Studying in Japan has been a dream for many students around the world, high school, university, undergraduate and graduate students move to Japanese schools either as exchange students or full time students. The student life is not easy. Students have various challenges even in their home countries, let alone in a foreign land with different culture, language and rules. The multiple differences in Japan are very challenging, however, I will give you tips on how to live in Japan.
Japanese language skills
First and most important is the Japanese language. I strongly advice that before coming to Japan, you should learn some survival Japanese phrases or so much of the language as you can. The medium of communication in Japan is Japanese, although some people and websites will tell you that most Japanese people speak English, however, if it happens that you need help on the street, the chances of getting someone who understands English is only ten out of hundred. I clearly remember my experiences when I first arrived in Japan. With the address of my university a little bit confusing I almost got lost and frustrated. Tokyo International University is in Saitama Kasumigaseki, meanwhile, there is another Kasumigaseki in Tokyo, I was already in Kawagoe (5 minutes away from Kasumigaseki station in Saitama) and asked a passerby for train to Kasumigaseki and unfortunately he directed me to take the train to Kasumigaseki in Tokyo. I doubted and decided to ask another passerby and in the end I was saved from the stress. Two years after living in Japan and learning Kanji (the Chinese characters) I say to myself, “If I could read these characters written in the road signs and information board at stations, I would not have needed to ask for directions many times like I did.”
Another importance of knowing Japanese language is in order to be able to get a good part time job as a student or after graduating. Without Japanese language skills it is almost impossible to get a job. Many foreign students end up doing unskilled labor such as working in factories and restaurants which is very stressful.
Japanese language is very important for you as a foreign student even if your university may be offering courses in English language. You will still need to communicate with other people when you go out of the school or try to associate with the people in order to know them better. The best way to know a country and its people is to learn their language.
Cost of Living
It is clear that the cost of living in Japan is expensive compared to many other countries, however, if you spend wisely, you may find everything very affordable and convenient. If you live alone in an apartment, it means you will have to take the burden of all bills alone. I first lived in a shared room when I first came to Japan, therefore I never noticed the importance of a shared room, the heater (Air condition) you put on in winter all day due to the excess cold amounts to gas bill of about 8000 thousand per month, the light bill also goes up due to excess use during the winter about 5000 yen, In general, the rent, electricity, gas, water, phone bill and health insurance all amount to so much money that any student will worry about their tuition fees and money for books, however, sharing the room will reduce some bills, using library books will reduce money spent on books, in some cases if you prefer to buy books you could decide to sell them after you are done with using them for that semester.
I also advise that you could go for used items (second hand) if you want to fix you room up with furniture and other appliances. In case you do not like used items like me, you can buy some cheaper stuff on Amazon.co.JP and at the hundred yen stores.
Some stores also set the prices when it is late in the evening around 20:00, most of the goods that are set are only perishable goods such as bread, fish, meat and so on. If you shop at this time you will be able to save a lot of money.
Part-time working hours for students and time for studies
As it is always stated that the working hours for students is 28 hours, most students think that it would be better if they make more money in order to pay for their tuition rather than to study more. Some students even work more than the 28 hours that is permitted. Most students who were caught have been sent back to their home countries. I think that the 28 hours alone is already very stressful. I remember having worked only once 28 hours and I confess that I could not study so well in that week. This law is in order to protect the foreign students. Working too many hours has many disadvantages, first of all; it is not good for your health, so many students end up getting sick due to excess stress from work which affects their academics. Secondly, it affects your grades when you are lost thinking more of how to get the tuition fee. It was only once that I ever experienced working so hard at my part time job while at the same time I could still achieve very good grades at school. The secret is the balance between work and study. I made sure I finished my assignments every friday night and spent at least one day in the week with all the courses for that semester, I studied on train, in bus and everywhere including while in the toilets. This is to say that, it is still possible to get good grades while working hard, however do not break law because you may be sent back to your home country.
With these tips I hope that you will be able to improve your life in Japan as a foreign student, I hope you will be able to avoid things that may put you to trouble and know how to spend money wisely, how to study and make good grades at school.
Enjoy you study in Japan and have a wonderful experience.