One Step Ahead

Studying abroad in Japan can have a lot of great upsides. You will get to experience another culture, get immersed in the language, and meet a lot of new people. However, there will be times you may undergo culture shock and feel lost with your schoolwork and life here. How about being one step ahead instead, so you are ready to enjoy and maximize your student life experience to the fullest? From picking your classes to dodging sketchy part-time job offers, here is a shortlist of your do’s and don’ts to have a happy, fulfilling university life in Japan. 

Without further ado, let’s dive right into details of planning your study abroad trip.

Class Schedule

Keep your schedules organized with a planner and sync schedules on your devices.

DO plan your class schedule carefully. So what should you take into consideration when building your timetable? 

First, check the syllabus of the classes you are interested in. You might need to have a look at the class’s requirement, description, and the professor before deciding whether to register for that class or not. You should also try to compare your options for the same time slot. Some classes that you are interested in might overlap, so you will need to look into the details and compare which class will be more suitable. Aim for a balanced classwork demand that will fit into your week to avoid having a difficult time during exam seasons. You will probably thank yourself later for this. 

If there are free periods between your classes, you can spend that amount of time on preparing for your next class or revising your assignments. Don’t make them wasted. Going to the library for self-study is an ideal option to save time!

Study Habits

Shelves after shelves of knowledge await at the library.

DO utilize the plentiful resources provided by your university. Your university has more to offer than its credible and knowledgeable professors. The university library is student-exclusive and an accessible resource for supplementary readings for your classes or if you want to indulge in some leisure reading. It is also the best place to have undisturbed study time. Your gateway to information does not end there; because even if you are away from your university, you can access the online database through your university’s website portal.
A tutor at Waseda’s Academic Writing Center

For other academic-related concerns, you should drop by your school’s academic advising office or your department’s office. Most departments offer tutorials for classes like Statistics or English, which are taught by upperclassmen or graduate students.  Some of the tutorials require you to register or make a reservation in advance, so inquire at your department’s office on how you can sign up for it. 

If you’re the kind of student who loves studying in cafes, you’d be surprised to know that certain cafes around university campuses are exclusive for students. Most will require you to register; but in exchange for this, you get free wifi, free beverages and snacks, and access to career-building opportunities because the cafe is sponsored by alumni and professionals seeking to connect with university students. Popular cafes that can be found around major universities include Shiru Cafe and Hello Visits, to name a few. 

Hello, Visits Cafe

DON’T underestimate your schoolwork or leave submissions to the last minute! Some tips to help you keep yourself on top of your workload is to make sure you constantly check your class schedule or syllabus. Create a calendar or a to-do-list that will indicate when papers or homework are due, and frequently update these deadlines. You should also spend a week or two in advance to review for your exams. If you are pressed with time, just make sure that you always do your readings, so you will not end up cramming a whole semester’s worth of studying in one night.

Extra-curricular Activities

DON’T waste away your student life with your head between the pages of a textbook! In every university, there will definitely be a range of clubs and organizations for you to participate in. Some are also open for students from different universities, which is a great way to expand your network outside your university. You can also search for student youth circles or voluntary activities in the city you are living as well. Whichever you choose to join, they will provide you with an opportunity to make friends, develop a new skill, share your interest with others, and also practice your Japanese. However, be wary of student gatherings that are infamous for going out for drinks only. They are called “drinking circles” or (nomisa).

Part-time Jobs and Internships

Did you know that many students can find internship opportunities related to their major in their first year in Japan?

Did you know that many of them have already gained a bunch of invaluable skills that will benefit them in their future jobs while many other students are still struggling with balancing their life?

I believe that it is because they must really understand the importance of finding opportunities for themselves, so they have already started on researching on internship opportunities while studying at school.

DO find part-time or internships that suit your interests or will help you cultivate valuable skills that will prove to be useful for your future career. Take Doorkel for example as an informative source for information on internship opportunities.

Doorkel Internship provides information about internship opportunities available in Japan. Doorkel has partnered with companies from various industries – from tech startups to real estate companies. For non-native Japanese speakers, the platform has internships that do not require Japanese proficiency.

DON’T let your part-time job or internship get in the way of your school life! Skipping or cutting classes for a part-time shift or an internship could make your grades suffer. Always bear in mind that you are here to acquire knowledge, gain specialized skills to prepare for a highly-skilled career in the future, not to earn a living by doing a part-time job. Always be aware of the long-run benefits instead of the short-run one.


DO stay informed or consult the academic affairs office of your school about the scholarships available. Qualifications and requirements vary for each scholarship. Also, remember to check the deadlines for each scholarship and sketch your application schedule to make sure you will not miss any step.

DON’T be discouraged from applying for scholarships! Whether you go to a university with a massive student body or a small-scale college, whether you are a four-year student or a one-year exchange student, there are plenty of scholarships that you can be eligible for. It can immensely help with reducing your financial burden so make sure you do not pass up on this opportunity.

Future Prospects

DO have post-graduation plans
Whether you are going to work in Japan or return to your home country, you have to think about what you can or want to do after finishing your university studies. This should help you in creating the course of your future plans; because choosing to work in a Japanese company or opting to go abroad will require different sets of skills.

If you plan to stay in Japan after graduation, Japanese Language Proficiency will be necessary to navigate the professional field as most employers will require you to have the N1 of the JLPT. You will need to know a sufficient amount of Japanese in order to apply for certain jobs and even to just get around in the country without a problem. That is why, before you start packing your bags, it is strongly recommended that you familiarize yourself with the language. 

If you plan to put effort into the “intimidating” process of job hunting in the companies in Japan, you will definitely need to consider what your career plans are. Do you want to work for an “authentic Japanese” enterprise or an international one? Depending on your plans, you will need to get yourself accustomed to the working environment in Japan as there will be significant differences in what kinds of companies you are planning to apply for.

Boston Career Forum is one of the largest job fair events hosted by major cities across the globe.

An annual job-hunting fair to watch out for is the Boston Career Forum , which is one of the largest career forums in Japan that target Japanese-English bilingual applicants. University students in their 3rd year attend this event in Tokyo, and some even travel all the way to Boston.

DON’T wait until everybody else is already busy with their own job-hunting or internships to start planning your career plans. Some students start buffing up their resumes as early as their freshman year. They spend time networking with alumni, professionals, organizations, and so on, that will aid in their job-hunting process.

The Secret to Getting Ahead is Getting Started

Although you want to make the most of your university life by enjoying being a student for most of it, you should also constantly work towards reaching your future goals and building your career plans. In short, keep yourself open to different opportunities that are only available to you while you are a student.  There is so much to look forward to your school life in Japan as an international student, so go ahead and prepare for what is yet to come your way. Nothing is impossible unless you take action right now!