Practical Considerations to Study in Tokyo
My two previous articles (“Why Japan” and “Life in Tokyo University”) accentuate the choice of studying in Japan but do not answer many pragmatic questions that prospective students might have.
Contrary to some countries that are providing scholarships mainly for graduate students, Japan has a tremendous amount of private or local government organizations that provide funding for undergraduate students. From JASSO website, it is written that there are 124 private organizations providing scholarships with average of 82,800 yen per month. The living cost in Tokyo might not differ much from those in other big cities of the United States or European Union, but the tuition fee is much cheaper comparing to the amount needed for US universities. For example, University of Tokyo undergraduate’s tuition fee is around 6,000 US dollar per annum in average. Furthermore, I provide you three links below about private and local government scholarships as a reference for all students.
Choosing a major
I encourage everyone to consider his/her prospective major while choosing their study destination. In Japan’s case, consider that Japanese teaching methodology tends to be more passive, with less open Q&A sessions. This consideration is especially important if you are thinking about studying humanities or majors that deeply value persuasive or argumentative skills, such as law or business.
However, consider as well that Japanese society is actively engaged in fields such as natural sciences and engineering. Previously, Japan was famous for developing a great amount of consumer products, robots (or their parts) and automobiles. Recently, I saw interesting news about a Japanese company that aims to build a space elevator in 2050. Sometimes it is somewhat vague when researching for recent areas that Japanese scientists contribute to the most, − considering new information usually has a more confidential nature. Some students that I casually interviewed answered different areas from robotics, seismology, urban planning, even to East-Asian studies for the major that they thought most developed in Japan.
A quite interesting fact in Japan is that GPA does not matter for a pre-employment screening (but university name somehow does). Therefore, the environment is far from competitive. The society values a person who works hard, regardless of the field. You do not have to be as active as possible in class if you do not value it; you are free to study in any way you want for the sake of learning itself. This environment works for me in shaping myself, since I can do things I really treasure, without caring about other worldly benefits. On the other hand, as international students we should be ready to naturally stand out in this unicultural society.
Karina Jayaputra is currently studying at the University of Tokyo. She is a sophomore majoring pharmaceutical sciences. She is pursuing her study in Japan under the Japanese Government Scholarship (MEXT).