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Plans to go to Japan! Where does one start...?

Julia KaNeko

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Hello, I am Lady Julia KaNeko!

Hi, I'm new here and this place seems very nice so far. It looks very informative and such.
So, as the title states, I do have goals to one day go to Japan. I believe that having a Bachelor's Degree is one of the essential needed in order to go. Having JLPT certification would be nice as well and hope to one day have N1 certification.

But until all that happens, I'm just a 24 year sophomore in college while doing Japanese self-studying on the side (Hiragana looks confusing, but I'm starting to recognize the characters). I do wish I could make some friends with people in Japan, or someone who speaks it fluently, because I feel it would help keep me on my toes... I kinda feel bad, because I used to have moderate knowledge of Mandarin Chinese, but as soon as I graduated high school, and because I didn't have anyone to speak Chinese with, my knowledge of the language as slowly deteriorated... But I hope that by being on here, maybe I will make some friends and, well, who knows? Maybe we'll meet someday.

So, here are some of my questions/concerns I have about Japan:

  • How much does one need to save up? Getting a place, getting furniture, food, etc...
  • How does one handle the culture shock? Oh, my God! I'm in Japan! :woot: ...Oh, my God, I'm in JAPAN! :eek:
  • Is it difficult to make friends? Julia, I'm hi! :oops:
  • Will it be harder to settle in Japan since I'm Black? I feel like people would touch my afro because who wouldn't? It's so poofy. 😄
  • Is it difficult to find a place to live? I'm not loud! Just when people cheat in video games!
These are just a few questions I can think of off the top of my head...

Lady Julia KaNeko (8/25/2016)
 

Glenski

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Where are you hoping to find work?
What kind of job do you want?

Culture shock depends on your previous experiences and where you end up. Tell us about yourself.

Making friends is relatively simple. Making close Japanese ones is not.

Being black will mean more stares. Beyond that, my black friend says he has never had problems in the bigger cities.

Difficulty I. Locating a place to live depends on where you go, what you want, how well you use Japanese, and whether your employer sets you up with housing.
 

Julia KaNeko

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Where are you hoping to find work?
What kind of job do you want?

Culture shock depends on your previous experiences and where you end up. Tell us about yourself.

Making friends is relatively simple. Making close Japanese ones is not.

Being black will mean more stares. Beyond that, my black friend says he has never had problems in the bigger cities.

Difficulty I. Locating a place to live depends on where you go, what you want, how well you use Japanese, and whether your employer sets you up with housing.

I'm Julia KaNeko, 24, and a sophomore in college under the major of Social Sciences, but possibly considering about switching to Psychology. When it comes down to it, I do lean more towards Sociology because I like the study of people and how they work individually, in groups and in society in general. I would love to work in a job where I can help people by any means, but I know I must take these things one step at a time; especially if I would be travelling overseas.

I've considered seeing about trying ALT/Eikaiwa work as a first stop, and I know it is a stereotypical job most foreigners go for to get into Japan, but would it be worth it? I've also heard that ALT/Eikaiwa work doesn't pay well, which worries me.

I'm looking for a job that would be a good first start for me and willing to put in the time and effort that is needed.

I know that when most Japanese see foreigners, they're hesitant because of the language barrier, correct? I mean, I can understand just visiting Japan for a bit, but if you plan on staying there for a while, the least the person could do is put in an effort to learn the language...
 

Mike Cash

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if you plan on staying there for a while, the least the person could do is put in an effort to learn the language...

One would hope so, but people tend to do the absolute least they can get by with and Japan coddles Western foreigners like you wouldn't believe, neither requiring nor expecting anything at all from them. There are many who have been here decades and who can barely string three words together and who are essentially entirely illiterate.
 

Glenski

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Thanks, Julia, and welcome aboard. I've been in Japan since 1998 as a teacher. Prior to that I was here for 5 months in another industry.

a sophomore in college under the major of Social Sciences, but possibly considering about switching to Psychology. When it comes down to it, I do lean more towards Sociology because I like the study of people and how they work individually, in groups and in society in general. I would love to work in a job where I can help people by any means, but I know I must take these things one step at a time; especially if I would be travelling overseas.
But you can't work as a traveler. Visa regulations. So, my first advice is to think of whatever work is feasible and related to your major, and plan around that. So, think about what sort of job (if any) that would help you back home.

Can we presume you are thinking about work in Japan only as a short-term thing, and then you would return to the US for work or an advanced degree? One tip: you won't get far over here with just a bachelor's degree, but it is a minimum requirement for work visas.

I've considered seeing about trying ALT/Eikaiwa work as a first stop, and I know it is a stereotypical job most foreigners go for to get into Japan, but would it be worth it? I've also heard that ALT/Eikaiwa work doesn't pay well, which worries me.
"Worth it" in what respect? Being related to your future career? My answer would be "perhaps". It's in a social field, but my next question is to ask why you've chosen to come here for something? It kind of relates to my first question about staying or not staying. You could probably find social/psych related work far more easily back there if all you want is some sort of experience. Maybe you want a certain kind of experience, that is, dealing with Japanese/Asians for some reason...?

