By Ilaria Mancinelli

17 November 2017 - 16:58

'At every opportunity I found myself taking up the chance to travel.' Image  ©

Lin Mei used under licence and adapted from the original

We asked UK student Ilaria Mancinelli how her experience of studying in Japan compares to studying in the UK.  

Japanese is a challenging language to master 

When you open a Japanese book it is clear to see why this language is one of the most challenging to master. It has three different writing systems (katakana, hiragana and kanji) and features extensive use of Chinese kanji characters.

The opportunity to master a complex language and to experience a culture very different from own was the main reason I decided to study in Japan. I felt this would push me to do things I’ve never done before.

UK study offered me a lot of flexibility

I found that in the UK it is usually up to the student to manage their independent study time outside of their university timetable.

This kind of flexibility can allow students to take on a part time job, to help with paying the bills. I also found studying in this way allowed me to find a good balance between social life and studies.

Studying in Japan is intense...but rewarding

The main difference I noticed when I started my course at Keio University in Japan was the pace at which the course advanced. It was rapid. At first, this was intense. Weekly tests, long classes and high pass grades made this experience feel very different to the pace I was used to in the UK. International students from other countries also described their courses as intense compared studying in their home countries.

A lot of emphasis is placed on participation, attendance and punctuality in Japanese Universities, even to the extent that these contributed to twenty per cent of my final grade.

Initially this all came as a culture shock. However, I soon realised that Keio University is serious about students improving. Studying in this different education system allowed me to recognise the virtue of punctually and the benefits of going the extra mile.

My daily routine quickly changed

In Tokyo there is an array of restaurants all over the city, many of which are affordable and convenient. People tend to eat out rather than cook at home and it wasn’t long before this became part of my daily routine as well.

Visiting an onsen, a type of Japanese bath house, is a common way to unwind. I found a trip to my local onsen was the perfect way to relax after a day of intense study. I quickly became a regular visitor.

Of course, there are similarities 

At both of the universities I studied at I felt that help and support was provided for students when they needed it. Keio University ran a number of counselling and advice schemes on a variety of student issues which was really useful.

Another major similarity is the emphasis placed on extra-curricular activities like student societies and sport clubs. At both universities you could find a diverse range of activities to take part in no matter your interests. Societies ranged from Harry Potter fan clubs, snowboarding, Anime and martial arts like Kendo.

Japan changed my leisure habits

The public transport connections between cities are quick and efficient in Japan, particularly when compared to the UK. The cost of travelling by plane was also affordable which made travelling around the country straightforward.

At every opportunity I found myself taking up the chance to travel, often alongside other university or international students. I got the chance to ski in Sapporo, hike Japan’s tallest mountain and even try scuba diving in the crystal clear waters of Okinawa.

You don't need to speak Japanese fluently 

Many people feel apprehensive about choosing Japan as a place of study if they don’t speak Japanese fluently. However, most universities in Japan offer courses in English for almost all subject areas. Additionally, there are a number of language courses designed for students looking to learn the language, no matter their ability.

You can find out about opportunities to study or research in Japan at the Experience Japan Exhibition in London on 18 November 2017. 

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