Brendon - Waseda University

Bachelor of Science
Semester 1, 2018

Academic experience

At Waseda University, I studied Comprehensive Japanese 1, Conversation 1, Think and Speak 1, Explaining life in Japanese 1, Japanese Pronunciation 1, Grammar Particles 1, Appropriate Expressions 1. Coming from a UQ background where 4 subjects per semester is the norm, the idea of 7 subjects in a single semester did sound daunting to me in the beginning…but don’t let this dissuade you! I can tell you now after having experienced it firsthand, that the overall workload is quite similar to what I did at UQ. It helped that they were all based around learning Japanese so you could even see it as learning one subject in that sense.

Lectures are structured as classes, with about 30 students in each class, so it's very easy to ask the lecturer questions and discuss any areas you may have trouble with. Waseda University uses a lottery system where you apply for your wanted courses and then see if you've secured a position in the first round, if unsuccessful then you move onto the second and third round until you have fulfilled the requirement of 13 tani for an equivalent semester at UQ. I was one of the lucky ones who got my first preferences in the first round, but I had plenty of friends who weren’t so lucky, fortunately for them though, there was still plenty of options available to choose from in the second and third rounds.

Another nice thing about Waseda is that they also have something similar to orientation week at UQ, where you’re able to attend any class for the first week to see if you’d prefer that instead of the ones you had already applied to. So, if you’re ever unsure about which class you’d rather take, this is an option for you!

The only real challenge was that courses do require mandatory attendance to lectures, however you can have around 1/3 absence from lectures, so this gives you plenty of time and leeway to do the odd long weekend trip somewhere if you so wish. Just be sure to let your lecturer know in advance! 

Personal experience

With such a rare opportunity to experience life in a different country for months, I did my best in going to all the places I was able to, as well as immerse myself in Japanese culture and food.

This includes: Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Okinawa (scuba-diving at the blue cave), Nikko, Kusatsu, Ueda, Nagano, Odaiba, Shizuoka and I even climbed to the top of Mt. Fuji!

I joined the Intercultural Communication Center (ICC), an international student club, as well as other extracurricular clubs to meet local Japanese students. At the beginning of every semester, every club has amazing welcoming parties for all the new freshmen of each year, so be sure to get active and involved with as many as you can!

Through all of these places, I was accompanied by these companions with whom I could use and practice my Japanese with, to the point of being able to speak comfortably without having to feel nervous or reserved.

Beginning your exchange in a whole new foreign country can be exciting and overwhelming, and you’ll want to explore everything you can as soon as possible whilst eating every second hour because all the food you see looks amazing. Just don’t forget that you’ll be there for the next semester or two, so budgeting is important even from day one! Enjoy yourself but make it last! Personally, I had a daily budgeting book but that can be tedious and troublesome, there are plenty of mobile apps that make it much easier and can show you your spending habits (if you’re interested in statistics)

Accommodation

I lived off-campus in my own private apartment, as I preferred the comfort of my own privacy as well as my own facilities. Waseda does provide assistance for those who choose this option, by linking you with foreigner friendly real estate agencies. This is crucial as not many real estate agencies offer their services to foreigners looking for short-term accommodation.

My apartment was within walking distance of the university, which made life a lot easier since I could avoid the chaos of the subway commute. Be prepared though, because the apartments in Japan can be very compact!  

The university also has a few different dorms all within walking distance, however they do have very stringent rules and policies, and are not afraid of enforcing them should they have to. Majority of my friends chose this option, which seemed like the most social option for accommodation. Applying for dorms is also based on a lottery system, but you can still make preferences on the type of accommodation you prefer.

In the end, your decision depends on your budget, priorities and comfort! If I could do it again, I’d definitely give the dorms a go. The most important aspect in my opinion is, make sure it's within walking distance as trains and subways in Japan are a nightmare during rush hour.

Costs

I used approximately $250~$300 a week to live a worry-free but responsible life in Japan. This excludes rent however, which was approximately 99,000yen per month, whilst dorm goers pay approximately 60,000yen a month. Unfortunately for me, cooking wasn’t my forte despite having a full-sized kitchen. Fortunately for me, food in Japan is both cheap and nutritious (depending on where you eat). This resulted in me eating dinner out almost every day, whilst breakfasts were done at home and lunch was at the university cafeteria.

Speaking of which, Waseda Uni has one of the best food courts I’ve ever been to. Run directly by Waseda, they offer a menu with a variety of healthy and delicious food options with each meal costing between $4~$6 dollars. The lines during lunch time get pretty long but the students there spend no time idling by and leave as soon as they’re finished eating so the whole process is over with time to spare for the next class. Did I mention that they tasted delicious?

Professional Development

With the ability to speak English, Korean, Chinese and now Japanese, I strongly believe that this provides a foundation for my portfolio to gain a competitive advantage for when I choose to move my career into Asia. With how globalized the world has become, being able to adapt and survive in foreign environments is a highly valued trait for almost every circumstance.   

Highlight

As cliché as it sounds, it's hard to pick one single moment as the highlight of my entire experience. My favourite moments were during the times I was travelling Japan with friends, getting to see the sides of Japan outside of Tokyo really made me appreciate what they had to offer apart from mega-city lifestyles. Not only that but being able to converse freely in conversation with locals and Japanese friends gave me a sense of accomplishment like no other.

Top tips

Always be sure to budget and plan ahead for the future, in case you ever wanted to do anything or go somewhere. Most importantly though, just enjoy yourself because everything you do will be a unique experience in itself.