The University Experience in Japan

A few months back, I nervously waited the announcement of who got accepted in the college of International Relations at Ritsumeikan, and that was not a pleasant experience. Up to that point I had been hitting many different roadblocks trying to get accepted into the university, such as a matter of my school track record (I not attended any formal school for at least 8 years up to that point), to even having to prove that I spoke English. Although it was challenging, it all came to fruition when at 10 am to results were released and I saw my application number on the accepted list. I was so ecstatic that I yelled “Hell Yes!” at my Japanese language school class which was quickly followed by a “Quiet!!” from the Sensei. From there, I knew that I was about to embark on a once in a lifetime experience.

Fast-forward to present day, I had completed my first term of university and just like how I guessed, I was something that I had never experienced before. With the college of international relations, its special because its taught in both English and Japanese, resulting in a mixture of both Japanese and international students. First years are all grouped together depending on their English speaking and writing abilities, and from there they have core classes that they all share together for the first year. For my group, it’s a even split of international and Japanese students, but ethnically wise I’m the token of the group being the only westerner while the rest come from various countries from Asia. It’s a unique experience do to all the different experience and culture that the group can bring into discussion. Being from America, I have always had experienced a class setting of multi-ethnic students, but due to all of them being nationally American, they all thought in a way that an American would. This was the first time that I had to interact with people who wouldn’t understand the American way of thinking, or me not understanding their way of thinking; and for me, it is an interesting but at times infuriating experience.

 Its not just my fellow classmates that were a fascinating experience, but the classes as well. My first month in I quickly realized that Western classes and Asian classes have a completely different style of teaching. For me growing up, the textbook was more used as a reference book, meaning that we would read to get the topic of that day’s lesson, but after that we wouldn’t use it anymore. Instead we more focus on the critical thinking aspect, or the asking of why does it happen or why did someone do thing, and it was more of a powwow rather than a actual classroom. Coming to Japan, classes are completely different style, more favoring the lecture or seminar style. I remember my first day of my geography class and the professor had us all introduce ourselves, which was immediately followed by “That’s the last time you will speak in this class”, which took me by surprised. Asian style classes are more note taking orientated, which made me realize that I am a horrible note-taker. Following that class, I actually bought a book on how to take better notes, which from an American point of view is hilarious and asinine, but I’ll admit I take much better notes.

 Currently I am just starting in my second term of my first year in my freshman year, so I still have a lot to experience and a lot of things that I don’t even know about, but if its anything like how my first term was, I cannot wait for it.

By Christian