JASSO symbol markSuch a thought would be unbelievable to myself a few months ago, and in 6 months time when I am cash-strapped in Japan, I am probably going to wish I didn’t just send that e-mail. But there is no going back now; I just turned down an  extremely generous scholarship for approximately $1000 a month (80,000 Yen) whilst I am in Japan, plus a one off $1000 settling in allowance. At this point in time you probably think I have gone crazy…and to tell you the truth, a small part of me might just agree with you.

At around 4:30PM my mum answered the home phone and said it was for me. I had no idea who could be calling, because I never receive calls on the home phone due to being a tech savvy teen with a mobile phone :P So I took the phone and it turned out to be a staff member of UWA’s Study Abroad Office, who had some good news for me! :O She went on to explain that I was being offered a JASSO Scholarship on behalf of Kansai Gaidai because out of all the students who had applied to study there from UWA, I had the highest weighted average mark/grade on my academic transcript. I was really happy to hear this; I think the JASSO Scholarship is the scholarship that every student applying to go on exchange to Japan hopes to get. Who wouldn’t be happy with a guaranteed ‘ $1000 every month? I have read many times about students in Japan stressing about money issues halfway through their time there, so at that point of the call I was a little relieved that money would be one less thing to worry about on my own exchange.

However I started to suspect that the caller still had something to tell me about the scholarship; that there was still some make-or-break catch to accepting it. I’m not sure if it was the tone in her voice that changed once she got towards the end of explaining some of the details to me, or that some of the experiences with the JASSO Scholarship that I had read about on the internet had started coming back to mind causing me to get an inkling that there was more to this story. I was soon told that I would lose the $3000 scholarship that I talked about in my previous post, but that wasn’t *it*; I would give that up for the JASSO Scholarship in any other circumstance. The real catch was that Kansai Gaidai was only offering this scholarship for students going on exchange for two semesters, however I had only applied through UWA to study abroad for one semester. So to receive the scholarship, I would have to extend my exchange experience to two semesters, and I would have to decide whether or not to do so by early tomorrow morning :O.

I really didn’t know what to say on the phone. She went on to tell me that I had to let her know by early tomorrow morning because if UWA didn’t act on the scholarship offer straight away, it would be passed on to another University. In addition to this, a student who actually applied to study at Kansai Gaidai for two semesters was next in line for the scholarship. So the conversation on the phone eventually went down to neither of us knowing what to say…I was still a little shocked at the whole thing and couldn’t give a definite answer on the phone (which she understood), so I told her that I would let her know as soon as possible by e-mail.  

Last year when I started seriously considering applying for exchange, I did, at least for the most part, have it in my mind that I would go for a full year; that I would do two semesters at Kansai Gaidai. However, once I finally came to that ‘decision’ it was too late for me to apply for exchange in Japan for a year that would follow the Japanese University academic calendar. That is, it was too late for me to apply for exchange to Japan for UWA’s 2010 second semester and UWA’s 2011 first semester which would equate to first semester in Japan in 2010 and second semester in Japan in 2011. So my only option then was to go for a full year that does not follow the ‘traditional’ year of Japanese Universities, by starting in their semester 2 and finishing in semester 1, and have a large break in between. The more I thought about that option, the more odd it sounded, and it also became clear that going ahead with it could push back my graduation at home by at least a semester, and/or may not fit with my degree at all. So I made the decision to only apply to study at Kansai Gaidai for one semester; a decision that I came to accept and become content with over the past several months. I didn’t want to wait another year to go on exchange for a year, when I could be in Japan for half a year, sooner than that. Although my exchange prospects were halved in duration, I hoped, and still hope, that I can still achieve and experience everything I want to within 6 months in Japan. In fact, I genuinely think I can.

So when I was offered the chance, once more, to study in Japan for a full year, with the benefit of a $1000 allowance every month, the decision I came to and accepted months ago was turned on its head. I was given one more chance to ‘live the dream’ of studying in Japan for a year, along with the scholarship that many students applying for exchange to Japan vie for. This would be the final chance for me to fulfil the ‘dream’…and it had come so out of nowhere that some people could consider it ‘fate’. But when I was offered the scholarship, it wouldn’t be responsible for me to think ‘This is what I wanted before, so I should take it!’ because, well, that was before, and now is…now…different. After doing some thinking, I realised my ‘plan’ for…my ‘outlook’ on exchange to Japan was different now. I cant deny that studying in Japan for a year would probably be awesome, but my ideas for my own exchange had now been developed and so focused around going there for 6 months that I no longer feel like I need a full year, at least not in the same way I felt like I needed a full year before. So I decided to turn down the offer. I may come to regret the decision later on, and I would be happy to prove myself wrong. However, I couldn’t make the decision overnight to accept such a generous offer of a full year scholarship if I wasn’t 120% committed to the idea of studying in Japan for that long. Even though a few months ago I would most likely have accepted the scholarship offer immediately, during the hours of thinking I did regarding my decision, I couldn’t deny the part of me that thought…knew… that my outlook and hopes were different now…too different to simply revert to the ideas I had about exchange before. So I started writing the e-mail about my decision to the Study Abroad Office. At first I didn’t really know how to turn down such an amazing opportunity. Part of me wondered if I was going to be the first student ever to turn down such a generous scholarship? And because of that I kept telling myself that such thought should signal me to reassess my decision…that turning down the scholarship would be a very negative outcome. But in reality, it wouldn’t be so negative after all. Because a student who really, genuinely wants to study at Kansai Gaidai for two semesters would have the chance to do so with the help of this scholarship. Is that student more deserving of the scholarship than myself? Who knows…but what is clear is that the JASSO Scholarship certainly suits their hopes…and their ‘dream’ for exchange more so than my own. And because of that, I am content with passing it on.

Hello [Study Abroad Office],
First of all I would like to thank you, UWA’s Study Abroad Office and Kansai Gaidai for the extremely generous offer of the JASSO Scholarship, which I am certainly very grateful for. A few months ago I would have accepted the offer to study in Japan for a year with a $1000 a month allowance straight away, however after doing a lot of thinking over the past few hours, at this point in time I believe I am now more set on and committed to studying in Japan for one semester rather than two. With that said, I don’t think I can bring myself to accept the JASSO Scholarship without being 120% committed to studying in Japan for a year, especially knowing that a student who IS committed and hoping to study in Japan for two semesters is in line for the same scholarship. A small part of myself may think I am being a little crazy right now, and I am still extremely excited about studying abroad in Japan next year, however at this point in time I believe the full year JASSO Scholarship fits the circumstances of the other student more so than my own, and thus I would be happy for the scholarship to be passed on to her (or whoever you choose). Sorry for not being able to give you an answer immediately on the phone earlier, I just needed a little more time to make sure I was making the right decision :) Once again, thank you very much for the generous offer (please send my regards to Kansai Gaidai), and I look forward to dealing with the Study Abroad Office again soon.
Michael

Hi Michael,

Thank for you letting me know, and I can certainly understand your reasons for not wanting to stay for a full year. I appreciate you getting back to me so early this morning, it was a very difficult decision to make within a very short time frame.

Regards,

[Study Abroad Office]

And so my journey towards exchange to Japan continues…albeit with a little less funds than what I could have had :P .