I am an Economics student, with an interest in Statistics and Data analysis. I recently started my graduate studies, attending a M.Sc. in Economic and Social Sciences at Bocconi University (Milan). The program offers the chance to spend a year at the Graduate School of Economics of Keio University (Tokyo), obtaining a Double Degree (i.e., a Master's Degree in Economics from both universities).
Last year (at the end of my Bachelor), I attended an exchange semester in Korea and I loved the experience. I was challenged by courses that I liked (mainly in Statistics) and enjoyed the exchange student life in East-Asia, with all that comes with it. After coming back to Italy, I am dreaming of moving to Asia for a longer period of time. I am currently studying Chinese and, if I have the chance, I would love to at least spend part of my future career in this part of the world. So I decided to apply for the Double Degree mentioned above.
Now, here comes my dilemma. Talking with my classmates (including those who studied at Keio in previous years), I have heard that attending a year in Japan would not be recommended for someone who wants to pursue a Ph.D. afterwards. The reason is, in short, that Japanese classes are easy compared to the school I currently attend. Apparently, Japanese students have an easy life during their uni years, and so spending a whole year there would disadvantage me when applying for a Ph.D. program in the future.
Although I am not sure about how I want to continue my studies, I also don't want to sabotage any potential application to a good Ph.D. program. Also because, I suppose, my area of specialization (namely, Statistics and Machine Learning) would require such a program for better future career prospects. I have thought of ways in which I could "keep up" with my classmates, e.g. self-studying anything that I would "miss out on" by going to Japan (making use of the good amount of free time I would have there). But would this convince an admission board?
Finally, this choice clashes with personal life as well, since my girlfriend lives in Korea and, by staying in Japan for a year, we would be able to see each other more frequently (we have talked about this). I feel like I am required to make a choice between my personal future goals (i.e. living in Asia) and my career ambitions (i.e. keeping doors open for the future).
I would like to know the advice of more experienced people on this.