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Japanese Graduate cfor physics 2007/7/27 05:12
Hello, I'm here asking about the feasibility and possibility of attending a japanese graduate school as a physics student. Right now, I intend on starting my 4thand final year as a college student. My grades are good, enough to get my into the physics honors society. In addition, I've had research experience and study abroad experience KIT's (Kanazawa) six-week program. However I'm very worried because I know I'm far from fluent in japanese.

At the moment I could probably pass the JLPT lvl 4 or even 3 tests, but certaintly not 2. I can hold conversations, but too a point, a point to which I'm not familiar. I've actually learned an incredible amount of grammar, nearly everything in Nakama 1&2 (for those of you that are familiar), but a lot of it is through self-study. Especially when I was in japan, I made every effort to talk to japanese people, but it's hard back in the U.S. Basically my language ability in a nutshell.

There are a couple of things I'm confused/worried about. The first and obvious is money. A lot of people don't realize this, but physics grad students are almost always paid. Either we are expected to do research, TA, or have a fellowship. I'm not conviced that this is the same in japan. I think there is a distinction between a student researcher, a Ms student, and a PhD student. I've also noticed that the time period for getting a PhD is a standard 5 years, not "When its done" in the U.S. (There are people who've been in grad school for 7 years).

Another thing I'm terribly worried about is the admission period for a Japanese Grad school is much different than a U.S. one. Thus it seems that when you are notified of your acceptance by a Japanese grad school, it is after you've already commited yourself to a U.S. one. Does this mean it is wise to apply to both?

I do have reason to want to goto grad school so badly, and that is because I indeed want to return to japan, but not as a tourist. I realize 5 maybe 7 years is a long time, but I'm ready. My current college taught me that there are ways of living that I can't stand. It's a suburban campus that keeps it's students very isolated. No one cares about each other. Instead we'd all rather curl around are computers in our own quarters. In addition the surrounding area is tremendously boring. No interesting nature or daily life, nothing but a bunch of strip malls. Finally, the city is immensly innacessable. It's too distant from campus and the public transportation system is subpar. There also a lot of crime. So beleive me I know what it's like to make a mistake and live in a place you don't like for 4 years. Everything I've seen suggests that japan is the exact opposite.
by Shinn  

. 2007/7/30 09:32
So why not move to another University in your home country, if it is that bad. If you're willing to pull out everything to Japan, moving to another state to attend a nicer more advance university should be diddly squat and a million times easier.

You might find some graduate classes in English, but if you're not JLPT 2 or problably JLPT 1 if you're doing scientific work and terminology. I'd just get the degree in your home country, and try to find a job in Japan later on.
by John rate this post as useful

Graduate Studies in Japan 2007/7/30 20:40
Based on my own experiences and observations as a graduate student in Japan, I can say the following:

1. International graduate students should have a scholarship. I recommend applying for monbusho scholarship, Anything else is not sufficient. You can apply for a monbusho scholarship at a Japanese university in the US or you can apply at a university in Japan and let a professor of it apply for a monbusho scholarship.

2. Most if not all international students enter graduate school as research students (no entrance examination, not tests). Research students learn about their intended field of study and research and they learn Japanese. My university had a Japanese class for science and engineering students. Due to this course, learning Japanese terminology and the way of writing scientific texts in Japanese was not so difficult as it seemed.

3. The conditions of entering graduate school differ from university to university. However, passing level one of JLPT does not seem to be necessary. Entrance examination includes a Japanese test. In this test you write a Japanese text about a topic chosen by your academic advisor or you have to translate a Japanese text into English and vice versa. A presentation about your research field in Japanese might also be required.

4. Classes at graduate school consist of presentations delievered by the teacher and the students. If a presentation delievered by a student is deemed sufficient, he or she gets credits for the course. Getting enough credits is a requisite for graduation, but it is easy to get enough credits.

5. Japan is a very safe country, crime is rare. Public transportation is good in cities as big as Kanazawa. Japan has a lot of variety when it comes to nature, culture, entertainment and sports.

6. Conversational Japanese is definitely enough when you come to Japan. One you are in Japan, you will have a lot of chances to hear, speak, read and write Japanese. You will get used to this and your Japanese will improve.

My opinion in a nut shell: Japan is a nice place to live for international students. Nobody expects you to speak Japanese like a native speaker upon entering the country. In the beginning, conversational Japanese is enough.

You might be able to apply for a scholarship and university before graduation from you current university, but you should check this as early as possible.

Good luck for your graduate studies in Japan.
by OkinawaDolphin rate this post as useful

. 2007/7/30 21:36
Remember conversational Japanese maybe enough for some people but we're speaking about Graduate studies in a scientific field here, odds are not every single thing is going to be taught in English, so more than conversational japanese is needed, you're going to need to read and write Japanese.
by John rate this post as useful

Some more justifications. 2007/7/30 22:49
OkinawaDolphin:

Thanks for you reply. I'm already looking into the Monbugakusho research scholarship. I called the consulate, and they said I could apply in early 2008. They also advised that I get into contact with a japanese university that hires international students. Any advice on networking and getting contacts? The language barrier isn't an issue as much as the inability to meet people face to face. Also, to tell you the truth, I do want to be in close contact with japanese professors. I want to come in as a foreigner with no context and risk being ostracized.


John: Sorry I guess I was overdramatizing things for a bit. I guess I was stating that I'm not concerned with japanese culture being something I don't want. A combonation of I more how I like to live, and I've already been to japan.

I'm not trying to run away from the U.S., but rather challenge myself and search for new experiences. In addition, I want to make myself a more diverse person, which in tern can help me with my professional life.

Finally. It's my every intentions to become fluent in japanese and at least another language afterward (either russian, german, chinese, or korean). I'm very serious about it and I study everyday(that includes kanji,vocab,grammar, and listening) . I'm not afraid of being lost in classes, but rather not having sufficient abilitiy by the time admissions role around.
by Shinn rate this post as useful

Contacting Japanese Professors 2007/7/31 02:51
I corresponded with a graduate student of a university in Japan. I corresponded with her in both my native language and Japanese so both of us would improve our knowledge of each other's language. Her lab was suitable for my field so I wrote an e-mail to her professor. He answered that it was okay to enter his lab and he suggested applying for monbusho scholarship. That's how I found my lab.

However, I think few professors will accept a completely unknown person. Getting an introduction is better. If you write some kind of thesis at your university and your academic advisor has contacts to Japan, your advisor might introduce you to a professor in Japan. Japanese students or staffs at your current university can give you an introduction, too. A meeting of an academic society such as IEEE is a good point to start networking and so are international conferences related to your field of interest.

You wrote about KIT in Kanazawa, so it is certainly a good idea to contact a professor, researcher, graduate student or forth year student there. If you do so, you should express that you would like to live in Japan and that you are willing to learn more Japanese. You should also specify clearly what field of study and research you are interested in.
by OkinawaDolphin rate this post as useful

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