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Study Abroad - From the world to WASEDA -

Charles Bourgault

From France to Waseda

Mr. Charles Bourgault
Student of the Intensive Japanese Language Program

Volunteering at an organic produce farm

Having studied Japanese for a year prior to his arrival, he already had a basic knowledge of Japanese when he came to Waseda University. "Nevertheless, Japanese is difficult; memorizing kanji, especially, requires hard work," he comments wryly. Still, because he studies about 20 hours per week, concentrating on the language in relation to his focus of study, his conversational skills have improved significantly.

Born in Le Mans, he grew up from the age of 10 surrounded by the scenic beauty of & Eacuteneci.

When asked why he chose Japan, he explained, "I wanted to be exposed to a culture completely different from that of the West." Although Charles himself had no problems with the thought of leaving to study in Japan, his parents were first disapproving of the idea, arguing about the distance and the time difference. "But coming here, there was so much more to learn than just the language," he said, leaning forward as he talked enthusiastically.

"I had the opportunity to do volunteer work on an organic farm in Shikoku for a week." This activity by WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) originated in the UK. They are an international group seeking to help out organic farming, while at the same time giving the volunteer members a chance to experience the culture and lifestyle of that country. The expenses of staying during the volunteering week are zero. There are several headquarters for this NPO located in different countries, including Japan,. "I got to experience Japanese small scale farming as well as make new friends. On top of that, I made a short pilgrimage round Shikoku."

The University System in France, compared with that of Japan

Back home in France, he attends the famous Institute of Politics of Paris (or Sciences-Po, a short, alternative name for Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris). In France, there are the so-called national universities for the general public and the vocational colleges for training the elite, known as Grandes Écoles. There is no entrance examination or tuition for the former type of education. The results from a standard test called the Baccalaur & eacuteat taken when 18 years old determine which institution is available for entry. As for the Grandes & Eacutecoles, the required grades are high, the tuition expensive, and it is extremely difficult to graduate. "It is similar to the private universities in Japan. But a couple of points of difference from Waseda would be the size of the student body, as there are only a thousand students, and the fact that the classes there are more challenging. I am thinking of going on to graduate school, majoring in law, in hopes of working all over the EU."

Participation in a demo against CPE

Demonstration against CPE near a police barricade.

As 70-80% of high school students in France advance to study in a university, there is a problem finding a job after graduation. "The unemployment rate of 20- to 25-year-olds is over 20%. This is quite a serious problem, and I participated in a demo against CPE (the First Employment Contract)." CPE has been in the news recently also in Japan as a plan to improve the employment status of young workers. When employing workers 26 years old or younger, companies are given a 2-year 'trial period' in which dismissals are permitted without specific reasons. The demos lasted about a year, starting in Paris and spreading throughout France, and in April 2007, CPE was withdrawn.

"With the EU system, it has become more convenient in regard to the freedom of travel with just an ID, but immigration, both legal and illegal, in search of work has become a great social problem in France." He felt through his stay in Japan that the conditions are very different here, where the country's borders are in the form of seas. "The time I have spent in Japan means a lot to me," he said with a smile as he was leaving.

(Offered by WASEDA WEEKLY)