Studying in Japan: Student Profile | Top Universities

Studying in Japan: Student Profile

By Piotr Łuczak

Updated March 5, 2016 Updated March 5, 2016

Carrie Bee Hao, an international student at  Hitotsubashi University, tells about student life in Japan.

"Japan is a challenging country to take up further studies in", says Carrie Bee Hao, a Filipino-Chinese student currently studying a Masters of Business Law.

Almost, if not all, of the top universities in Japan require Level One Japanese from foreign students before they are entitled to apply and enter the LLM course, she says.

However, the challenge of attending classes in Japanese (Carrie Bee already has 10 years of Chinese language education) and writing her thesis in the foreign language, has only added to the experience of studying abroad at Hitotsubashi University, which was ranked 96 in the QS Asian University Rankings.

“It's been a surreal experience, she says. “I came to Tokyo last year with little knowledge of the language and I only had a year to improve it in order to pass the entrance exam and start my masters degree.

"My Chinese background has really helped me cope with the Japanese language requirement. Now, I think in Japanese and can handle day to day conversations with Japanese people. I think of this as a small accomplishment already."

But her time abroad hasn't been without its frustrations. There are times when there are some misunderstandings because of the language barrier, Carrie Bee says.

“This is part and parcel of the experience, but if you perceive it positively you learn to just laugh about it, which will actually help you develop a more relaxed attitude about lif."

Funding can often be a major hurdle for international students but Carrie Bee has received a full Japanese government scholarship, which has reduced the financial burden.

Once she's graduated, Carrie Bee would like to work in a law firm in Tokyo, Beijing or Shanghai as a foreign counsel and to pursue private practice in these jurisdictions.

“With the current economic situation in the US, it does make sense to focus on Asia now, and being Asian myself, I realize that pursuing further studies from another Asian country might actually be more helpful to my career in the future."

She adds, "The contacts that I have made here have been truly overwhelming."

Despite eyeing up a career in some of Asia's largest cities, Carrie Bee still has a connection to home. One of the hardest things about studying abroad in Japan is the time away from family.

She's also taken a risk with her employer. "I was working before making the decision to study abroad. I had to go on sabbatical leave from my law firm for at least three years, thus I fear that when I do go back to Manila, my peers will have surpassed me already and it will be hard for me to reintegrate myself back into the workplace."

However, there are more advantages than disadvantages to studying abroad. “The three best things about studying abroad in Japan would be learning an additional foreign language, learning how to be independent, in control of my life in a responsible manner and at the same time discovering new things about myself.

"It's also made me more open-minded as well as learning how to truly respect the beliefs, customs and traditions of individuals from different cultures, race and religion."

“With that kind of mindset, you would be surprised at the number of friends you will gain from all around the world and how much information and knowledge you acquire through such friends."

For all those considering studying abroad, whether in Japan or elsewhere, those words will certainly be welcome.

This article was originally published in November 2012 . It was last updated in March 2016

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