By John Roman Aquino
Have you ever dreamed of living and studying in Japan? Have you ever thought that it is impossible for you to achieve this dream because of financial and other problems? Then worry no more! These tips will help you to be driven and do your best to achieve your dreams!
This post is categorized into three parts: BEFORE going to Japan, DURING your stay in Japan, and LEAVING Japan. All of my tips are based from my own experience and I hope you would find these tips useful when you join exchange programs in Japan.
BEFORE GOING TO JAPAN
Be prepared. Japan is neither a paradise nor a heaven that you can enjoy in a year. I am sure that you will face a lot of difficulties, such as language barriers and culture shock that you will surely experience as an exchange student. It will be tough but the most important thing is you will learn from them. Study hard, respect other people and know your limitations. Knowing the Japanese language and culture would be a great advantage but you should also know how to apply in real life the things that you have learned. Do your best in everything and be cautious to other people’s behavior and things around you. As long as you know how things work in Japan, you will definitely enjoy your life here.
Research. This is related to my first advice because if you really want to study in Japan, you really have to do your research for the schools that you can enter, things that you can study, and how it will direct you to your future career path. Yes, participating in an exchange program just to have fun or just to gain experience is good but it would be better if you would think of your future first and how can these exchange programs will affect your career path. This is also a once in a lifetime opportunity and it would be really worth it if you will have fun and think of how it can help you make your choices in the future at the same time. Researching the school’s reputation and other benefits that you can gain if you participate in their exchange program will help you achieve your goals in the future. Aside from that, you may also look for the scholarships that are available to avoid spending a lot of money.
Below are some tips on how to look for a scholarships:
1. Partner Universities
If you are an undergraduate student, your university definitely has a wide connections with universities abroad that can serve as a stepping stone for you to join exchange programs. Upon application, you should inquire at your international affairs department of your university for information regarding scholarships. Most of the universities abroad offer scholarships because it is a way for them to attract international students and a way to establish a good relationship with their partner universities. The more exchange students that they can send, the more opportunities for the school to make more programs with their partner universities.
If you are looking for a full scholarship with paid airfare and stipends included, then the Japanese Embassy is the right place to apply for. The Japanese embassy has a lot of programs for research students and undergraduate students who wish to study in Japan with full scholarship. The process maybe tough because there are many exams and interviews as compared to other applicants who applied via internet or partner universities. The Japanese embassy offers the Monbukagakusho for Graduate/research students, JENESYS program for Undergraduate who want to participate in a short term (approximately 2 weeks) study tour program, and Japanese study program or undergraduate student scholarship program for undergraduate students who wish to study in Japan and to know more about their culture.
3.) ADB Bank
This scholarship provides monthly allowance, medical fees, full scholarship with monthly allowance and housing and books expenses. However, the standard of this scholarship is so high that only few selected excellent students can be recipients. Some courses for MA and PhD, especially business related courses, also require working experience before application. (link)
4.) Direct application via Internet
-This is the fastest method that you can do to study in Japan. All you have to do is pass your requirements directly to the university in Japan and to wait for the results of the application. However, based from experience, scholarships are harder to get in this method because there are many applicants all over the world. Also, fixing you own requirements and documents once you get accepted is way harder unlike other institutions such as the Japanese Embassy or your home university helping you to fix and deliver the necessary requirements and documents for admission.
Fix your documents as early as possible. This is one of the most crucial parts of this advice because documents are really important when you apply to study abroad. Please do not forget any documents required before submission and always remember that DEADLINES ARE DEADLINES. In most cases, there are no negotiations with the Japanese university when you forget to submit your requirements on time.
DURING YOUR STAY IN JAPAN
Have fun. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity so take every chances that you can get for you to travel a lot of places, to make new friends and to join a lot of activities. It will not just let you interact with many people and make friends all over the world but it will let you open your mind and let them see you what kind of life they are living. You will feel and experience their culture. You may also share you own culture with them and you may inspire them to achieve their dreams. At first it would be overwhelming but it is a way for you to be open-minded and to improve your social skills. Being friends and having fun with international students from all over the world is a good opportunity for you to share our own Filipino culture so that they can also appreciate and know more about our country.
