Photo by Nobuyuki Kobayashi (TUJ graduate, 2004) and Manabu Miyamoto
Photo by Nobuyuki Kobayashi (TUJ graduate, 2004) and Manabu Miyamoto

Steven Lim

Master of Science in Education in TESOL


The day after my very first class at Temple University, I was scheduled to undergo surgery. After the class, I approached the professor to let him know that, although there should be no issues, there was a chance that if something were to go wrong, I may not be able to attend the next class. Let’s be clear; although I was worried about the operation, I was obviously looking for sympathy. After all, undergoing surgery for the first time would surely worth a bump in grades if I was a borderline case.

This, I believed, was as difficult a situation as I could possibly face. As anyone could face. If I could overcome this challenge, the rest of the course would be smooth sailing by comparison. Surely, nothing could be as disruptive as this. A month later I found that there was, in fact, something that could be far more disruptive. Due to the impact of the pandemic, over the course of the next two years there was only a single semester which I was able to attend entirely in person.

Speaking to former Temple graduates, one of the things I was looking forward to the most was the opportunity to meet and form friendships with likeminded individuals. I’d heard about the camaraderie forged over post-class izakaya discussions, pre-exam coffeeshop study days, and joint research conducted with enthusiastic peers. I feared that the pandemic had robbed us of these opportunities.

And yet, despite the circumstances, we found a way to make it work. Over time, the online awkwardness faded, and the more I got to know my classmates, the deeper my respect for them became. I found in my fellow students some of the warmest, smartest, most dedicated, and most charmingly stubborn people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

Stubbornness isn’t just a quality inherent to graduate students, it’s a prerequisite. Because as much of a challenge as the pandemic has been for us all, for the people I’ve met on this course, it has been just one of many hurdles they’ve had to overcome to earn their degrees.

One student in my class had a beautiful baby girl midway through a semester, and only missed a week of classes. When her newborn daughter made an appearance in the following Zoom session, I’m sure she became the youngest ever Temple graduate student. Another, due to a ridiculous string of unpredictable events ended up flying from Tokyo to Osaka to attend her TUJ classes at the Osaka campus every week. Including her hotel bills I feel it’s pretty safe to say those were the most expensive 3 credits anyone has ever earned. One student was so nervous about public speaking that she used to monitor her heartrate before presentations. Another woke up at 3am every day to do the readings for her classes because she simply didn’t have enough hours in the day. These are just a few of the countless examples of how Temple students overcome adversity to earn their degrees. To them, and to all the students who had the courage and the self-belief to attend an American university when English was not their first language, you have my utmost respect and admiration.

I leave this course not with a sense of regret for opportunities missed, but with one of gratitude. Gratitude to the office staff for their grace and infinite patience in the face of the issues caused by an ongoing two-year crisis. Gratitude to the professors who changed my opinion of TESOL from something I had to do, to something I wanted to do. You made me see this degree not as a series of boxes to be ticked, but as an opportunity to better myself both academically and personally. And gratitude to my fellow students. Without the help of my grandmother, and the help of my partner, I would never have started this course. But it was the help of my peers which I needed to see it through to the end.

For graduate students, your life doesn’t revolve around study, you have to find a way to force study into your life. You have to carve out time, and everyone has had to sacrifice something. Whether it’s time with your family, your friends, your career, or just the time to relax, we’ve all had to give up something. All that sacrifice is for today. I do not deserve to represent you. But I consider it an honor to do so, because it gives me a chance to thank you. You encouraged me. You inspired me. To my fellow students, my friends, I offer my heartfelt congratulations and my thanks. Thank you.




テンプル大学での最初の授業の翌日、私は耳の手術を受ける予定になっていました。 授業の後、私は先生に、(手術に関して)何も問題はないはずだが万一何かあったら次の授業には出られないかもしれないと伝えました。はっきり言いましょう。手術はもちろん心配でしたが、私は明らかに多少の情状酌量を求めていたのです。初めて手術を受けるという事実は、成績でも、同情点をもらえるくらいの効果があると勝手に思っていました。