Marco is one of our students from Italy, who was meant to start Japanese language school from April 2020. But then the global pandemic hit, the world went into lockdown and Marco was faced with the uncertainty of not knowing when he could go to Japan. This was the reality for many people who wanted to study in Japan in 2020 during the height of COVID-19.
Due to the borders shutting down, international students were not allowed to enter Japan between April and September 2020. This left many in limbo.
Read on to find out what the experience has been like for Marco and the procedures he had to go through in order to finally study in Japan during COVID-19.
*Note that responses have been edited for clarity and length.
Hello Marco, tell us a bit about yourself!
My name is Marco, I’m 24 years old and I’m Italian. I study at the Arc Tokyo Japanese Language School, at the Iidabashi campus. I came here in October 2020 with a JLPT N5 and now (end of January 2021) I have reached N4 level. I’m going to stay here for another year and a half to finish my language studies and then after graduating, I will start my own business in Japan.
Why do you want to study Japanese and why in Japan?
Since I was a kid, I have always loved watching anime and reading manga. In 2017 I became more passionate about Japanese society in general and because of that, I started studying the language by myself. I think studying in the country where the language is spoken allows you to understand if you are truly interested and invested in the language and the culture.
When were you meant to arrive in Japan?
The plan was to come here at the end of March 2020 to start school in April 2020. I ended up coming in October 2020 after a lot of problems. In March I was very worried that I couldn’t go to Japan anymore, since they stopped releasing visas four days before my arrival. Honestly, I thought about cancelling my application, but in the end my desire to come here was too strong.
How did this delay influence your daily life?
It was very hard for the first two months. During that time, I was very sad that I couldn’t make it to Japan. I started asking myself if this was the right choice or if it was worth the pain. In May, I started working and I continued to work for the entire summer. Working really distracted me from my situation!
How has Go! Go! Nihon helped you during the application phase and waiting months?
Go! Go! Nihon stayed by my side for the entire process, from the visa to the choice of the right school. They helped me organise everything (accommodation, useful tips, how to register at the city hall, how to sign up for National Health Insurance and so on). During the pandemic they kept me updated all the time.
At the end of September, Japan announced that from October 1st it would be possible for international students to come to Japan again. But there were new procedures to follow. Could you tell us about what you had to do to come to Japan?
First of all, I had to get a new visa, since the one I received in March wasn’t valid anymore. To renew my visa, I had to hand in a new document, called the Written Pledge. It basically certified that my school would supervise me during quarantine.
Besides the Written Pledge, I had to show the original CoE – which was still on my passport – to the Japanese consulate. I also had to fill in the same documents that I already filled in in March.
Besides the passport with the new visa and the CoE, at the check-in at the airport I also had to bring:
– A printed copy of a negative PCR test that I had taken within 72 hours before flying
– The Written Pledge
– A copy of my health insurance for the 14 days of quarantine (in my case, the school gave it to me)
Once they checked these documents, they gave me a form to fill in with my personal data, the reason why I was moving and my flight numbers with their destinations. Additionally, I had to declare that I wasn’t in quarantine in Italy and that I didn’t have any COVID-19 symptoms. They took this form before going on the plane.
Note: many airlines require you to fill this form in online before departure or check-in.
After you arrived in Japan, what did you have to do to get through airport controls and security?
The procedure is simple. Once I landed I had to take a COVID-19 saliva test. It is kind of hard, because you have to produce a lot of saliva… but in 5 minutes I managed to do it. They put a number on the forms I had filled out on the plane and that number was used to give me back the results.
Then, I went to a second room where they checked and took the Written Pledge and all the information relating to the quarantine and information of the accommodation.
After that, I went to a waiting room where I could buy some drinks or food. Then they called my number and once they checked the result of the COVID-19 test – which has to be negative – I moved on to the usual immigration procedures.
At the immigration office they checked all the other documents – passport, visa, CoE, result of the PCR test taken before the departure – and gave me the Residence Card. I then went to the baggage claim area.
Everything was perfectly organised. I was out of the airport in one and a half hours.
Tell us about your quarantine accommodation.
My school prepared quarantine accommodation for me in Yokohama. A school member picked me up at the airport and took me to the accommodation and the transport was private.
Note: some schools choose quarantine accommodation for their students, while others don’t.
I stayed in a hotel usually used for conferences or training courses, where an entire floor was reserved for students to quarantine. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were delivered to my room every day in the classic Japanese bento. I could not leave the accommodation for any reason, except with school permission for serious health reasons or COVID-19 symptoms.
Now you are attending school. How many classes do you have? Are they held online or in-person?
Until December 2020 I had lessons from Monday to Friday for 3 hours and 15 minutes a day in the classroom, so I went to the school. From January 2021 I have 2 days a week for 3 hours a day in class, while the remaining 3 days are online lessons on ZOOM (also 3 hours a day).
How is the study in Japan experience during COVID-19?
Given the circumstances, it’s going pretty well. I also managed to find a part-time job in December 2020, so I’m happy for now. Obviously, I would prefer that this situation did not exist in order to enjoy all the opportunities this city can offer. But it’s okay, I have a strong ability to adapt to different situations.
Go! Go! Nihon can help you study in Japan, even during COVID-19. Contact us to see how we can help.