University in Japan certainly offers different college life and atmosphere that may be comparable to U.S. university (specifically San Francisco State as my home university). Here, I will describe some important aspects in Aoyama Gakuin, my host university, that are different to San Francisco State or any other U.S. universities in general.
Unlike the universities in U.S., universities in Japan generally start its first semester on the first week of April until first week of August, and proceed to second semester on first or second week of September until late February. The break of the first semester starts in early August and another break starts on early February. Once the semester starts, students and professors are very anticipated in a long break within a semester called Silver week on September and Golden Week on May (I will be talking about Golden Week specifically in my future blogs).
Also, days before the first day of class starts, the university has this special event to promote clubs and circles, which is similar to the one at SF State quad and can be reached in contact (or in person) mostly at daytime during the first half of the semester. Therefore, it is strongly encouraged for newcomers and continuing students to participate in this event to look up at some clubs and circles that you wish to register and join. Similar to SF State, Aoyama Gakuin offers a ton of clubs and circles related with sports, culture, and hobby. This event is a good opportunity to make new friends, build networks, and practice your language skill verbally with the local students. However, depending on the university, this event generally lasts for 2-3 days before the first day of class begins. If you miss the event during that particular day, you may be able to register and join the club/circle you wish to participate in person.
University in Japan organizes the class schedule/time with period system – just like in U.S. high schools. The earliest period begins at 9am and the latest period begins at 6:30pm. Each period lasts for one and a half hour and the class meeting is once per week (which is good).
Registering for classes, based on my personal experience, does not seem to be a big problem in Aoyama Gakuin, yet class sections are only offered one to two sections. Unfortunately, as far as I am concerned, the Japanese version of “Rate My Professor” does not exist in Japan. Therefore, it is hard to predict the professor’s teaching quality and effectiveness towards the students in class lecture.
First of all, it is strongly advised to add more than the credits required (which is generally 14 nits). For example, if the minimum credit to enroll classes in Aoyama Gakuin is 14 units, then add 6 more units (my recommendation) and make sure these classes count as your major (core) classes or upper division of general education that are transferrable back to your home university.
Therefore, my best advises to look for good professors in Japanese universities:
Go on the first day of the class. Feel and experience the professor’s lecture with your inner soul. If you like the first day of the class, then that is good for you. Keep attending every class meeting if possible until the final exam. If you do not, however, try to give it another chance on next class meeting and see if there is any change that convinces you to stay. Otherwise drop the class before the deadline is due and you still have the minimum credits maintained.
If you are lucky enough, make a friend who share the same major or department with you. There is a chance that your friend knows the professor that you wish to take the class because of the same major or department you have wit your friend.
These are all the important aspects that I thought it would be very useful to share with students and readers. If something is missing here, I will try to update as soon as possible. I will see you in my next blog.