Do you want to study in Japan? Yes, Everything about Japan is interesting! Do you think Japan is famous for its anime or manga? Food? Green tea? Technology? What else?
Why study in Japan?
Japan is a great country, which is attracts people from around the world for many reasons. One of the reasons is education. If you come to Japan, you will realize that Japan is not only attracting business people, due to its rapid growth of economy, but also for its education. More than 25% of students who have come to study in Japan are foreigners. There are many people who are interested in studying in Japan because of its top-tier universities, high quality system of education, high-end technology, and the good quality of lectures, of course! When you are walking through a university in Japan, you will see diversity throughout the campus; not only Japanese natives, but also people from around the world.
When I walked around a university in Japan, I tried to get in touch with some international students to ask them about what they experienced during their time in Japan. They were surprised and said “It was wonderful! But…”. I realized that something must have happened. After my conversations with international students, I tried to inquire about their experiences and was able to attain some highlights from their study time.
Firstly, some students felt that it was hard to keep in touch and communicate with Japanese people, because they were unable to speak each others’ language. Many people felt that language was the most constraining factor. Secondly, when at the cafeteria or some shopping areas, they could see few products using Romaji (Japanese written in English characters) or English words. Moreover, some cafeterias used a self-service system, where you could your item on a touch screen, insert your money, and give the receipt to the wait staff! After a short time, they would deliver your order. Lastly, some cafeterias required the customers to clear up their dishes and take them to a disposal area. This kind of experience could be unusual for international students, as it may not have existed in their country.
Last but not least, cultural differences are the main gap between international and domestic students. Some international students complained about their Japanese friends for their introverted personalities as well as collectivism behavior, as they tend to do many things in groups. This situation would occasionally happen during their study break, with Japanese students being in one group, and foreigners being in another. There were so many groups that it was rare to find them in unity!
Here are some simple phrases that may help you survive in Japan:
- Arigatou Gozaimasu: Thank you (This will be heard everywhere, even when you just go to a convenience store!)
- Sumimasen: Excuse me
- Gomennasai: I’m Sorry (It is the best way to say sorry to others)
- Onegaishimasu: Please (This is the polite way to express if you need some help)
- Ja mata: See you again
Every area of Japan has its own culture, habits and dialect. People from Tokyo have a different dialect and vocabulary compared to people from other parts of Japan, such as Kansai. It can be surprising, because they are not always familiar with other dialects within Japan. That’s why when you come to an area like Kansai, and move from Osaka to Kobe, you will hear some different words, but it’s all still part of the Japanese language!
Overall, it can be noted that communication is the main problem for international students. However, it is good to learn from direct experience. It is a great challenge to study abroad, especially in Japan. Culture and language differences are not impossible problems, unable to be met by international students. We can bridge the differences through mindfulness, empathy and understanding towards other cultures. These simple things will help you grow to love the place where you will be living. Never give up in any situation, and ganbatte kudasai (Keep your spirit and good luck)!