I’m worried about my son’s absence from university

The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:

I’m a woman in my 50s. My son, a freshman at university, has been absent from school since the start of the second semester, and I’m worried about it.

My son came home during summer break and went back to university just before the second semester started. But I then lost contact with him. I visited his dormitory, only to find him dispirited. He has apparently lost his motivation for studying.

After finishing high school, my son worked part-time to save money for a round trip across Japan. Because of time restrictions, he managed to travel half of the planned course. He also traveled abroad alone for nearly a month. Afterward, he said he wanted to become a diplomat. He started to go to a preparatory school to take university entrance examinations, making remarkable improvements in his academic performance.

But my son was unable to pass the entrance exam of the university he wanted to enroll in. As a result, he reluctantly entered another institution. He was so disappointed in March, before entering the university, that I even hesitated to talk to him.

When my son came home during his summer break, he looked energetic, saying, “I’ll aim for another career, rather than aiming to become a diplomat.” But at the same time, he also said, “I can’t stand spending as long as four years at a university where I can’t find anything to learn.”

My husband simply said to me, “Leave him alone.” But I’m very concerned, as it seems he confines himself to his dormitory for almost all of the day.


Dear Ms. N:

Your son is amazingly active, as he attempted to travel around Japan and did an overseas trip, rather than going straight into university after finishing high school.

When I was younger, many people in my generation set out for adventures, such as a trans-Pacific voyage by yacht, a round-trip hitchhike of the nation and an around-the-world bicycle trip. Fewer people take on such challenges these days. Your son seems to be very curious about seeing and knowing new things. I think he is very strong and tough.

I assume he dreamed of becoming a diplomat thanks to his nature. I can understand how frustrated he felt when he failed in his very first step to make his dream come true. He is probably at a loss as to how to deal with his feelings.

Your son is perhaps at a turning point in his life, to review his dream career path. If he wants to interact with people overseas, he has various options other than working in the political field as a diplomat, such as in medical assistance, cultural exchange and business. He may redesign his dream to one such field, or travel again to get a fresh goal.

I suggest you keep a quiet eye on him for a while.

Kiyokazu Washida, philosopher

(from Nov. 21, 2017, issue)Speech

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