Daigaku Z: Let It Go

Daigaku Z is a weekly column about what it’s really like to study the Japanese language and culture at a major university. Z is enrolled as a student at the University of Pittsburgh after an over ten-year career in the information technology industry, and is pursuing a second degree with the aims of being a translator. This is the story of that degree.

Also: The semester is wrapping up and this week is the last Daigaku Z in 2014; I’ll return on January 11th, 2015 with the new year’s start. Thank you again for your continued support– yoroshiku, baby!

We had our last recitation class on Friday; by the time you read this I’ll be studying for my oral exam on Monday. I did something I wanted to do for everyone in that recitation class, some of whom weren’t moving on to the next semester: I bought them all sets of gaming dice in their favorite colors. Some of them reacted with confusion; others, elation. It was a bit of a moment.

But some of us won’t be in the same recitation class next semester. One of us disappeared without a trace about a week after mid-terms, and we all asked about him afterwards, but never heard anything. Others have conflicting class schedules which prevent us from staying united. Maybe it’s simply because I was in a small major the last time around, but the thought of not having some amount of continuity within the classes I take kind of has me uneasy.

During my first degree, I had almost all of my classes with the same group of peers throughout the entirety of my four years there, with only electives being the divergence points. We became close friends in that time, and we are all still mostly in touch with each other. But even before that, my high school was tiny compared to those here in Pittsburgh– I graduated as one of just about a hundred in the class. Even considering the usual cliques and pitfalls of any high school, we were close.

It’s always unnerving to be thrust from a situation where you’re familiar, and where there are those among you who are like-minded, into a literal new frontier. But the important thing to remember is that we are all strangers at first, and that we are all dealing with the same sense of isolation and fear. It will only get worse when we– the class, I mean– all head off to Japan for whatever purposes, because almost certainly we will not all be going together. Some of us may never go. Some of us may never finish learning the language.

It’s one thing to be grateful for friends, and to stick with them even when doing so is difficult. But it’s another thing entirely to cling to them beyond when one needs to, and that’s as much a process of learning as making the friends in the first place. This year I’ve learned so much more about who I want to keep in my life and who I want to let go of– gently, of course, but let go none the less. That is something I am very grateful for.

But it certainly would be nice if they would take the hint the dice were meant to signify, and tell me when would be good to meet up for some tabletop gaming.