留学を考えている人必見! アメリカの大学生活はこうなっている


日本とアメリカの大学には様々な違いがあります。生活環境、奨学金、宿題の量、そしてアメリカ独特の人種や成績上位生による ”クラブ” の存在。ちょっと覗いてみましょう!

There are many differences between Japanese and American universities. Lifestyle, financial aid, homework, and the existence of frats and sororities. Let’s take a look!


Now that April is here and many of you have started the new school year, perhaps even a new school, let’s go over some of the differences between the lifestyles with college in Japan and the US. We have mentioned a few in the past with my article on “Studying Abroad Tips” and with “College Fashion Differences”, but let’s take a look at a few other aspects that may surprise or confuse you if you don’t know or just good to know in general.

“Freshman 15”/“フレッシュマン 15”

これはアメリカで良く使われる言い回しで、大学の1年目で増える体重を現しています。簡単に入手できてしまう大量のジャンクフードと、キッチンがついていない寮生活では外食することが多くなります。海外では、大学キャンパスから一定の距離内に住んでいない限り、1年目は学校指定の寮に住むことがルールとなっています。それ以降は、寮に住み続けるかキャンパス外の家を賃貸するか選ぶことができます。たいていは、キッチンつきの家を借り自炊ができるようになります。なので、体重増加は寮に住んでいるフレッシュマンの間だけ起こります。その為、“フレッシュマン 15”と呼ばれています。
多くの学食は高カロリーですが、もっとヘルシーなメニューも用意されています。毎日の食事のなかに栄養価を取り込む方法もたくさんあります。こんなにたくさん運動できる機会があるので、実際には“フレッシュマン 15”が起こる理由などないのです。でも、近年では減ったとはいえ、まだこの現象は発生していて、現在でも多くの人がこの単語を使っています。

This is a phrase that is commonly used in the United States to explain the weight that one gains during their first year in college. With the abundant amounts of junk food that is readily available to college students, and with most dorms not having kitchens, students are put into a situation in which they must dine out. When you are abroad, there is usually a rule that unless you live within a certain distance from campus, you must live in one of the school dorms during your first year. After that, you have a decision, and people either decide to continue living in the dorms or they get their own off-campus housing. Usually, many get their own place with a kitchen that will allow them to cook. Therefore, this weight gain usually only happens to those who live in the dorms, which the majority are freshman. Therefore, it is called the “freshman 15.”
Luckily, the majority of schools have an on-campus gym that is accessible to all students. There are also many different sports teams that you can join. From the “club sports” which are more serious teams to “intramural sports” which are more for fun, and then just regular pickup games that you can participate in if you are in the general vicinity.
While the majority of cafeteria food is very rich in carbs, they also do offer healthy options. There are also many different things you can do to bring in nutrients into your daily life. So, in actuality, there is really no reason to gain this “freshman 15” with all the exercise access one has. But, this is still something that occurs, less often recently, therefore it is a term that many people still utilize to this day.

Eating at the Cheesecake Factory    Photo: Junko

Photo: Junko


最初に、学資援助がどういうものか説明しましょう。援助には、奨学金、助成金、ローン、そしてFAFSA(free application for federal student aid)があります。これらは、高校のジュニア、シニアの時に申請します。家庭の状況、学校の成績、エッセイ、テストの結果などによって判断されます。

This is one major difference that I have noticed between the higher education system between Japan and America. First, let’s clarify what financial aid is. Financial aid includes scholarships, grants, loans, and FAFSA (free application for federal student aid). These are things that you apply to when you are a junior or senior in high school. They are based on your home situation, grades, activities essays and test scores.
Now, in America, a scholarship means that this is money that a fund/organisation/or school gives to you to help pay for your education. This is something that does not need to be paid back, unlike that Japanese scholarships that must be paid back. Money that you must return, would fall in the loan category. Grants are just like scholarships, but the term is also applied to non-educational projects and programs also. FAFSA is the aid that students receive from the government depending on the household income. Once again, there is no necessity in paying back the aid that you receive.



