Meet Aretha, a 27 year-old student who came to study in Japan from the Philippines! She has studied at the First City Providential College in
San Jose del Monte, Philippines, and her hobbies include traveling, hiking, and baking!

Back in the Philippines, Aretha worked at the National Economic and Development Authority, which is the socioeconomic planning agency of the Filipino government. As part of the agency’s human resource development plan, she was encouraged to pursue professional studies in development as a means to further develop her technical skills. Aretha is currently on a study leave to attend the Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan, where she plans to attain a master’s degree under the Graduate School of Economics.

Read on to find out Aretha’s story of studying in Japan from the Philippines!

Why did you choose to study in Japan?

According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, Japan is the highest ranked Asian country in the number of Filipino students who go to study abroad. So why do so many Filipino students choose to study in Japan?

In Aretha’s case, the overall high level of Japan’s academic standards in conjunction with its accessibility was a major factor in her decision.

“I choose to study in Japan because it is near my home country, the Philippines. It will be easier to go home and be with my family, and to be visited by family and friends.”

Indeed, flights from Manila to Tokyo take only around four hours and typically cost less than flights to other parts of the world. For Aretha, Japan became the perfect choice to expand her professional skills, all the while enjoying efficient and attainable student life!

What was the most difficult part of starting a life in Japan?

For most Filipino students, one of the major obstacles in pursuing higher education in Japan is the Japanese language. This was also Aretha’s case.

“The most difficult part of starting life in Japan is the language barrier. For instance, I had a hard time purchasing a sim card as I have to look for a service provider who can explain to me the details of the sim card packages in English.”

How did you overcome these difficulties?

While the language barrier can seem intimidating, Aretha gives a thoughtful insight that says otherwise.

“It was not hard to overcome this difficulty, as Japanese people are very helpful and accommodating when you need help on something.”

Aretha in Nagano, Japan for a ski trip with Waseda’s Intercultural Communication Center

This may be because of Japan’s unique Omotenashi culture, which emphasizes the extended hospitality of service providers towards their customers. Thus, most information centers and their employees will provide wholehearted assistance for foreign students struggling to understand the Japanese language!

And for those who wish to study the Japanese language in the Philippines prior to their arrival in Japan, there are Japanese language schools, such as the Japan Foundation Manila and the Unmei Nihongo Center, to give you a head-start in your study abroad experience. Other options include extramural language courses offered by universities such as those at the University of the Philippines.

Are you part of an international student aid program?

“Yes, I am part of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Knowledge Co-Creation Program under the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Global Leadership Program. Said program caters to young and middle age bureaucrats, academicians, and leading human resources in various fields of targeted countries, specifically, professionals who will influence policy-making processes of their countries and contribute to socio-economic development. It also aims to promote cooperation for sustainable development in the world.”

For anyone interested in this program, Aretha provided a brief outline of the application process.

“I applied through my office, and they selected the candidate to be nominated to the said program. JICA then selected and approved the nominated candidates. Simultaneously, there were university matchings among the selected candidates, and the candidates needed to follow the university’s application procedure. It took about 8 months for this whole procedure.”

Favorite part of student life in Japan?

“My favorite part of student life in Japan is that I get to be on leave from my work. It is great to go back to school again and make new friends. In addition, I get to explore Japan on weekends and school breaks.”

Aretha likes to travel, and Japan seems to provide endless options for sightseeing and tourism!

Brief outline of a typical day?

While the daily schedule can vary from day-to-day, Aretha gave us a general outline of a typical day.

“If I have a first period class at 9:00AM, I wake up at around 7:30AM to have enough time to eat breakfast, prepare for school, and walk to school. I usually eat lunch at the canteen, then go to the Master’s study room in the basement of Building 3 to do school work.”

Interests in any club or circles?

“I am part of the Association of Filipino Students in Japan (ASFJ). Said group is like my family and support system here in Japan. They give tips on everyday living as well as recommendations on places to visit!”

Founded in 1954, the Filipino Students in Japan assists Filipino students like Aretha who have come to Japan to pursue higher education. They aim to help these students to blend in with the Japanese lifestyle, all the while promoting the development of social awareness and national consciousness among its members.

Any Japanese foods or places that you recommend?

“My favorite Japanese food would be korokke, which is a deep-fried dish originally related to a French dish, the croquette,” Aretha adds that she like traditional sushi as well!

Rather than expensive and distant trips, Aretha recommends enjoying the various attractions nearest to her. “For cheap travels, you may avail the JR East Tokyo Wide Pass to explore Tokyo and the surrounding Kanto area, such as Karuizawa, Kawaguchiko, Nikko, and Gala Yuzawa.”

A final word of advice for students in the Philippines who are contemplating whether or not to study in Japan?

“Studying in Japan is wonderful. Go for it!”

Thank you, Aretha, for sharing your experience of studying in Japan from the Philippines! For any Filipino students interested in studying in Japan, I hope this article provided some useful insights! And for finishing this article, Salamat!

If you are interested in reading more student interviews, see the following articles below:

Study in Japan from the UK: Zainab’s Story
Study in Japan from Singapore: Wally’s Story


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