Join circles, seminars or any other cultural activities. You must interact with your fellow Japanese students at your university. Since you’ll be living in Japan, it is right and respectful to learn their culture as well in order for you to have a good reputation and strong connections with the Japanese people. This is also a chance for you to expand your knowledge to understand why other people behave in that manner and a chance for you to widen your perspective and be open minded to all the possibilities that can happen in this world. Experiencing different types of cultures, especially Japanese culture, is a once in a lifetime opportunity and this will not only let you know other people but it will let you also know more about yourself as you discover a lot of possibilities that you can do in your exchange program.
Circles at a Japanese university are really fun because you might meet people with the same interests as you. You can discuss more about your interests and this is also a chance to build your networks and make new friends. Seminars in Japan are not orientations where you see a speaker that talks about a certain topic. In Japan, seminars or “zemi” are group study sessions conducted by a professor together with students with the same majors who are interested in a certain topic. They do presentations about a certain topic and this can be their thesis topic once they reach their senior year. This is also a good chance for you to know how Japanese people work on a certain project. Lastly, in every university, there are cultural activities that will let you interact with other international students such as festivals. You have to join these activities especially if you are a first-timer here in Japan.
Travel. Japan is obviously a great place to travel. Appreciate every place that you go to because not everyone has a chance to go to Japan and experience Japanese culture as an exchange student. Experience is the best thing that you can have that others cannot take away from you. Take photos of every moment you experience so that you have something to share to your loved ones when you go back to your home country.
Part time Jobs. Having a part time job in Japan do not bring negative connotations to other people and instead, it will serve as an advantage for you when you apply to companies after graduating. Of course your main priority is to study but if you have a lot of spare time, having a part time job is one of the best choices that you could ever make. In Japan, almost all of the Japanese students have part time jobs for them to gain working experiences that they need when they start working in a company. It is not a matter of being poor but it is a good opportunity for them to grow as students and shakaijins (people that are part of the working society in Japan) in the future. If you can speak Japanese, there are many part-time work for you to choose from because working in Japan requires a lot of guts and effort to speak in Japanese. In case you don’t speak Japanese, there are also other options for you choose from but they are only limited. Mostly, only eikaiwa (English-speaking cafes or schools) or English centers accept international students who do not speak Japanese.
BEFORE GOING BACK TO YOUR HOME COUNTRY
Study hard and think of a career path. This is true in all cases especially when you are an exchange student in Japan. Being an exchange student builds up good reputation when you apply in companies. If you are interested in studying Japanese language, participating in an exchange program can give you opportunities to learn more about the Nihongo and can also lead you to a career goal that is related to language. It is better to have a career goal that is related to Japanese management, Japanese language, or international relations if you want to be an exchange student because this program is an advantage for you to learn more about it. Make sure that once you’ve already decided to participate in an exchange program, you are prepared to explore and find that things that you want to do in the future. Participating in an exchange program does not mean having fun always but it is also a good chance to explore and to find yourself and the things that you want to do in the future.
Fix your visa, passport and luggage way ahead of time. YES and I mean, WAY AHEAD OF TIME. This is the reason why some exchange students are having troubles whenever they are about to leave Japan. Some of them lose their passports before leaving Japan and some of them do encounter a luggage problem where they can’t put all the things that they own in their luggage. That is why delivering your excess things that you bought in Japan to your home country and fixing your luggage way ahead of time are really important.
I hope that my pieces of advice and tips can help you make a decision to apply for a study program in Japan. Yes, it will be a tough decision but living in a different country can make you more mature and independent as you strive hard to learn more about yourself, other people’s culture and the lessons that you are yet to experience. The most important advice that I can give you is passion. Once you know what your passion is and you decide to do it in Japan, then those tips are going to be easy for you to achieve. When you have the passion in you, you will be determined to work hard for you achieve your goals in life. I do believe that if you have good attitude and hard work, you can be the person you want to be and you will become successful in your journey.
Edited by Marielle Villar & Kaye Romero
Illustration by Chichi Romero