Fellow college students, how do you balance your classes and self-studying?

Hello, I’m a computer engineering student that’s currently taking two classes:

  • Calculus II
  • Intro to Engineering

When I first became interested in Japanese I envisioned myself treating it as a “side quest” of sorts. Trouble is, now I’m more eager to learn than ever before so I view both STEM and Japanese to be of equal importance to me! Both of these things are my two core life goals and I really don’t want to sacrifice one for the other. What study tips would you recommend so I can achieve this goal? Is anyone else in the same boat as me?



not a college student anymore, but working in retail from 8am to 6pm all I can say is in 3 years I used wanikani, it was a strong dedication because I was really tired when getting home from work but I still could dedicate 45min to wanikani and 40min to bunpro (which I used for 1 year) plus immersion watching 2 anime episodes with JP subtitles at least 3 days a week. Plus nhk easy articles (15-20min)

So basically outside japanese studies I was not doing much else in 3 years, since last december I feel free now to do other stuff like play videogames, watch more tv shows etc.

But it all depends, many people here just pay lifetime so they take all the time in the world. I was paying yearly exactly to have the motivation.


You may have to make some tough decisions about how you allocate your time and effort. That may mean focusing on your classes in order to succeed in school. Personally, I put my Japanese studies on hold for a few years. I wish I’d kept going with just a little bit each day, though, so that’s what I’d recommend if you ever feel like you can’t keep up; just make it a habit and do five minutes a day no matter what.

That being said, I think it’s reasonable to study for two classes and learn a language at the same time. Two classes seems like a very reasonable workload and I don’t think it should take all your time (I studied engineering, so that’s based on my own experience).


No longer a college student, full time worker, but I get up early in the morning and do about 30 minutes of study then. Then I do about 30 minutes at some point after I get home. Then I collapse, sleep, repeat.

My tip is to not have a life get up a bit earlier and put in a bit of Japanese at the start of the day. Treat it like meditation or something.

Don’t expect to get much more free time after you’re done studying. Honestly, this is likely the “freest” you’ll be for most of your working life, unless you’re quite lucky, or a very hardworking student.

TL;DR: がんばれ


Thanks for the insight! I think that if I make studying my “free time” instead of playing video games I just might be able to do it. It’ll suck but hey maybe once in a while I can find the time to hop back in. You also mention getting up early. This is something that I’m very bad at but I’ll try my best to get on a sleep schedule. 2020 really wrecked my sleeping habits. I actually used to be a retail worker and go to school simultaneously but I quit after 1.5 years to focus on school more. Everyday was starting to blur together and I was getting really worn out. In honestly, while I’m glad I’ve moved on I don’t think I’ve put my newfound free time to god use yet. Perhaps Japanese is the answer? As for this being the “freest” I’ll be for most of my life I think you’re correct. Half of me thinks I should’ve started studying years ago but as they say it’s never too late to try.

I guess I’ve got my work cut out for me, thanks for the motivation!


I suppose that’s the benefits of self-studying. While I’d love to balance both if I must focus on CE more I can pause Japanese at will without having to worry about failing. If I can make it work would I even need to take a Japanese course in college or would passing a high level JLPT test suffice for credibility?

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That depends on what you want to do with the language. If it’s for future work or study in Japan, then you’ll probably need to take an exam—maybe the JLPT, maybe something else—regardless. I don’t think anyone is really going to care that you took Japanese classes, to be frank, especially because it’s not your major. Exam credentials are more important in formal contexts; it’s the same with English, as students and job applicants who don’t speak English natively often need to prove they are proficient through exams like the IELTS or TOEFL. Still, Japanese classes could help you stay on track, meet people with similar interests, and get feedback from peers and instructors. If you find that you’re having a hard time getting started with self-study, I’d recommend taking a class. If you can maintain a habit of studying every day and are able to make some real progress on your own, you probably don’t need to take classes unless you want to.


The beautiful thing about self study is you set your own motivation and goals. In that sense it’s easier to mould around ‘higher priority’ things (e.g that you’re paying thousands of dollars for), because you decide your own terms.

I agree that at the very least you should make a habit of studying in some form at least some small amount of time per day - 5 minutes daily is better than 0 minutes daily after all, but 10 minutes daily is better than that. Just got to find whatever level it is that you find manageable and useful.

On games - I still play games here and there, but Japanese really has replaced it as an overriding ‘here’s what I do by default when I don’t have much else to do’. That’s mostly good, but I do miss it a bit. (Of course, you can always combine the two at a certain level)


I think this can be both good and bad. Honestly, I think you should still play video games, even if it means you’re not being productive. If studying becomes something you resent because it prevents you from doing other things—“it’ll suck” is already a good indication that you’re not enthusiastic about it—then you’re not going to want to do it and you’re going to get bored quickly.

I think people are a lot like springs. They want to relax, and they will if there’s nothing pushing on them. You can relax—and you should, because it’s a long journey. Just be consistent, even if that means you’re not doing a whole lot each day. Try to find a way to fit Japanese into your life when you’re relaxed. If studying Japanese is something you only do when you’re being pushed and you cut out relaxation to make time, you’re going to drop studying eventually. That doesn’t mean you have to love sitting down to study every day. You also need to keep your goals in mind and just be content with it.


Definitely - I found that as ‘studying’ Japanese became more enjoyable (which is to say when I became able to read a wider variety of things in Japanese, including stuff I was actually interested in like manga that wasn’t yet translated etc) it became a lot easier to just slip in and out of.


I’m wondering what areas of STEM you are interested in - there are certainly many Japanese technology companies - and once you have a bit more Japanese under your belt perhaps there may be a way to combine the two goals.

