One Step Ahead

Whether you are thinking of spending your university years in Japan or you are about to start, you would not want to get ahead of yourself. How about being one step ahead instead, so you are ready to enjoy and maximize your student life experience fully? From picking your classes and dodging sketchy part-time job offers, here is a short list of your do’s and don’ts to have a happy, fulfilling university life in Japan. 

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. Depending on the number of credits a class will need, say if it is two credits, this class will meet once a week for one period. As for four-credit classes, they will either meet two times a week for one period or meet once a week for two straight periods. This may also vary depending on the university, so make sure to double-check your student handbook or course guide materials. 

Another thing you should take into consideration in choosing your classes is comparing your options for the same time slot. Some classes that you will be interested in taking might overlap, so you need to look into the details and compare which will benefit you more. Allot time to thoroughly check the class syllabus, the requirements of each class, required textbooks, and so on. Aim for a balanced classwork demand that will fit into your week to avoid having a difficult time during exam seasons. You will thank yourself later for this. 

DON’T leave free periods in between your classes. This may seem tempting to do if you want to have extra time to prepare for your next class, or have a longer break before or after lunch break, but this is actually counterproductive. It is advisable to have your classes in one go, and start your day early or end early. You will have more time to accommodate after-school study time, extra-curricular activities, or part-time job.

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 other 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 uninterrupted 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 also 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! This cannot be stressed enough by most professors. It seems like a general rule as a student, but this slips off people’s minds more often than not. 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 that will indicate when papers or homework are due, and frequently update these deadlines. You should also allot a week or two in advance to revise for your exams. If you are pressed with time, just make sure that you always do your readings, so you don’t 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! Student life in Japan does not end when your classes do. It is actually common to see Japanese university students take part in student organizations, better known as “circles.” The more serious and busy counterpart of the circle is “club activity”. 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).

There are numerous student organizations in each university, and some are also open for students from different universities, which is a great way to expand your connections outside your university.

Part-time Jobs and Internships

DO find part-time or internships that suit your interests or will make you learn 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 to go to work or an internship could make your grades suffer if done often. You are here to make the most out of your student life; it is called part-time job for a reason, and not part-time school.


DO stay informed or consult the scholarship office about the information on scholarships offered by your university or by the government. There are mainly two types of scholarships: merit-based and loan-based. Qualifications and requirements vary for each scholarship. Combing through the stacks of information and instructions can be tedious, but you can ask the office for assistance in doing so. 

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 the burden of having to pay tuition fees and other school expenses so make sure you do not pass up on this opportunity.

Future Prospects

DO have a sense of what your post-graduation plans are. 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. Say if you were to work in Japan, Japanese Language Proficiency will be necessary to navigate the professional field as most employers will require you to have the N1 of the JLPT. The process of job hunting, which is something most students do before graduating, will vary depending on what your career plans are. Major Japanese companies such as Nissan have three-day internships for students that give them insight into the company, engage in field work, and create opportunities for networking that can boost their chances if they apply for the company.

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 busy with their own job-hunting or internships before you start planning out what you want to do after graduating. 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. Other tips to help you get by is sit in open-course classes, attend job hunting orientations, sign up for volunteer work, expand your network of friends and seniors, and get acquainted with professionals in different fields.  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.