topic from former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to game theory to fin de siecle literature, and it is stimulating to be constantly exposed to fresh perspectives.

Consisting of a mere eight weeks, each Oxford term is immensely intense; joys and struggles are heightened in a manner unfathomable once outside of the town. Oxford is providing me with so much more than a degree.

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University of Oxford

The University of Oxford dates as far back as the 11th century, and 27 British prime ministers have been educated there. Most students belong to 38 largely independent colleges.

In partnership with Ryugaku Fellowship

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