Attracted by Japanese culture and its polite, disciplined, and ordered atmosphere, a young warrior started her adventure from Vietnam to Japan.
B Trang came to Japan in 2014. She initially studied at an international school before enrolling as a student under the School of Social Sciences at Waseda University. Today, let take a look at B’s typical life as a university student in Tokyo!
Morning in the Dormitory
The dormitory that B lives in is called WISH IWaseda International Student House). There are about 800 Waseda students, including Japanese students and international students, who live together at WISH.
WISH has a number of extraordinary facilities such as a music room, fitness room, community lounge, and Japanese-style bathrooms. Student living areas are located from the 3rd to 11th floor, and there is a community kitchen on each floor for students to cook and interact with others. And the best part – it only costs 53,000 JPY per month for the dormitory fee. What a bargain!
B’s day often starts at 7:30 a.m. “I am trying my best to wake up early,” she says.
The first period for Waseda University starts at 9:00 a.m., and it usually takes B about 40 minutes to get to university. Every morning, she prepares a light breakfast for herself at the community kitchen – things like salad, cereal, and yogurt – and eats it before catching the morning train.
After finishing her morning classes, often comprised of Japanese language courses, B usually heads to Building 7 in the Waseda campus where students can buy boxed lunches – or in Japanese, Bentou. There are various choices and each lunch box only costs 480 JPY. Compared to nearby restaurants or convenience stores, the boxed lunches are a lot cheaper and tastier.
There is also a cafeteria at Waseda University. B sometimes go there to eat with friends. Her favorite it the beef bowl with eggs. B sometimes goes to nearby restaurants as well. There is a small hamburger steak restaurant that B enjoys as it is cheap and the portions are quite large. B says “I always like to find nice places, but I try to keep my expense less than 1000 JPY when I go out for lunch. Luckily, the restaurants near the school are not that expensive. And if I have time, I will also make my own Bentou the day before”.
During a long day at school, students can feel overwhelmed, tired or stressed. Therefore, B thinks it was very important to eat healthily and learn how to take care of her health. Balancing time for studying, working on projects, socializing while maintaining good eating habits is no easy task, but she believes that it can be done with some smart planning and organization. Although B cares a lot about her diet, she also enjoys sharing meals with her classmates in the morning and dormitory friends at night. “It’s the food that bonds people here.”
Free time: Assignments, circles
“If I have no classes in the afternoon, I will usually stay at school and work on school assignments or projects for the volunteering circle that I have joined in Waseda. The main goal of this circle is to raise funds for Vietnamese students in Vietnam. What I do are mostly translation and event planning for each project.”
Not only enriching her school life by joining school circles, but B has also partaken in a number of internships to gain working experience. B works at a media company, and her job is to write articles and do marketing research. Her work usually ends around 8:00 p.m., and she will head back to WISH and prepare dinner in the community kitchen.
Dinner at WISH
B said that she normally cooks Vietnamese food because they are simple and you only need to have one magical ingredient: fish sauce.
However, B also likes to have variations in her food and keeps her meals under a strict budget: “I cook every day. Cooking indeed costs less money; I normally spend 200 to 300 JPY for each meal’s food materials. Also, I like the Japanese supermarket a lot since you can have so many discounts there.”
If you visit a supermarket in Japan during the evening, you can find that discount stickers have been placed on a number of meat, seafood, and food choices. Sometimes they put on the Hangaku stickers, meaning half price in Japanese. Therefore, shopping during the later hours of the evening can save you a lot of money in the long run.
Not only academics but also spending time to relax and explore Japan
After dinner, B will usually just go back to her room. One of things she likes to do in the evenings is to watch talk shows and comedy. This helps her wind down and relax.
B is also a big fan of art; she works on her drawing on the phone and will post them on social media. Through art, B is able to express her life, feelings, and thoughts through her creative drawings. In addition, she likes to go work-out in the excellent fitness room and take a relaxing hot bath in WISH’s big Japanese-style bathrooms.
“I get bored really fast, so I often find new things to entertain me,” B enjoys art a lot, so she usually goes to Roppongi, Tokyo for art exhibitions, experiencing some of the uplifting moments of this city with her friends during the weekends.
Talking about her monthly expenses, B told me that she is actually a recipient of a full scholarship from Waseda University. The scholarship covers her four-year-tuition, and she gets about 113,000 JPY per month as a living stipend. She uses this money to mainly cover her dormitory fee. When it comes to personal spending, B uses around 100,000 JPY per month on food, transportation, entertainment, and miscellaneous expenses. B states “The internship which I am doing right now is a paid-intern, so it is still affordable for me to live in Japan,”.
Conclusion – B’s reflection on Japan
“I think Japan is an interesting place and I am optimistic about life here. I have been well aware of the social issues in Vietnam, as well as countries like Japan has to face. With my knowledge, skills, and network development by studying in Waseda, I deeply feel that the more I stay, there are more I can do in this country. I feel like I want to be here at a while and if possible, I would like to contribute back to Japan by social contribution.”
“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, to draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of life.” This phrase from the movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, reflects this young Vietnamese girl’s attitude towards her life in Japan. B is full of passion and strives towards every challenge. She feels and embraces every single moment in her life, and her journey is not yet ended. She will keep on going with grace, and courage, to find out her dream and to achieve it.
B is full of artistic spirit and is having an inspiring time studying in Japan. To check out her art work, see the URL below:
Thanks for the interview, B!