What is it like to be a university student in Japan? First of all, entering a Japanese university is not very easy for most students in Japan. It would cost a huge amount of time and money and even relationships. Time spent in preparing for the entrance exam is great and is of the top priorities. Some high school lovers even break up with their partners just to focus on their review and test preparation. Juken or entrance examination is a big thing in Japan. This could make or break their future. Parents spend money on juku or cram school (beginning elementary up to high school) to help their kids enter a reputable university. But once you get over the hard and difficult fence, and successfully get yourself a university ID, life gets easier. I was once told by a Japanese friend that entering a university is hard, but graduating is easy.
What does an average university student’s life look like? Let’s take a peek.
Classes in the university are usually held once, twice or thrice a week depending on each department or course programme. When I was an international student in one Japanese university, most of my classes are held once a week and, one was held twice a month. There are day schedules and evening schedules. Schedules vary from university to university. First period usually starts at around 8:30 in the morning with the last period ending at around 5:30 in the afternoon. Evening schedules usually start at 6:00 until around 8:00. Students can choose to have as much/less subjects to take.
One thing I observed about Japanese university students is that 95% belongs to a certain club. Club is a big part of a student’s life. Dance Club, Choir, Acoustic, Brass Band, Soccer Club, Baseball Club, Volleyball Club (name all sports, maybe they do have a club for that) Cooking Club, English Club. I can’t name them all! They are so into clubs that one student can be a member of more than one club. They are so into it that sometimes they attend club meetings and rehearsals more than regular classes. One time, our professor was so surprised that almost half of the class were not around. They were in their club doing some rehearsals for an incoming school event. During opening ceremony (held in April), club members crowd the university gates, hallways and grounds to invite incoming freshmen students to become a member of their clubs. The way they invite newcomers turns the scene into a festival or sometimes a supermarket on sale.
Arubaito is the Japanese term for part-time jobs. Most of the university students have part-time jobs. Convenience stores, ramen shop, udon shop, restaurants, supermarkets, juku or cram school are the usual places where they do arubaito. An unofficial small survey I did in my university showed that the income students get from their arubaito goes to generally support themselves in terms of paying bills, providing themselves basic needs (for their “hitori gurashi” or living by themselves), shopping (mostly for women), travel and socializing (like nomikai-drinking party and karaoke).
Being a university student in Japan can be fun and busy for those students who are dynamic and pro-active; it can be boring and lousy for those who are lazy and unmotivated. The choice is yours.