02 February 2013

Q & A: Studying in Japan as a private student (Part I)

Was thinking to write long-winded post as usual, but thought it could be a better idea to make it a Q&A style....

Q: What makes you chose to study in Japan at the first place?

When I’m done with my A levels exam in end of 2008, initially my plan was to consider settling down in local private institution, or maybe heading to Australia to further studies. What I planned to study was something related to humanities & culture, in another term, anthropology.

Then, out of sudden my father asked whether I’m interested to further study in Japan.

It was a tempting offer, because unlike my sisters, I did not consider studying in China at all. Maybe Taiwan? But either way, given the chance, why not give it a try, to the land of Far East.

Then, I reconsider my initial study plan, from humanities, to sound engineering/acoustics.
Ever since secondary school’s time I’ve been hooked up with music, so I thought it was another possible choice.

Q: Your brief history of staying in Japan.
I arrived in Japan in the early April of 2009.
Stayed at Arakawa district (荒川区) of Tokyo for a year while attending Japanese language school, Asian Students Cultural Association (アジア学生文化協会)  located at Bunkyo district (文京区).

Then in March 2010, I moved to Kawagoe (川越市) of Saitama prefecture to study in Shobi University (尚美学園大学). Tentatively I’ll be graduating in March 2014.

Q: How long did you spent to study the Japanese language?
I spent a few months studying the basics of Japanese before departing to Japan.
Followed by a year’s intensive course studying the the Japanese language school for full time.

Some other Japanese language schools usually took 1.5 to 2 years to complete the course, our’s only offered a year or 1.5 years’ course. The reason is because most other schools they teach at a lower pace and class ends early in the afternoon, allowing the students to have extra time to work part-time to earn money. Our school however, usually classes ended 2:30 pm the earliest, or up until 5pm depending on the subjects.

In the university, I picked up a lot conversational Japanese by talking to fellow coursemates and the lecturers. The Japanese language class in the university didn’t helped much though. The best way to improve the Japanese, is using it on daily basis.

Q: By just studying a year of Japanese language, is it enough to cope with your studies in the university?
Surprisingly, I didn’t find it that hard right from the beginning.
Perhaps I’m used to listening to the lecturer-style of speaking, but in contrast, I find it kinda hard to understand the conversation of normal students.

I’m not a genius or anything, so the credits belong to the lecturers who’re able to make complicated things easy to digest for someone who studied Japanese for just a year or so.

A lot of the terms are in katakana, which sounded similar to English so it definitely helps a lot in understanding the lessons better.

Q: How much do you spend a month? Can you provide a rough figure breakdown?
Normally I’d spent around JPY 100,000~120,000 per month.

The breakdowns:
Rent - 30,000 yen
Bills -  ~18,000 yen (electric, Internet, gas, water, mobile)
Food - ~30,000 yen
Transportation - ~10,000 yen
Other expenses - ~20,000 yen

Details of the breakdowns.

Rent - The part of Saitama I’m staying is still relatively cheaper compared to Tokyo. For the similar 1-room unit I’m staying,  it would have cost more than 50k yen in downtown Tokyo.

Bills - Depending on the season, the differences of electric and gas bill is quite significant.
Currently winter is the most expensive of all, as switching on the heater for longer time and hot shower would cost more. In summer however, the gas bill is almost minimum pay as cool shower took place of the warm water.

Food - Food took up quite a huge sum in the total expenses. Well to be honest, I don’t cook and I mostly had my meals outside. My room doesn’t have a proper kitchen and makes cooking a lot hassle and messier than I did back in the previous hostel I stayed.
So what I usually did is to visit local supermarkets later in the evening, say after 7pm to hunt for discounted food. Sometimes I’d had ramen or sushi as a treat.
But when I travel to downtown Tokyo or somewhere else, I’d like to try something different so I don’t mind stretching a little more on food.

Transportation - There are times that I needed to travel to downtown Tokyo quite frequently, but sometimes not at all. By average, I travel to Tokyo 1~3 times in a month.

Other expenses - I don’t spend much on clothings, so instead I take that money to spend it in Book Off, a 2nd hand goods chain. Mostly I’d spend on CDs and books, and when I couldn’t get what I want in the store, I’d head to Amazon for 2nd hand goods.

Q: How can you afford to cope with the expenses, especially when you’re a private student?
Thanks to the university, I’ve managed to scored full-waiver for university tuition fees for 2 years back to back, and now hoping that I can extend it for another year, which is my final year. It helps a lot as it covers 850k yen which is quite a huge sum of money.

I’ve tried to applied for a few scholarships, but wasn’t selected for those that offer 100k yen per month. But anyhow I settle down with the one provided by JASSO which gives up 48k yen per month.

And, I’m working part-time in the university somehow helps to cover up a little more especially on the daily spendings on food.

I did receive an amount of backup fund back home, but I try not to touch them unless I really needed it. I’d either use it to pay some other fees, or maybe use it for traveling.

To be continued...

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