Tips for Foreign Students Living in Japan

Feb 18, 2018

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. However, coming alone to a foreign land with a different culture, language, and rules might be hard. The multiple differences in Japan are very challenging, however, I will give you tips on how to live and survive in Japan.


Japanese language skills

First and the most important is the Japanese language. I strongly advise, before coming to Japan, to learn some survival Japanese phrases or as much of the language as you can. Communication in Japan is mostly in Japanese, although some people and websites will tell you that most Japanese people speak English, however, if you happen to need help on the street, the chance of getting someone who understands English is only ten out of hundred. I clearly remember my experience when I first arrived in Japan. Being a little bit confused with the address of my university, I was frustrated and almost got lost. Tokyo International University is in Saitama, Kasumigaseki. Meanwhile, there is another Kasumigaseki station in Tokyo. I was already in Kawagoe (5 minutes away from Kasumigaseki station in Saitama) and asked a passerby for the 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 in the Japanese language) 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 several times like I did.”

Another important reason to know the 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. You will still need to communicate with other people when you go out of 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 conditioner) you put on in winter all day due to the excess cold amounts and a gas bill turns out 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 lead to spending so much money that any student who’s worried about their tuition fees and money for books won’t feel calm. 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 your room up with a furniture and other appliances. In case you do not like used items like me, you can buy some cheaper stuff on Amazon and the hundred yen stores.

Some stores also change and set low prices when it’s 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.


Parttime working hours for students and time for studies

It’s always stated that the working hours limit for students is 28 hours. That’s why most students think that it would be better if they make more money in order to pay for their tuition rather than study. Some students work even more than 28 permitted hours. 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 couldn’t study well during that week. This law exists in order to protect foreign students.

Overworking has many disadvantages. first of all, it’s not good for your health. 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 about how to get the tuition fee rather than studying.  Only once, have I experienced working hard at the part-time job, while at the same time I could still achieve getting good grades at the school. The secret is the balance between work and studies. I made sure to finish my assignments every Friday night and spend at least one day of the week on all the courses for that semester. I studied while on a train, in a bus and everywhere including while at the toilet. This is to say that, it’s still possible to get good grades while working hard, however, do not break the law because you might get caught and got sent back to your home country immediately.


With these tips, I hope that you will be able to improve your life in Japan as a foreign student. I hope you will avoid things that might get you in trouble, try to spend money wisely and study hard to get good grades at school.

Enjoy your stay in Japan and have a wonderful experience.





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