I also have a lot of STEM-related interests (including microcontrollers and software in general and radio and electronics and photography and more) - and I’ve even considered writing a blog in Japanese to document some of my projects (although I haven’t yet taken any action yet).


Fellow engineering students!!! 4th year here
Good luck on your first year! I would say focus on school right now. I don’t know your work ethic but I was really struggling with first year despite doing very well in highschool. Your schedule is also packed. You will get more time once you get into the groove and have more free time (depending on what you choose to do) in upper years.
I was absolutely obsessed learn chess in first year and it cost me some retakes. I am a coach and national team champion now but it wasn’t really worth it, although I don’t really regret my choice. A similar thing can happen with many hobbies and things to manage.


There are dozens of us!


I’m mostly interested in silicon design. CPU features and architectures interest me! Either that or motherboard design. Ideally the dream would be to work for Sony or Nintendo of Japan and actually design the next generation of game consoles.


When I was in school, I would do exercises during those periods of time where you have to wait around but can’t do sth super time-consuming. Like waiting in line for lunch or on short train rides

There’s also always combining the two, depending on your Japanese level. I got Japanese biology textbooks to better remember the concepts on my bio exam (there’s also free video lectures and such)

I’d still play video games at least a little bit? Or any other stress-relieving activity. Relaxation is part of making sure you’re able to concentrate when you most need to. Although depending on the person and the studying, studying can be relaxing too

Also: maybe these channels/videos might be interesting at some point?

Videos for HS bio/chem/physics/etc.

Making a game console from scratch

Idk much about engineering tho so no ideal what stuff would even be useful there. But Japanese digital textbooks tend to be non-expensive and decently useful. Like maybe this (altho that one is kinda expensive)


I’m doing a Masters now and I have to give myself a lot of grace. My program is pretty rigorous and I’m about to start seriously diving into dissertation work. Tbh I haven’t done any WK reviews in weeks. I’ve passed N1 and am at the point where I can casually read or watch Youtube to keep up with the language and can get away with not doing too much active studying.

I would say be patient with yourself. You’re doing a degree and depending on what country you’re in, you could be paying a significant amount of money for it. That should be your priority. Don’t listen to people who say “you need to invest at least x hours a week into Japanese.” You have your whole life ahead of you. There’s no need for you to make leaps and bounds of progress right now. Expecting too much of yourself and trying to cram in too much “fun” studying on top of regular studying just increases your risk for burnout. It’s important to make time for relaxing, socializing, exercise, etc. Don’t let studying become your whole life


Hey Brixbuster! I agree with a lot of things said so far, especially the points about “sneaking” study into otherwise unoccupied moments. Having a shortcut to wanikani on my phone’s homepage has been really helpful for that. Waiting on an elevator, waiting for food, whatever the situation is. If you get to class early and have a spare minute, you can get through a few kanji if you have the bandwith for it.

I’m currently working full-time as an engineer & I’m attending master’s school full-time, so I definitely understand the challenge of time priorities. Biggest thing is just be patient with yourself. If you can’t study the language for a bit, it’s ok, just work on it when you can and you’ll keep making progress.

Making studying as fun as possible is also helpful, whether it’s the gamification of wanikani or a youtube channel that you really like. Personally I love GameGengo on youtube, since he teaches grammar concepts using examples from video games.

So be nice to yourself, go at your own pace, and enjoy engineering school! It’s tough time but worth it. You’ve got lots of cool things in store to learn :slight_smile:


Grad student here!

After these last 5 years of undergrad/grad, I’ve discovered a trend with my Japanese progress: the month leading up to finals, I cannot get anything language-related done. I just don’t have the energy to balance studying for exams, final papers/projects, work, and language study in that month. Class takes priority.

  • For me, November and April have become my break months. I don’t join any book clubs that start those months, I don’t learn new grammar, I just try to keep the habit of doing my reviews.
  • In my free time during those months I spend less time studying Japanese and more time playing video games (in English). I just need to decompress without cramming more into my brain.
  • Along those lines: I’m someone who finds studying languages super fun to the point of getting an M.A. in Linguistics, and being fluent in Japanese is a lifelong goal, but even so, I could never give up my other hobbies for Japanese. Or vice versa! So no need to completely give up video games or other hobbies

And some other tips:

  • If you use public transportation instead of walking/biking/driving: do your reviews during your commute to/from class! I have a car now and love driving, but something I really miss from my 30 min bus rides to and from school is having a set time to do all my reviews twice a day.
    • The above is a lot easier if you use a third party app on your phone (Smouldering Durtles for Android / Tsurukame for iOS)
    • You can also do this while waiting for classes to start or while waiting for your coffee order
  • It’s okay to slow down!! In the last year I’ve really prioritized my degree over Japanese. Which means I’m learning at a much slower pace than I used to, but that’s okay, I’m still learning.
  • Don’t be afraid to turn on Vacation Mode! (this is very hypocritical of me to say because… I always forget about vacation mode :face_with_peeking_eye: don’t be like me)

Interestingly, I tend to increase the amount of time I spend on languages when I have a big event coming up. It’s almost like an anxiety management technique. If I’m thinking about languages, I’m not spending as much time thinking about exams or other stressors. Even if I do poorly on an important milestone in some other part of my life, I always have my language studies and the associated communities to keep me grounded.

I tried WaniKani for the first time when I was moving across the country and starting a new program, and I’m back now that I’m approaching the end of said program. I’d say my activity is proportional to my anxiety level.

I like that you’ve made Japanese a “lifelong goal,” rather than having a specific timeline for “finishing” (which isn’t really possible with languages, anyway).

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The thing that helped the most was accepting that I could never study with the efficiency and speed that I wanted if I was working + attending college. I could then stop chasing an unattainable goal of productivity in my Japanese studies, that is, until I switched majors and started studying Japanese at college :stuck_out_tongue: