One minute, you’re being taught one way, the next minute you’re being taught completely differently. You get dropped in the deep end and at times find it hard to stay afloat. This was how a lot of people I know felt when they started studying Japanese at a University in Japan.
In my last article I talked about the 5 things that students should know before moving to Japan. In this article I will go into further detail about what daily classes are like.
I am a Japanese Studies student from The University of Sheffield, England. I came to Japan for a year abroad as part of my course, and I have just graduated from Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto. When I got here I noticed that there were a few things different here than back in the UK when it came to University. This post will be specific to the differences that I myself have encountered. However, depending on where you attend, it might be completely different to my experience.
Before class had even started, we had orientation. It was fairly like freshers week back home. Except here it involved a lot less socialising. First thing we did was have an entrance exam. It wasn’t that they were going to turn me away if I failed it, especially because my University at home was a partner. However, for some students, who are applying to be full students there and just enrol as Japanese students would. I think that if they fail then they would not be allowed to attend the university.
I’m not completely sure about this but Ritsumeikan is a well-known private University and has a high reputation amongst Japanese people (especially in Kansai). I once heard a story about a young Japanese guy that had worked so hard for the exam, failed and ended up committing suicide. Very sad story, but I think it shows how serious some students are.
Anyway, for us the exam just placed us in the right level of class. Back home we didn’t have classes split in to levels, but then again back home there were a lot less students. I’d like to add that there were at least 3 times the amount of students here than back home. On the first day of class I was expecting to have everything explained, but instead we went straight into the teaching (And of course the tests). If we did really badly on these tests, then we would move down a class. And vice versa, a good mark = up a class.
Speaking of tests, at my Japanese university the pass mark is a great deal higher than it is in Sheffield. To get a pass (not specifically a good grade) in Sheffield it’s 40%, however here it is 60%. I felt as if I had to work twice as hard just to achieve the same mark. The marking system is a lot different back in the UK. With 1sts, 2:1’s, 2:2’s and 3rds. Over here, it’s all A B C and F. No D’s or E’s here. There are also no opportunities to retake exams if you fail. I think that is because they are in-class exams though.
Classes here were a lot more intense but I learnt a lot and had great experiences and I would recommend it to anyone within a heartbeat.
Classes here are 1hr 30 mins long. A brain exhausting marathon compared to the 50 minute classes back home. You do have the opportunity to learn more, however, sometimes I found myself unable to concentrate and soak things in during the last 10-20 minutes or so. Bad student haha. For the record, anything I missed I would restudy when I got home.
One of the biggest differences was of course the language. Back home, my Japanese teachers would speak in English to explain grammar points (speaking and listening class aside, as that was always in Japanese last year). Here however, everything… and I mean EVERYTHING is in Japanese. This can be hard, because it’s not as if the teachers dumb down their Japanese when speaking to you, plus they have no way of knowing what words you’ve learnt and what you haven’t. If you miss something it can hold you up and you can get lost with what is going on. Before the end of the first semester here, it was normal and I could understand pretty much everything that was being said (still had my moments of mass confusion however).
The price is another thing, tuition etc. I live in an apartment, so my rent is the same as that of a non-student, however the rent in student halls here is much much cheaper than back home. (My rent is about the same.) As I am on my year abroad, my tuition fees go to my home university, and they are half as much as I would usually pay. However, anyone who is not from a partner University has to pay full fees; which are expensive. For one semester it is ¥366,000 ($3,684 : £2,398) and for two semesters it is ¥732,000 ($7,369 : £4,796) . To me this is a lot of money. (I luckily entered University in England before the £9,000 fees began.)
Classes here were a lot more intense than most places back home. But either way I learnt a lot and had great experiences and I would recommend it to anyone within a heartbeat.