Chiao-Han - Waseda University

Bachelor of Business Management
Semester 1, 2018

Academic experience

Most of the courses I studied in Japan were enjoyable. In order to complete the program, we had to do at least 13 credits. Depending on each person’s choice, that means around 7-13 courses. Personally, I did 7 courses for credits and 1 course not for credit. I did a Comprehensive course which weighed 5 credits and a Topic writing course which weighed 3 credits. As for the other courses, I chose specific classes dependent on the skills taught (e.g. Business Japanese, Formal Japanese) and some simply suited to my own interest (e.g. Food, Travel).

Rather than the academic system itself, my department (CJL) have a teaching style that allows students to think intellectually and deeply into the philosophy and understanding behind the culture. For those who think a lot, it allows you to write down your thoughts and literally put it into use by doing it in Japanese and learning the language at the same time. If you want to challenge yourself, choose something that you’ve been thinking about but aren’t entirely sure or simply haven’t tried before. 

Doing double the amount of courses in one semester is something that I found difficult to deal with. In the first 2 weeks, I found having a variety of different courses and meeting different people while learning different topics interesting. The way Japanese universities test knowledge and understanding is different as well. Instead of just having majority of large assignments and exams, they have many small assessments and homework. If you have 8 courses every week with all different homework of something in an entirely different language, it can become very stressful. However, to do well, you just need to manage your time well and do/begin everything as soon as you receive them. The good thing about the system though, is that you will never be bored. Or rather, you don’t have time to be bored.

The enrolment process is quite different in Waseda. There is 3 registration period. In the first registration period, you register for the courses that you are interested in. During the first week of university, there is an orientation week where you can go into the classes for 1 lesson to see how you like the course and consider whether the level suits you or not. The same continues in the following registrations. However, if a specific course in the previous registration is full, you cannot register for it and have to wait until the next registration. This means if by the 2nd registration, you haven’t registered into a course that you wanted then it will not be open for the 3rd registration and you won’t be able to do the course.

Personal experience

The best thing about this exchange was the opportunity to meet all the people that I met and everywhere that I explored within or outside of Tokyo. The proximity of everything and convenience of trains makes it very easy to travel around. You will get used to listening to Japanese all the time and come to love the surrounding. But most importantly, make sure you treasure all the time you have with your friends.

Accommodation

I lived off campus in my own apartment. I enjoyed having my own personal space and freedom, not having to be concerned about other people. However, during my stay, I have had many unpleasant experiences with the housing agency in Japan. The host university will only provide you brief information unless it’s in regard to their dormitories. The first apartment that I rented was through an agency under the WUPM (Waseda University Property Management). The university will only receive the e-mail application then transfer the information to the agency. You will then contact the agency and discuss your rent situation.

At the first agency (Tokyostay), they hired all foreign students as interns. The interns weren’t paid and had to go in and out of Japan as they didn’t have working visa. The service and the quality of the apartment was extremely poor. The least expectation you could have for an apartment is a proper bed. This place however, offered a bed made out of a few worn out futons and therefore had a huge dent in the middle. They didn’t fix it until 2 months in and a few days before I actually moved to a new place from another agency. The homeware they provide were so worn out there were discolouration and food in it. Yet the host university could not do anything despite the management company being fully invested by them. Both the first and second agency I rented my apartments from held keys to my apartment. The first agency on several occasion attempted to unlock and come into the house simply because they didn’t have time to reply e-mail but had time at the moment to visit and talk. The booked to fix the air conditioner at the wrong time.

If I had an advice, it is to either choose to live at the dorm (yes you will get your personal space as well, you’re only on exchange for a short while, learn to deal with social settings), OR ask local students to help you out with a fully Japanese agency. Japanese people are kind but very closed up towards foreigners. This is very obvious from their agencies that rent to foreigners. But take everything as a learning experience and don’t waste your time getting frustrated.

Costs

The rent at the university dormitory with individual bathroom can cost from ¥60-80k. A room at a share house can cost from ¥50-90k. Renting an individual apartment usually ranges from ¥90-130k. Depending on the area and the housing situation, prices may vary.

There’s a huge variety of food choices in Japan. If you prefer, having meal prep could be cheaper. However, fruits and vegetables are extremely expensive in Tokyo. Expect to pay double the amount you would in Australia. Eating out can also be an option, food per meal can be a lot cheaper in comparison to Australia. For example, kaiten sushi in Japan is around ¥110 yen per plate, which is less than half the price of what you’d pay in Australia. There are also many restaurants with cheap deals and student discounts around the university at less than ¥1,000 per meal. Student shokudo is also an option, a set meal is served at less than ¥500. A cup of coffee, costs from around ¥300-600. There are also many vending machines selling drinks from around ¥100-200.

The main transportations I used in Japan was Train, Metro and Trams. There is only one tram in Tokyo, however, the station is 2-3 minutes walk from the North gate of the university and costs ¥170. Depending on which train and what lines you take, the price may vary (¥130-200). Some express or special train lines separate from JR or metro cost a bit more. Depending on where you go, the price may vary from ¥300-1000. Changing from JR train to Metro also costs more as the two are operated by different companies.

Tokyo, being the capital city of Japan and a large social hub, has a vast variety of things to do. Near the university or a central/big station, there are usually many entertainments around. There are batting grounds (¥300 for 26 shots), karaoke (¥270 per hour student discount), themed parks (Disney sea – around ¥6400), themed cafes (varies), bowling (1 game: ¥680, 2 games: ¥1090) and more.

How much you spend depends on your needs. But keeping your budget around $100-150 per week is good so when you really want to do something you have a bit of spare cash. But besides your weekly spending, add in your budgeted cost for the rent.

Professional Development

Educationally, Business Japanese and Keigo Japanese. Generally, adaptability to culture differences and appreciation to even the bad situations.

Highlight

Meeting the people I have met and spending time with them. Through the ups and downs, your pals are your best support.

Top tips

Waseda is an International university. If want to learn Japanese, don't just choose to study at the Japanese Language school. Your classmates at CJL will be international students so you will meet people with similar cultural backgrounds. Feel comfortable in your own skin, but force yourself to get out there, join circles and meet more Japanese people so you can practice and continue to improve outside of class. Joining SILS or other programs may actually allow you to meet more Japanese students as they will be doing the same courses for their degree.