Ladies and gentlemen, it’s finaaaaaaaaaaaaals week!

And I mean it was literally only one week into which at least we internationals had all our exams crammed. This meant for me – as I was kind of greedy in the beginning when it came to picking classes – 9 exams in 5 days.  Ok sure, let’s do it! It was partwise exhausting and annoying but in the end I think I passed every exam with quite a decent grade as well. I’ll find out about that in March, I guess. However, this post should not be about me lamenting about having too much to study but rather about Japanese University and Labour Systems.

Note: All I write below is from personal experience, so either from classes and discussions at university or also from talks with Japanese people. So please be aware that some things I write might be a bit subjective. Anyway, enjoy!

School system and university application

A friend explained to me that Japanese students basically study their whole school time for one big day: the day of their entrance test for university. Once a year, the universities open their doors for their students of the future – given that they pass the entrance test of course. So this test is crucial to Japanese students and most of them study hard and long for it, because you may have guessed it – if you fail, you’ll either have to take a make-up test (which is supposed to be even harder), you can try to attend a university with lower requirements – or you can wait another year and try again. A variety of subjects is tested during this exam and the results can influence your whole career, because they determine wether you can attend the university that you want or not.

University life – once in, everything is fine

I was told once that in Japanese universities, it is „hard to get in, but easy to graduate“. So, supposedly, it gets easier along the way, which I am not too sure about. I head friends saying to me that they were studying all night with only 1.5 hours of sleeping in their exam week. In our dorm, we had study rooms with tatami mats next to the desks – so you don’t waste too much studying time for going home to sleep. Basically, you can just lie down next to your desk, take a nap, wake up, and continue studying. Also, when I look at how much effort some had to put into their final thesis (writing it in German for example; in German, can you believe it?!) I cannot really say that that the statement above holds true in every case.

Job hunting

Dye hair black, go apply for a job. There is this time of the year when all Japanese university graduates go out for job hunting. Season usually starts in March, when students graduate from university and are excited to land their first (and sometimes last, read here why) full-time employment. During their university years, most Japanese students have アルバイト(pronounced ‚Arubeito‘ – my fellow Germans, does that ring a bell?), which is a part-time job besides their studies. However, in March it’s time to quit that and go on the hunt for a full-time position. Like a kind of marathon, you go and apply to many companies and hope for an employment. This is also the time of the year when the fashion-conscious Japanese dye their hair back to their natural hair colour and everybody gets the suit out and hit the streets with the resumé in their hands. Usually, Japanese firms are also willing to hire during this time of the year. As there are so many applications during this time, Japanese students often apply for as many positions as possible hoping to land an offer right after their graduation.

Also, after you got a job, it starts to get really interesting. Read along for Japanese working systems – harmony over ability?