Graduate Schools in Japan For International Students
When talking about graduate school education, the first group of association popping up in your mind may be endless mid and final-term papers, scientific projects and tight schedules. Well, in Japan, these ideas are not enough to properly describe what graduate schools are like in this island country. For foreign students, it’s difficult to envisage the teaching pattern in such a nation veiling in oriental mysteries. Well, to help you form a picture, let’s have a look at how graduate students in Japan normally deal with their academic tasks at first.
Usually in Japan, graduate students are bond with their individual research topics all the way until graduation dissertation is completed. That is to say, students need to decide their research topic at the beginning of the graduate study, or even before the application process. For every student, the research project really matters a lot during the two or three years’ study, because the final research result is the most critical criterion in meeting graduation requirements. In most cases, students are supposed to present their research paper in front of well-dressed and serious-looking professors in order to gain their graduation. Sounds a little bit intimidating, doesn’t it?
Nevertheless, please don’t feel intimidated. No one can accomplish such a task at one stroke. Here is how the thing is arranged step by step in Japan. Graduate students usually take a weekly compulsory seminar (zemi), in which they meet with their supervisors and report about the weekly researching progress in detail. If students have any problems or are confused, professors will offer their immediate help.
According to my personal experience, in contrary to their exterior sternness, Japanese professors are actually kind and take delight in offering guidance. So don’t worry, if you study in Japan as a graduate student, you will never be alone.
Apart from the direct research support, students are also encouraged in taking relevant courses to broaden their professional horizon, or less popular courses as long as the contents are beneficial to their knowledge structures. Courses in graduate schools are different from those in undergraduate schools. Compared with undergraduate study, the class size in graduate schools is always smaller, which gives students more chances to speak for themselves in class activities. After-school tasks are heavier, which include not only difficult readings but also exhausting written reports. In this aspect, I think that graduate schools in Japan share similarities with their American counterparts, as they are both devoted to diligence, striving for serious reflection and achievement.
Now, after these descriptions, you may find studying in Japanese graduate school is not a relaxed job. Well, I don’t mean to frighten those who are looking forward to their academic life here in Japan, but well-established preparation is very helpful. So, if you intend to go to Japan for a master’s degree, be well-prepared and enjoy. After all, in this country, diligence always works.
Photo 1: Waseda university campus
Photo 2: Waseda university teaching building view