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Sunday, 3 June 2018

How to get a part-time job (baito) in Japan

If you come to Japan as a student, something that may be surprising to you is the number of students who have part-time jobs, known as "arubaito" or simply "baito". Of course, in other countries some percentage of university students will be working on the side, but in Japan it seems like almost everyone works part-time at a shop or restaurant. So perhaps it was just me and my stubbornness in wanting the “genuine” student experience, but I became a little bit obsessed with the idea of getting a waitress job. It was also an opportunity to interact with a wider variety of Japanese people and improve my Japanese through practical experience.

Here I explain about getting the kind of part-time job most Asian students have in Japan i.e. as a shop assistant or restaurant staff.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

MEXT monthly budget

I've been meaning to do this post for a long time but never got around to it. Well it's Golden Week here so finally I have a chance to relax and tell you all about getting by on the MEXT research scholarship of around 145,000 yen/month (at time of writing... I hear it used to be substantially more).

Saturday, 20 January 2018

JLPT round 2 – taking N1 in Japan

I wrote about my experience taking N2 overseas two years ago and shared some tips about preparing for the exam. Thankfully after all that preparation I passed by a wide margin. This time I took N1 in Japan, and I think I most likely passed it again (I'll find out in a few days...). So what advice can I come up with this time?

Sunday, 21 May 2017

MEXT research scholarship – what happens after you arrive?

This post is mostly about my personal experience. Generally people don't share much about their experiences after arriving compared to the application stage so I can't say whether this is representative or not.

Monday, 30 January 2017

MEXT research scholarship interview experience

I gave some MEXT interview tips in a previous post. Here I just share my experience at the UK embassy and the questions I was asked, but for more general advice I suggest reading that post.

The interviewers were two Japanese men. They were very nice and didn't seem critical of anything in my application. I believe one was from the embassy and the other was a professor of science unrelated to my field. Here are the main questions they asked, not in order.

-Introduce yourself

-Please explain the main aim of your research, we're not physicists…

-Why do you need to use this specific detector in Japan to achieve this?

-Why are you particularly interested in this area of physics?

[A few more small questions about the research, they really weren't experts so couldn't pick holes in it]

-What do you know about living in Japan?

-There are very few women in this field, why do you think that is? How will you deal with that? [I'm not really sure what they were trying to get at here… the situation is the same in Europe. And I thought it might be a bad idea to get into explaining gender discrimination to two middle-aged Japanese men, so I just said something about needing more role models.]

-The experiment is in the middle of nowhere, if you have to go there for a longer time would you cope?
[They didn't press me much on living in Japan but I have already lived in 5 different countries...]

-I see you said your speaking is "good", can you do your self-intro again in Japanese please?

-You said your reading is "excellent", can you read information about physics in Japanese?
[Some more questions about how I've been studying Japanese and why]

-I see you finished school one year early, why is that?

-What do you intend to do after you finish studying in Japan, will you return to the UK?

...And then a couple of random questions about my hobbies and educational background that were vague and more them remarking on things I'd written on the application than actual questions.

The only problem I had was that the interviewers had quite strong Japanese accents and I missed a couple of things they said e.g. near the beginning when they were introducing themselves. Generally it was not an unpleasant experience.

I had submitted my N2 scores (which were quite high) with my application, so I was not that concerned about the Japanese test. They also stressed that your level of Japanese knowledge shouldn't affect your chances of success, but I do believe it is still an advantage because it reassures them that you will be able to survive living in Japan. Most of the questions were JLPT style although there were a few where you had to write kanji by hand.

A couple of people seemed to write virtually nothing on the Japanese test. I was certainly the last person to leave, since I guess the others gave up earlier... or were so good they finished everything really quickly lol.

They also made us do the English test which seemed more than faintly ridiculous. It was sort of interesting to see what poor non-natives have to go through since there were a fair few dodgy questions that native speakers would hesitate over (does one lay down or lie down on a sofa? depends where you're from probably).

Monday, 12 December 2016

8 tips for learning Japanese free by yourself outside Japan

First, a short rant:

Something that has been bothering me lately is people boasting “I passed JLPT N2/1 after only 1 (/2/3) years!” or “I could watch anime and understand nearly everything after 6 months!” especially on sites for beginner learners, as if to prove their method is somehow the best. I can only imagine the number of beginners who manage to study for a few months to a year, realise their level is far lower than this, and lose motivation to continue, thinking they are just not good enough to get anywhere.

This is not me giving a patronising “everyone learns at a different rate” platitude. I just want to point out how meaningless a length of time such as a year or 6 months is. Is that one year where you as a native Korean speaker were living in Japan and having 3-4 hours of Japanese class nearly every day? Or is it one year where you as a native French speaker were holding down a full-time job and studying by yourself at the weekends? Don't get me started on this "fluent in 3 months" scam. Yeah, if your definition of "fluent" is "can make someone understand you want to ask where the toilet is", then sure.

You may not be able to change your native language, the amount of study time you have available each week, or whether you can spend time in Japan. But you can consider your study habits. It took me a fair amount of trial-and-error to find the ways I consider most efficient for self-study without spending money on classes, and without it feeling like work. Anyway, on with the list!

Living and studying in Belgrade

Last year I spent about 4-5 months studying in Belgrade. There’s not a lot of information around about what it’s like studying in Serbia, so I thought I’d make a quick post.

belgrade graffiti
Among other things, you can find some pretty awesome graffiti in Belgrade

How is the JLPT scaled?

I address this point because it’s not clear from the JLPT website, and unless you have a degree in statistics their recommendation that you look up Item Response Theory will probably not be all that helpful.