Now, there are many degree programs available in America. While they may be the same in different countries also, let’s go over the names and what they specify, just in case. First, you have your associates degree. This is done within a two year span and usually done at the local community college or public university. While they are still held higher than just graduating from high school, in this day and age, having an associates degree or two or three, does not amount to having a bachelors degree. Now, a bachelors degree is the degree that you get when you’re an undergrad. This means four years of university. Many people get their associates degree at the local community college and then transfer to another university to continue their education and receive their bachelors degree. Once you get your bachelors degree, with another two years you can get your masters degree. Or, some people skip their masters and head straight to their Ph.D which you earn as a graduate student. To get your Ph.D, it usually takes four to six years, but you gain the title of being a “doctor” which is beyond impressive, don’t you think? Although, higher education in America is quite expensive, with the help of the student aids that I mentioned before, people are able to study to their content and pursue their dreams.

Homework and Projects/宿題とプロジェクト


One of the most drastic differences that I had seen after studying in both Japanese and American universities is the way homework and projects are dealt with. My freshman year in college, I had homework almost every day, or some kind of reading. For my English class, I had an essay due every week on different topics. On the other hand, while I was studying at a Japanese university my sophomore year, I can’t recall a single piece of homework I had to turn in. Everything was in class work or group projects that were never dealt with outside of the classroom. My major was broadcast production, which included working with the school television station, school radio station, PR work and the school news paper. I was able to have access to the studios and very professional equipment and learn hands on, instead of just sitting in a lecture room and looking at pictures of the equipment. There were two classes that I took in Japan, though, that I learned a lot in. One was my Japanese class, where we talked about the differences in the cultures of many different countries. I was also able to improve my Japanese tremendously. I also had a media class, which I cannot recall the name for the life of me…in which I believe my Japanese improved the most. It was a very small class, and the professor was very outgoing. He would often engage the students and probe them for their thoughts, which made it hard for students to not pay attention. He would often ask me questions and my opinions, with my experience in America, and challenged me with my Japanese knowledge. I enjoyed that very much, as it reminded me a lot of my classes in America.
I guess, the biggest difference is the amount of work that you must do outside of class. In Japan, I didn’t really have to show up to class unless there was a test, in order to pass. Whereas in America, I had to be in class so I can learn and get the homework information which counts for a large portion of your grade.


When I was a cameraman for an in-class TV show. Photo: Junko

Frats and sororities/男子学生クラブと女子学生クラブ


I’m sure that this is a common question amongst many people. What are frats and sororities? First, fraternities are college organizations that guys can join, depending on your GPA (grade point average), ethnicity, religion, and…at times, household names. This can also be applied to sororities, which are organizations for girls. Some of the common types are Native American, African American, Jewish, Honors, frats and sororities.
During the first few weeks of the new school year, there is a “rush week” which is when the frats and sororities try to gain new members. Some will allow anyone to join, while others are quite selective. In fact, some of them require students to complete some sort of activity in order to join. This is called “hazing” and has caused many problems in the past, as some of these activities can become dangerous.
Also, a big part of these organizations have to do with Greek letters. Have you ever heard of Phi Beta Kappa? Or a combination of the sort? Those are the names of these organizations. Alpha Phi Omega, is another organization. In all honesty, if you are not a part of this culture, all of these names can sound similar. Usually people are involved in them, or they have absolutely no interest in joining. I, personally, was in the latter. I had no interest whatsoever. However, there are definitely some pros that can be gained from being in one. Not only does it look nice on your resume, but it also helps you tremendously with networking. You have the alumni, who are often very very proud, you also have the different chapters, which means the same organization but at a different school. Frats and sororities also do volunteer work and help with fundraising, which can also lead to further networks.


I’m sure that there is a lot more to talk about, but let’s leave it at that for now.
In my personal opinion, I think that the lifestyle of a college student in Japan and in America is quite different. What do you guys think? What are some differences you noticed or experienced?