Overcoming All Odds to Study in Japan: 125 TUJ Overseas Students Entered Japan Under New COVID-19 Protocols

Temple University, Japan Campus (TUJ) recently welcomed 125 students from overseas to Japan for in-person classes. In 2020, Japan’s pandemic restrictions forced TUJ and other universities in Japan to temporarily stop welcoming overseas students to campus. With the easing of Japan’s border restrictions in October 2020, TUJ quickly mobilized to prepare new procedures for following the government’s mandates and guidelines. To enter Japan, the documentation and processes required for infection control increased significantly for students. While tracking the ever-changing government announcements, TUJ helped students stay up-to-date with entry requirements and prepare to realize their dream of studying in Japan. As a result of these efforts, a total of 125 TUJ students successfully traveled to Japan in a safe manner while following special COVID-19 protocols. These students commenced their studies in the spring 2021 semester (January to May) ─ study abroad students from the United States, and students who started online from overseas during 2020.

Entry of Students into Japan and the Evolving Governmental Guidelines

Wanting to experience Japan while pursuing a university degree in an international environment at a globally-ranked university in Tokyo, TUJ’s new overseas students were willing to navigate significant obstacles related to the pandemic. Like other entrants into Japan during the pandemic, TUJ students were required to secure a certified negative COVID-19 test result within 72 hours of arrival, spend 14 days in self-quarantine after entry into the country, avoid public transportation, and monitor their health conditions. Also, many TUJ students were forced to alter plans and expedite their trip to Tokyo. On December 26, 2020, the Japanese government unexpectedly announced new border control measures prohibiting the entry of new students from most countries into Japan after 11:59 pm on January 3, 2021.
In consultation with senior leadership at Temple University’s main campus in Philadelphia (USA) and consistent with our mission to constantly support students, TUJ decided to do everything possible to assist and welcome students coming from overseas.
Because the new TUJ students had planned on arriving in Tokyo after this date, they were forced to scramble to change airline reservations, secure COVID-19 tests, and board airplanes before the doors to Japan closed on January 3, 2021. The pandemic had put their dreams of studying in Japan in jeopardy.
In total, 57 new TUJ students from the United States and other restricted countries were able to enter Japan between December 28 and January 3. In addition, TUJ welcomed 13 students from 11 other countries and regions which were not affected by these recent restrictions.

During the 14-day Quarantine

Imagine arriving in the country of your dreams only to face a restriction of movement for two entire weeks. After entering Japan, international students were required to stay in their dormitory rooms. Students were allowed to go out in small groups with student volunteers once a day to purchase food. Dorm managers and experienced TUJ student volunteers were on hand to monitor and assist. However, students said that it was challenging to eat convenience store food every day in a small dorm room, especially while there were so many new foods and exciting places that they wanted to experience.
To make their time in quarantine more enjoyable, TUJ’s Office of Student Services hosted regular online events such as relaxation courses, a virtual scavenger hunt, and an online party for new students. TUJ offered regular contact with students and counseling services, too.
Though it was very challenging to create the systems and execute the logistics for the students’ arrival, TUJ staff involved in the process stepped up to assist the students. The staff were extremely impressed with the students’ persistence and willingness to overcome such difficult obstacles to make it to Japan. The restrictions on international students newly traveling to Japan are ongoing. However, TUJ is preparing to accept students for summer semester, which starts in May 2021. TUJ staff are anxious to assist more overseas students once the temporary immigration restrictions are lifted.

Chris Moretz is one of the students who had to change his flight due to the new border control measures announced in December. Students with visas were allowed to enter Japan but had to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure. Chris flew from New York to Los Angeles to meet his connecting flight to Tokyo. However, the scheduled arrival of his flight would be three hours after the 72-hour limit, so he was not able to board the flight to Tokyo. Instead, he found a COVID-19 test facility in Los Angeles, was re-tested, and fortunately was able to catch a flight the next day. Chris safely arrived on December 27 and is now taking spring semester courses.

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