ALT and eikaiwa work pays a minimum wage. That means it's enough to live on. Depending on circumstances, you might be able to save a little, too. Circumstances means location (urban vs rural), type of housing, your personal spending habits, how often you travel, etc. If you're satisfied with what type of apartment the average person gets, expect to spend 80,000 for rent, but you'll have to cough up twice that or more just to move in. Utilities will run a certain amount depending on your usage and the season, maybe another 7000 per month. Phone could be 5000-8000 per month including Internet. That leaves food. Unless you end up in the country where a car/scooter might be needed (factor in gas, insurance, and parking), I'd say you could probably live without it. Most full-time places will reimburse for commuting. And, then there is medical insurance, which is cheap the first year (2500 per month, or so) and goes up tenfold the following. So, on a fairly average salary of 250,000 per month, you can see how much that will leave you. Now subtract everything else you can think of:
hair care
clothing
dry cleaning
travel and entertainment
long distance calls home (unless you're satisfied with Skype video calls)
emergency money or special meds that you already take

Another question for you is to ask what you already know of the teaching business.

Frankly, for a person in your upcoming position after graduation (BA degree, probably no work experience and very little Japanese), teaching is about all you can count on. You can get hired by the few big outfits who recruit overseas, or by JET Programme, or you can take a risk and come here, set yourself up, and job hunt (but choose a good time of year, and right now is not it).
 

Julia KaNeko

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Thanks, Julia, and welcome aboard. I've been in Japan since 1998 as a teacher. Prior to that I was here for 5 months in another industry.

But you can't work as a traveler. Visa regulations. So, my first advice is to think of whatever work is feasible and related to your major, and plan around that. So, think about what sort of job (if any) that would help you back home.

Can we presume you are thinking about work in Japan only as a short-term thing, and then you would return to the US for work or an advanced degree? One tip: you won't get far over here with just a bachelor's degree, but it is a minimum requirement for work visas.

"Worth it" in what respect? Being related to your future career? My answer would be "perhaps". It's in a social field, but my next question is to ask why you've chosen to come here for something? It kind of relates to my first question about staying or not staying. You could probably find social/psych related work far more easily back there if all you want is some sort of experience. Maybe you want a certain kind of experience, that is, dealing with Japanese/Asians for some reason...?

ALT and eikaiwa work pays a minimum wage. That means it's enough to live on. Depending on circumstances, you might be able to save a little, too. Circumstances means location (urban vs rural), type of housing, your personal spending habits, how often you travel, etc. If you're satisfied with what type of apartment the average person gets, expect to spend 80,000 for rent, but you'll have to cough up twice that or more just to move in. Utilities will run a certain amount depending on your usage and the season, maybe another 7000 per month. Phone could be 5000-8000 per month including Internet. That leaves food. Unless you end up in the country where a car/scooter might be needed (factor in gas, insurance, and parking), I'd say you could probably live without it. Most full-time places will reimburse for commuting. And, then there is medical insurance, which is cheap the first year (2500 per month, or so) and goes up tenfold the following. So, on a fairly average salary of 250,000 per month, you can see how much that will leave you. Now subtract everything else you can think of:
hair care
clothing
dry cleaning
travel and entertainment
long distance calls home (unless you're satisfied with Skype video calls)
emergency money or special meds that you already take

Another question for you is to ask what you already know of the teaching business.

Frankly, for a person in your upcoming position after graduation (BA degree, probably no work experience and very little Japanese), teaching is about all you can count on. You can get hired by the few big outfits who recruit overseas, or by JET Programme, or you can take a risk and come here, set yourself up, and job hunt (but choose a good time of year, and right now is not it).

Thank you, Glenski. A lot of people have been talking to be since I signed up here and I get what everyone is saying: Take time to think about what I'm doing, don't rush and really see if this is something I truly want and do proper research.
I'm still in college, so I still have a long way to go before I get my degree. Hopefully during that time, I'll get all my ducks in row.
 

nice gaijin

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Welcome to the boards, Julia. May your dreams come true, and may you not crash too hard into the realities of life in Japan.

I would look into exchange programs that would give you a chance to go over there and have much of the logistics figured out for you already. My time here as a student was formative, to say the least, and the connections I made (and connections are everything) during my year have given me lots of opportunities to come back for various reasons and dive deeper into the culture.

I've compiled this thread to help people looking for programs and scholarships: Comprehensive List of Japanese Exchange Programs | Japan Forum

And I think the culture shock doesn't really express itself with a squee; the shininess of Japan can wear off rather quickly, and it hits some people harder than others. Once you take Japan off the pedestal and treat it as just another place with its own quirks and downsides, you'll be free to gain a deeper appreciation for how and why everything is as it is.
 

WonkoTheSane

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I think one of the wisest things said to you so far was by @Mike Cash who said, in paraphrase, that it's important to get a degree which will serve you well wherever you end up.

Be extremely careful about your education, it is an early investment which can either make your life or break your bank. Look very carefully at what careers a particular degree offers you and the expected income from those careers. The sad truth is that no matter how much you love your career choice, it ends up being your job. I honestly love my what I do, but, as with any job, the myriad responsibilities surrounding it are boring and tedious. I'm overjoyed with the facts that I only have to work three days per week and that I earn enough during that time to ensure that I can support my other hobbies (mostly volunteering to do the parts of my job I love in other places). Granted, I live a rather ascetic lifestyle (I grew up pretty poor, so it comes rather naturally to me), but still I spent a lot of time doing cost-analysis of degree paths and I found a path which allows me, in a variety of countries, to have a relaxing work life balance whilst retaining a reasonable bank balance.

You're at a critical point in your life.

Take it seriously.

I have friends who did a BA in psychology or some other degree with no clear entry into a career with strong income potential who are now, in their 40s, still struggling and will probably never see their dreams realized. Many are working in the same jobs they could have had without student loans, making the same survival wages. I see them on facebook lamenting their situations and saying how unfair it is, and all I can think is that each of us has the responsibility to critically analyze what we spend our educational dollars upon.

Caveat emptor.
 
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