Coronavirus in Japan and university students’ difficulties

As of June 22nd, Japan observed a lower number of coronavirus cases and the Japanese government also declared that the state of emergency was over, leading to the re-opening of many economic activities. However, since the coronavirus outbreak is still unpredictable in the coming months, many of the Japanese universities continue to be carried out online. The situation becomes worse for international students when many of them are still stuck in their countries and can not return to Japan, at least for the next three months. For those who are currently in Japan, the coronavirus has left thousands of university students in a chaotic situation as job offers for them have been withdrawn while the incomes of many of their parents have dwindled. According to a 2019 survey on 7,000 foreign students conducted by the Japan Student Service Organization (JASSO), 75.8 percent of the respondents had a part-time job, and 41.8 percent of those worked in the restaurant of those, 41.8 percent worked in the restaurant sector. Those workplaces are now reo but their opening hours are still restricted. For this reason, businesses are now cutting back on their operations, plunging students into a dire financial situation. For those who are about to graduate and currently looking for an internship or a job, this time is such a challenge for them.

The Problems:

There are many other challenges for Japanese university students to deal with during the coronavirus situation, and in this article, we will name a few.

Moving classes online

The unprecedented disruption has created a move toward online teaching that may advance a shift away from the traditional textbook-based classroom of Japanese universities. Despite its reputation as a tech powerhouse, Japan is not doing a good job at teaching online with digital technology. According to a 2018 survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Japan had the lowest percentage for which schools believed their teachers had the necessary skills to integrate digital devices in teaching (O’Donoghue, 2020). Consequently, the quality of teaching and learning has been significantly reduced.

Distance learning online education

As a case in point, for international students who are learning Japanese from scratch, they are struggling with “kanji” and online communications because, in this way, they are unable to improve Japanese language ability at a rapid rate. Vy, a scholar of the G30 program at Nagoya University, said that “For the last three months, I have only stayed at home and taken Japanese online classes. This is just like studying Japanese in Vietnam, lacking oral practice and exposure to Japanese environment”. Furthermore, attending online classes, especially with big-size classes, in which teachers have difficulties in controlling the class’s “actual” attendance, many students are discouraged from paying attention to the lessons as well.

No more real-life lessons

For many international students studying in Japan, losing their part-time jobs deprives them not only of income but also valuable opportunities to learn “real” Japanese and practice everyday conversation. Jane, a freshman at Tokyo International University, has just been cut off multiple working shifts at a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant. “The Japanese conversations I have with my Japanese workmates are completely different from the one that I learn in Japanese classes. I get to know more Japanese customs and learn more daily Japanese phrases while listening to customers that are not written in the textbooks”, she said.

Many Japanese university students can develop their Japanese language abilities and acquire practical experience with the Japanese working environment thanks to doing part-time jobs. However, the coronavirus outbreak in Japan has postponed this recently. Moreover, due to the complicated coronavirus situation in Japan, most of the extra-curricular activities on and off campus have been cancelled. Being unable to enter the campus, many students are struggling with printing papers and accessing the resources for their studies. They are also unable to make new friends and widen their networks, as well as receive real-life advice and consultancy from professors.

The Solutions:

Considering the difficulties that international students in Japan are facing, various measures have been taken to cope with the situation. 

Financial support 

  1. Japanese government’s cash handout for all students

Any international students living and studying in Japan are eligible to receive ¥100,000 cash handouts from the Japanese government. However, due to complicated office procedures to confirm Japanese expatriates’ residency and prevent making duplicate payments, it will take time to finish giving ¥100,000 to everyone.

  1. Emergency Student Support Cash Payments by JASSO

Foreign students, who are graduate and undergraduate students at universities, technical and vocational colleges, or any foreign students studying at Japanese language schools are eligible to receive ¥100,000 each under the government’s new cash handout program. “It’s most important for students not to abandon continuing and advancing their education. We’d like to quickly provide assistance to all,” said education minister Koichi Hagiuda. However, there is a limited number of students to be selected for this program, approximately 430,000 slots all over Japan. Students from low-income households exempt from residence tax will receive ¥200,000 each, and others ¥100,000. 

  1. Financial support from Japanese universities

Apart from the financial support from the Japanese government, many Japanese universities have already provided their students with a special cash handout. For example, Waseda University is offering ¥100,000 for each student, while Meiji Gakuin University announced that it will provide ¥50,000. The “Ritsumeikan University Emergency Student Support Fund” program already finished providing ¥90,000 yen to their selected students.

There are many uncertainties over how the world will look once this turbulent time is over. Much support has been given and will continue to be given to students, but the students themselves should also utilize this difficult time for some self-improvement.

What can Japanese university students do for self-improvement?

Online job opportunities

Many students would say that because of the coronavirus, they can’t find a part-time job. Many of them blame the coronavirus situation for their shortage of money but do nothing to resolve their problem. However, these students may not know that there are a myriad of job opportunities you can find on the Internet, such as a freelance writer or designer. International students in Japan can also search for job positions related to teaching English online. Here are the following websites that you can use to find your ideal intellectual jobs in Japan:

Virtual internships

Apart from the aforementioned jobs, having internship experience in your resume makes you become an outstanding applicant for any job application. Doing internships is no longer a choice but it is also considered as the gateway to a successful career path. In the age of coronavirus, You can also try out online internships, they have gained a lot of momentum among college students. Just like on-site positions, virtual internships can open a number of career doors and introduce students to real-life experience. They help them gain valuable professional experience and also understand the corporate work culture.

A highly recommended platform that offers internship opportunities for international students is Doorkel Internships. On this platform, there will be a frequent update on jobs available ranging from big companies to the recent start-ups with a wide range of positions available. You can also follow this Facebook group for the latest internship opportunities in Japan!

Enriching knowledge through online courses

Constantly enriching knowledge to nurture your mind is always of utmost importance. If you are looking to embark on some self-improvement while stuck at home during the coronavirus outbreak, you can consider some free online courses. Now could be the perfect time to enroll in a free online course to improve your specialized and interpersonal skills.

You want to learn to code?
You want to learn graphic design skills?
You want to improve your communication skills?

Then, Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are a perfect option for you! Top universities around the world offer MOOCs, and the total number of registered learners on the Coursera and edX platforms has reached more than 30 million. To help minimize the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on students, the Coursera community is launching a global effort to assist universities and colleges to deliver courseware online. You can find your desired courses here:

The University of Tokyo was the first Japanese university to offer MOOCs with two courses on the Coursera platform in 2013. As of April 2018, UTokyo has 14 courses available (seven via Coursera and seven via edX). More than 370,000 students from over 185 countries have enrolled in these courses. Especially during this difficult time of the coronavirus, you can register for courses on the University of Tokyo’s Coursera Website.

See other free courses on Coronavirus – Coursera Free Courses.

Ending message

The unexpected outbreak of coronavirus has put a strain on Japanese economic activities, followed by a huge number of difficulties faced by international students studying in Japan. However, there are government relief measures and online learning opportunities from various organizations and companies offered to international students.

Why not make the most of those resources and turn this difficult time to grow and do incredible things?

Good luck and stay safe!