Staying Focused on My Actual Goal of Learning the Language, Not Earning a Degree

I enrolled in this school to study Japanese specifically because they offer an associate’s degree in Japanese. I thought, if I’m going to do the work of studying, I want something to show for it, even if a degree in a language doesn’t necessarily mean fluency

So last Monday, school started. On Tuesday, the teacher for the conversation class gave us 5! homework assignments and quizzes to do by Sunday. (For context, the main class gives 1 assignment per week, released on Monday and due the following Sunday.)

I was doing my homework for conversation class and had an aggravating day that Saturday. I had trouble with several assignments because the teacher’s instructions weren’t clear, but she isn’t available to answer questions on weekends, so I did my best. 

She graded on Sunday and reduced one of my grades by 30% for not following (the extremely unclear) instructions. I was so offended by the injustice and remembered that this was one of the reasons I had so much trouble in school before, but I was stuck with the bad grade since she didn’t seem apologetic or understanding when I emailed her for clarification. I thought, Well, it’s the first week. Maybe I’ll get used to it and the homework maybe won’t be as bad.

We had class scheduled today at 11:30am. She released the new materials only a few hours prior. It was another 6! assignments, again due on Sunday. If I were working full time, it would have felt nearly impossible. So I was again annoyed this morning at all the homework and the very short amount of time given. I also saw that some of the material was repetitive of what I was already being tested on in the main Japanese class. 

I kept asking myself why I was putting myself through this class. I don’t need the degree, but part of me still felt like I “should” get the degree because it is that “why” I’m always seem to look for when I do things for myself and purely for fun. 

But all that work seemed so unreasonable, and it made me question if I even wanted to learn Japanese at all. 

I grappled with a lot of emotions and thoughts. What did it mean about me that I was considering dropping the class? The answer was all the usual things:

  • “I’m a quitter.” 
  • “I don’t finish what I start.” 
  • “Why bother taking the other class if you can’t finish the degree?” 
  • “If you can’t do this amount of work, you’ll never become fluent.”

And many others. It also made me seriously question if I wanted to study Japanese in Japan because won’t that be 10 times harder? (This is a separate question so I’ll stop here.) 

But I realized that how I’ve been learning has been working well for me: taking the main class, studying on my own, and practicing with my tutor. I also acknowledged that I could come back and take the conversation classes later if I wanted to finish the degree later.

So I dropped the class.

On the surface, it doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but it was huge to me. Releasing the “why” that I craved and the “proof” that yes, I did accomplish something — it felt freeing. And I felt so good afterwards, better than I had in days. 

I accepted that I don’t flourish in a learning environment that bogs students down with so much work. I get too focused on getting the grade and don’t actually learn anything. So I think this is why it felt so good: I chose to do what’s best for me, put my health and wellness first by removing an unnecessary stressor, and focus on my goal of actually learning Japanese. 

I’m glad I was able to stay focused on what I truly want from this rather than getting sidetracked by pursuing an imposed goal of getting an associate’s degree.