Monday, December 14, 2009

culture shock

The following is a conversation between Satoshi and I about college and jobs in Japan.

K: When you went to college, did you know what you would major in? I didn't.

S: We have to apply to the department that we want to graduate from before entering college.

K: What if you want to change?

S: You can't.

K: So, when you were in college, how early or when did you start looking for a job?

Not to work at while going to school, a job that you would work at after graduating from college. Me, I started looking after I graduated.

S: In my 3rd year of college. Now, it seems they start in their 2nd year of college.

K: You just started college and you are looking for a job??

What if after graduating, the company that said they would hire you isn't what you thought?

S: You can't change your mind because most times you have already declined other offers.

K: Or, what if the company that said they would hire you decides that they don't want you.

S: You are screwed because most times you have already declined other offers.

K: So, what if you didn't want to go to college right after high school?

S: That usually doesn't happen in Japan. Everyone goes at the same time and gets out at the same time.

K: So, you never have people taking longer than 4 years?

S: Usually, no. Only people who didn't pass the exam on their first try will be a year or two behind their age group.

K: Isn't it kind of boring that there aren't different age groups in your class to share their experiences?

S: I dunno, I never went to class. I was always playing baseball.


Rowena... said...

Buahahaha! Satoshi certainly had his priorities set up back then. Too, too funny! (even if the rigid system kinda scares me a bit)

Rona Y said...

It gets worse!

Medical students don't go for interviews; they get into medical school based solely on their Center Test scores. Same with dentistry students. Prospective dentistry students don't even have to do a manual dexterity test like they do in North America!

You want to know why so many doctors and dentists seem incompetent in Japan? There you go!

Debinhawaii said...

I would have sucked at the college structure in Japan--I switched my area of study three times, stopped, went to work, re-started again... it goes on and on. Too funny!

K and S said...

Scary system Rowena :0

Rona, I didn't realize that about the medical field, no wonder they have these "doctors" with horror stories. On another subject, the "green lemons" in the stores are meyers. I just read about them in a Japanese magazine.

I don't think I would have been able to even get into their university Debinhawaii, their tests are supposed to be really hard!

Take care everyone.

jalna said...


K and S said...

Jalna, amazing, yeah?

Take care.

KirkK said...

Hi Kat - You know, I was told almost the same thing by a freind of mine who "had to" become an architect because of school...he's now in the US, and is a graphic designer having to escape.....

K and S said...

I am glad he escaped Kirk :)

Take care.

Paz said...

LOL! Very interesting conversation. It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to major in, in college. ;-) Have a great week!


K and S said...

Thanks Paz, what did you end up majoring in?

Take care.

Katherine said...

In the uk we go to school, sit gcse's at age 15/16. They used to be worth a lot but not anymore although you need good grades to go to sixth form or college to do a levels. Alevels are worth more than gcses but less (much less) than a degree. You generally study 3 or 4 subjects at a level which take two years and you sit them at 17/18. Then you apply to uni to study a specific subject (or a joint but related one- like drama with film studies) for 3 or 4 years unless it's medicine. you can get different jobs with degrees, although some (teaching nursing being a doctor etc) need a specific degree
Did you go to uni in the states? How did that work?

K and S said...

Hi Katherine,
Thanks for sharing about your education system. I went to school in Hawaii, majoring in Japanese. At one point in my studies, my teacher told me I should change my major because I would never be able to speak Japanese.

I then signed up for a 9-month intensive Japanese program in Japan and am now able to speak Japanese rather fluently. I think being able to live in Japan has helped my Japanese.

Thanks for stopping by!
Take care.

Rona Y said...

Oh, I mispoke. Center Test scores determine which departments in which universities you can test into, but you don't get accepted to a university based on those (they're more like SATs in terms of the weight they're given in applications). You still have to pass the test of that university (the department, actually). So for example, a student's Center Test scores may be high enough to take the test for law school at Meiji University, but not high enough to take the test for law at Kyoto University, but maybe I could take the test for KyoDai's economics department with the same scores. But s/he could take the entrance exam for law at Meiji University, and still fail.

You can actually switch majors in Japan, but it's not as easy as it is in North America. If you want to transfer universities or departments, you have to write the entrance examination for that university and/or department (with all the high school students) *and* if you do get in, you have to start from scratch! So even if you transfer as a 3rd year student, you'd be starting as a freshman! That's why so few people ever bother with it (I have known people who have, but they are definitely the exceptions).

There are a few universities now that are trying a system a little more like the North American system (ICU in Tokyo, for example), but even those universities are still rather rigid. You still have to join a particular department, for example, but you don't have to choose your "major" right away (for example, join the English department, but then choose your major in American lit or English linguistics later. I'm sure it's more complicated than that, but that's how it was explained to me).

Green meyer lemons? I didn't know! I've seen plenty of those green lemons. Had I known they were meyers, I'd have been in meyer lemon heaven a long time ago! Thanks for the info!

K and S said...

Gosh Rona, it is more rigid that I thought! Thanks for the heads up!

I know, who knew about those green lemons! Hope you got your fill this year :)

Take care.

biologie said...

We actually have a major of "Undeclared" when we start college in the U.S. - which is what I did when I first started college. I changed it twice and finally ended up going with Clinical Laboratory Science.

When you change your major, you end up going to school a bit longer than you intend to because each degree has different credits to fulfill.

Anyway, can you imagine all those Japanese students declaring an "Undeclared" major? lol

K and S said...

I had to get out in 4, Biologie. My parents wouldn't pay for any more years :p

Take care.

Kim said...

Wow! That's a very interesting conversation. I read it out loud to my husband and we had a very lively debate over it. lol

K and S said...

lol Kim, I'm glad you and your hubs had a nice debate :)

Take care.