Japanese Students Studying Abroad

Here is an interesting article about Japanese students and the demand for study abroad programs (thanks Glenski).

study abroad

*image stolen from the MOFA website

This seems to be a perennial topic of discussion, and there is much hand-wringing about how few students actually plan to study overseas.

To me this seems quite simple: I believe students are on the whole rational actors. Facing them are a range of issues:

  • there are significant financial costs associated with studying overseas
  • there is limited support for students to study overseas from universities and schools (generally students have to take time off from their studies)
  • companies pay lip service to internationalization, but study abroad does not seem to help with job hunting and in fact hinders it greatly if students are away in their third and fourth years
  • students don’t have the necessary language skills to study abroad after going through the normal English educational system in Japan

If these factors were flipped, particularly the third one, I am sure we would see interest rise.

What do you think? Is the system at fault or are Japanese students really the passive, docile, unadventurous generation that some media tries to make them out to be?

Well, if they are ‘docile and passive’ isn’t that the fault of the the older generation and the obsession with sempai/kohai relationships, not taking risks etc?!

You’re totally right about the obstacles they face. The last 2 years of uni seem to be taken up competing for graduate jobs. Why jeopardize that when most firms have little interest in (or even aversion to) studying abroad?

Once again, the media will blame a group of people but won’t ask the difficult questions about a broken system that needs fixing.

Hi Martin

I don’t really find my students to be docile or passive, they just don’t seem to have all that many attractive options…

23 Nov 2013, 12:45pm
by Thomas Bieri


Based on the student’s I have encountered and discussed it with, I think you are spot-on, Ben. I have met many, many students wanting to study abroad but for one or more of the reasons above have decided they can’t. Finances and job hunting seem to be the biggest barriers. Also shocking to me that the norm, even in language major programs, is that a semester or two studying overseas is considered a leave of absence, and they still have to come back and start again from where they left off with no credit transferred from overseas.

Hi Thomas

Yes, it’s a huge difference to the UK, where students studying foreign languages MUST spend a year in a country that uses that language…

Hi Ben, (sorry, the comment has nothing to do with the post, but I wasn’t able to find a way to get to you other than this.) this is Noriko, Chiaki’s friend, and thank you for the informative lecture and the talk about tadoku and free writing yesterday. I’d love to have a pamphlet about extensive reading and know more about the practice in the university. Thank you in advance.

Hi Noriko
Nice to meet you yesterday. Please see this post for details on the manual:

Agree, I think the main reason is there are significant financial costs associated with studying overseas.


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