At Cambridge, Japanese

Day in the Life of a Japanese Student

Hi guys! Sorry I’ve neglected this blog so much. As you’ll read below, Japanese is quite an intense subject so I’ve been very busy for the past four weeks! But without further ado, here is a day in the life of a Japanese fresher! I’ve chosen a Monday, but most days are like this. For reference we have exercise/grammar classes four mornings a week, history lectures/seminars three times a week and then other classes like reading, speaking or listening once a week.

Stupidly early in the morning: get up, eat breakfast and go rowing. Yep, I’m one of those weird people who like spending time in boats. The perks are the sunrises and teammates. Note: this step is completely optional!

9am: go to my first class of the day, which is the exercise class. This is where we go over the exercise which was set as homework after the last grammar class. We listen to the recording of the piece of Japanese that the grammar lesson is based on, then we read through our answers and ask any questions we might have. Our class is split in half for this, so there’s about four in a class.

10am: grammar class. We go through one chapter per class, which works out to four chapters a week. This is with the whole class, so all seven of us (so many, I know!). We listen to the recording of the Japanese, then work through the grammar points which are introduced in that piece. There’s usually a lot of new vocabulary and about four or five grammar points per chapter so there’s a lot to learn! Allegedly we’re meant to have looked over this the night before so we can read all the kanji, although I’m not sure how many of us actually. Do this…

11am: At this point we usually have a break for an hour, where we might have lunch, start on the day’s exercise or prepare for the afternoon classes. If I have lunch at this time I usually pop back to Selwyn for a cheaper lunch than the Sidgwick Site cafe!

12pm: On Monday, Wednesday and Friday, midday is time for our history lecture. So far we’ve covered orientalism, the origins of Chinese writing, Confucius across East Asia and Buddhism. This is a bigger class as we’re mixed in with the Chinese students, although at 15 or so students it’s still tiny. This is an advantage if you’re keen because it’s easy to ask questions, but more difficult if you haven’t done the reading! On Friday this is more of a seminar so it’s very discussion led.

1pm: Kanji test! This is only once a week and you’re tested on the previous week’s kanji. But it’s more than just that – you have to do translations, transcriptions and sometimes even a passage of writing. Definitely don’t leave it to the last minute to prepare for this, it’s better to consolidate as you go along if you have time.

After that, we sort of have the afternoon free to ourselves, except for Tuesday when we have a writing class for two hours. Usually I use this time to try and get the exercise done before dinner, which I variably cook or go to hall for if I’m feeling lazy or pushed for time. Exercises usually take two to three hours so I usually get them done. I also use Monday as supermarket day, so I stock up at Sainsbury’s with all the totally completely healthy food this model student buys. (right??)

After dinner I go to watch University Challenge at the Union – you usually have to be a union member to go to their events but this is open to everyone. They run a quiz afterwards which is quite fun, although whether I go to that depends on how much work I have or whether I have other things to do like phoning my parents. Other work for the evenings includes listening exercises, general consolidation, vocab revision or any reading I didn’t manage to fit in over the weekend. I try to get to bed by midnight but sometimes this doesn’t happen!

I don’t go clubbing much so I suppose to the party animals out there this sounds quite tame – but with all the 9ams we have it’s difficult to find a good time to go out. There’s also other things that happen occasionally like formals, interesting talks or society meet ups. It’s good to get involved on stuff so you have something to look forward to once you finish the exercises!

So there we have it, a day in the life of a Japanese student. Be under no misconceptions – this degree is intense, especially if you’re starting completely from scratch. It moves fast. But if you’re really motivated and keep at it, you can definitely find time for the typical university life!

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