Photo:Andrew Schwegler on Flickr

Being an Exchange Student at a Japanese University

Have you ever dreamt about studying at a university in Japan? During my studies at university I spent a year as an exchange student in Nagoya and would like to share my experience.

How Can You Study in Japan as a Foreigner?

Becoming an exchange student is easier than becoming a regular student as most of the times you do not need to pass any entrance exams and requirements for your Japanese level are not as high. In my case, my course of study at my home university included a year abroad by default and my university had agreements with several Japanese universities to accept exchange students. In case your home university does not offer that, you can still look for exchange programs of Japanese universities and apply on your own behalf.

How to Prepare for Studying in Japan

A visa application request

To study in Japan, you require a student visa. Usually, the university you study at will help you with the visa application. You will be requested to submit documents like a Japanese CV, a Japanese translation of your certificates, a visa application request, etc. The university will submit your application to the immigration office and will send you a Certificate of Eligibility (CoE). With the CoE you can go to the Japanese embassy in your country and request a visa.

You will also need to arrange flights and a place to stay. Some universities have special dorms for foreign students where you can stay for quite cheap, otherwise, you could look into furnished apartments or share houses. You are not required to have an overseas health insurance as you can join the Japanese health insurance, but some universities do request an overseas health insurance.

Studying in Japan

The university I studied at

What courses you take is different from university to university. The university I studied at had special Japanese language courses for foreign students and a few courses held in English. I did not choose too many as you had to pay a fee per course and I wanted to keep the costs down. Depending on whether you get credits at your home university for studying abroad you might have to take a certain number of courses.

I was lucky that I could live in a student dorm not far from university that was quire spacious for Japanese standards and very cheap.

The student dorm I stayed at from the outside and the inside

Financing Your Study in Japan

Photo by 副業ガイド on Pakutaso

Japan is one of the most expensive countries for studying abroad so financing can be difficult. I did receive a student loan from the government of my home country. Even if you were not eligible for a regular student loan, conditions might be different for study abroad in Japan so I would recommend researching your options.

I also received two scholarships, once from my home university and one from JASSO.

For most scholarships good academic results at your home university are a requirement.

If loans and scholarships are not an option for you or do not cover all your cost, you can also work part-time. On a student visa, you can request a work permit for 28 hours per week.

Would I Recommend Studying Abroad in Japan?

For me, the stay in Nagoya was a very positive experience. Staying in Japan definitely helps with learning Japanese as you get easy access to a lot of study material and you can practice talking and listening just by living your daily life. Also, in terms of live experience staying in a foreign country helped me learning how to deal with problems on my own. If you have the chance and financial possibilities to study in Japan, I can definitely recommend it. 

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