How Japan’s Travel Ban Destroyed One International Student’s Dream

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Qasim Khan, 23, is fed up with Japan’s travel ban, literally and figuratively. Last year, hHis plan was to embark on a journey of a lifetime to study Japanese – a lifelong passion – at Hiroshima University.

Instead, barred by Japan’s travel ban, he is unable to enter the land of the rising sun and forced to study online, while facing a painful nine-hour time difference between Japan and the United Kingdom.

“Unlike some of my classmates (who live in Asian countries), I have to attend evening classes,” he says.

Below, we speak to Khan to learn more about his online study experience, Japan’s travel ban, and his future plans:

Where does your interest in Japanese studies come from?

My interest came from the idea of ​​learning languages ​​— it’s one of my passions. I want the ability to speak multiple languages ​​because it’s such a beautiful thing.

Learning Japanese was one of my dreams because I never had the chance to study it in high school or even as an autodidact. When the opportunity presented itself at the University of Sheffield, I decided to jump on it.

Although this is an unconventional path (because my peers have chosen majors like business studies and I have always been criticized for my choices), I have open-minded parents who are supportive of my decisions .

What prompted you to study in Japan? Share your journey with us so far.

Now fast forward to my second year during the second UK lockdown, we were lucky enough to choose a university for our study abroad exchange program. I have chosen Hiroshima University as I heard amazing things about it by the friends I made in Hiroshima.

What are the main obstacles you face regarding Japan’s travel ban?

Since taking my online course provided by Hiroshima University, I find the nine-hour time difference between Japan and the UK difficult. Unlike some of my classmates (who live in Asian countries), I have to attend evening classes.

Thus, it creates an environment where I am not in the most motivated state to study or even converse with my classmates. Also, I think it’s hard to connect with people online.

However, since I’m all for learning new cultures and languages, I decided to create study and bonding sessions with my peers to get to know them better. Because we are all in different time zones, I would really like the chance to meet them in natural circumstances.

I think this is not what I imagined what a “study abroad” experience would be like.

What more do you think should be done for students affected by Japan’s travel ban?

I believe that the students are no threat to anyone since most of them are in principle fully vaccinated. There should be reciprocity with each country.

During my stay in the UK, the more Japanese exchange students I meet who are allowed to come here, the more mental weight I carry. I’m worried about Japan’s travel ban, what time I should sleep or stay awake.

This way of life is unhealthy and we (stranded students) can’t stand it anymore.

What is your uni doing to support you in these difficult times?

The online courses offered by my host university are excellent. However, some are on-demand courses that are not available as most students are blocked.

These face-to-face courses that I really want to take but since I’m not in Japan, I can’t register. My home university, the University of Sheffield, checks me in from time to time to see how I’m doing mentally.

As I learn about the cultural gap between my host university and my home university, the University of Sheffield places more emphasis on student mental health.

What backup plan do you have?

I don’t have a backup plan because my whole degree seems to be based on experience that I don’t get at all. I want to be able to teach English to Japanese students and I can’t take courses suitable for that.

I imagine myself handing over my CV and my employer asking me questions about my study abroad experience. The idea of ​​responding with my online experience makes me feel guilty.

What advice do you have for international students who want to study in Japan?

My advice would be to Always have a backup plan. I didn’t expect Japan’s travel ban to last for so long and I don’t know what my future holds.

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