Waseda is worthwhile for international students

Experience report: Studies at Waseda University, Tokyo, Sept July 2012


1 Experience report: Studying at Waseda University, Tokyo, Sept. July 2012 As part of my bachelor's degree, I studied from September 2011 to July 2012 as part of an exchange program for two semesters at Waseda University, Tokyo. In the following I would like to give an overview of this time, especially with regard to living in Tokyo and studying at Waseda University. First days It is advisable to apply for the residence permit in your local district office as soon as possible. The ID serves as an identity card and is necessary for longer stays of more than 90 days. Since it takes a few days to process, you get a document that can be used as a temporary replacement. When I applied for the ID, I was asked if I wanted one or more copies of this document. My advice is that you should at least get a copy. With this document it is already possible to open an account with a Japanese bank. Occasionally, however, the presented copy is retained by the bank. If you live in one of the Waseda University dormitories, there will be a day shortly after your arrival on which employees of the Center for Japanese Language at Waseda University go to the district office together with the exchange students from the dormitories and help with the application for the foreigner's permit. If you live in an apartment or with a host family, you have to take care of it yourself. But that's not as difficult as it initially seems. In an emergency, you ask the friendly staff in the office for help. As already mentioned, you can open an account with a bank using the foreigner's identity card (or the provisional document). Those who receive a scholarship must definitely have their own Japanese account. During the orientation phase, Waseda University offers information events in Japanese and English over two days. Various banks introduce themselves at these and offer the student to fill out the necessary papers for a new account immediately. The cash card will then be sent to you by letter. We were told at the introductory event that we had to have a stamp made with our seal in order to open an account. This is used more often than the actual signature. However, it turned out that this was not needed at all. It was enough to sign it. I didn't have to use this stamp a single time either. There are no fees for the account, regardless of the bank. However, there are minor differences between the institutes in the use of the cash card. I had an account with Yūcho Ginkō, the Japanese post bank. The advantage of this is that, in contrast to e.g. Mitsui Ginkō was also allowed to take off free of charge on the weekend. The Mitsui Ginko cost a little more than 100 yen. In the case of the Yūcho Ginkō, one should pay attention to when and where to withdraw money. Smaller branches close in the late afternoon around the clock and are closed on Sundays. The ATMs are then also except 1

2 operation. In contrast, the larger branches are open every day, and money can be withdrawn from their machines on Sundays. The counter for parcel acceptance and delivery is also open. Furthermore, you should withdraw enough money before the Golden Week in May. At the beginning of the month there is a week of vacation. During this time, the banks are also closed for three days. It is not possible to withdraw money on these days; nor at the ATMs in the supermarkets. One more word about payment: As a rule, cash is used to pay, regardless of whether it is in a supermarket or department store. It is possible to pay by card, but you have to apply for a credit card when opening an account. At Postbank this cost extra. It will certainly be similar for the other banks. Living If you decide in favor of the student dormitory, you will be assigned by Waseda University. Unfortunately, I cannot judge how the decision will be made. If you're lucky, the dormitory is only a good ten to fifteen minute walk away from the campus. A little further away is another one. The journey by train takes about minutes here. Since I did not live in the dormitory, I cannot assess how good the quality really is. The rooms are small single rooms with a shower. There are central washrooms in the building. However, there are strict rules when it comes to bringing guests along. I lived with one other person in an apartment in the Taito district, not far from Ueno Park. Apartments in Tokyo are very expensive. If you decide on an apartment, it is only worth it if you have two or more people, as you share the rent. We had to pay just under yen a month for our apartment, i.e. yen per person. In the end, I got away cheaper than if I had opted for the dormitory. Even so, it should be carefully considered. If you state from the outset in the compulsory questionnaire from Waseda University that you do not intend to live in a dormitory or move out of it during your stay, there is no way to move in again. Especially since it is very difficult to find an apartment as a foreigner. The house in which we lived was primarily aimed at foreigners. Usually, according to friends, Japanese landlords are reluctant to give apartments to foreigners. There are 24-hour shops, known as Konbini for short, all over the city. The larger branches are not much different from a supermarket and have a sufficient range. The prices usually start at around 100 yen. There are also special 100 yenn stores (e.g. Lawson) where a lot, including sales tax, costs only 105 yen. In addition to these shops, there are also real supermarkets that have a larger selection. No matter where you shop: the groceries can sometimes be quite expensive. Fruit and vegetables in particular, five potatoes can cost around 200 yen, but they have their price. If you have a 100 yen store nearby, I would advise you to give priority to shopping there (fruit and vegetables are available there in small packs for 105 yen) and only buy what is not on sale there in the supermarket to buy. This can save you some money. 2

3 Means of Transport The S-Bahn and U-Bahn network is very well developed and extremely efficient. As a rule, you don't wait more than five minutes for the next lane. Unfortunately, using public transport can sometimes be very expensive. For a trip, be it just one stop, you definitely pay 130 yen. U-Bahn and S-Bahn are separate from each other: If you change trains, you have to buy a new ticket. There is a day pass that costs about yen. But this is only worthwhile if you are really traveling by train all day. If you do not live in the nearby student residence or regularly drive the same route, it is worth buying a monthly pass. This is valid for one month, three or six months. With such a card you can travel on a certain section of the route, and only on this section, for a fixed price. So you get cheaper per month. Japanese Railways offers the so-called Suica card for this. Using it for one month cost me yen, for three months the price was yen accordingly. This saved me a lot of money instead of spending more than 300 yen every day to get to and from the university. However, the monthly price can vary depending on the route and be more expensive. The monthly pass can also be used as a normal ticket. For that you have to pay again. You simply top up the card with money at a ticket machine. On the next trip, the corresponding amount will be deducted from the card as soon as it is used at the lock. The monthly tickets are only valid for the respective rail network of the railway company. The Suica can e.g. Can only be used in the Tokyo area. In addition to the S-Bahn and U-Bahn, you can also use the bus in Tokyo. During my stay, however, I didn't use it once, so I can't comment on it. Waseda University Waseda University is located in Shinjuku District. The nearest underground station is right on campus and can be reached on foot. With this one drives one station and is already on the ring, at the station Takadanobaba. This station can also be walked. It takes a good 15 minutes, but it saves the additional cost of the trip. The campus is easy to find from Takadanobaba: just follow the main street Waseda-dori. At some point you come across the campus of the university. Aside from the courses, there are a large number of clubs that you can join. These are mainly sports clubs, but there are also those that deal with mangas, animes or exciting things like ikebana or the classic tea ceremony. Entering such a club usually costs money. The sports clubs aim at performance and competition. You have to be aware that the Senpai Kōhai principle applies here, i.e. you have to submit to the elders. That can, does not have to, take on very strict features. Since you only study with other exchange students in the language courses, these clubs are a very good opportunity to get to know Japanese students. 3

4 exchange students who are at Waseda University for one or two semesters study as Bekka students in a language program of the Center for Japanese Language. This is located directly on the main campus in building 22. Most of the courses are held there. At the beginning of the semester there are several orientation events for the newcomers, at which Waseda University and the Center for Japanese Language introduce themselves, as well as the Waseda International Club. This club is aimed at exchange students. As a member, you organize and take part in various events, excursions, etc. If you receive a scholarship, there is another information event that also serves as initial feedback. From then on, the scholarship holders have to show and sign their immigration ID at the Center for Japanese Language by the middle of each month. This is the only way to receive your scholarship at the end of each month. If you miss the specified period, you can submit your signature until the end of the month. You will receive the money in the following month. If you do not submit your signature by the end of the month, you will not receive your scholarship for that month. As already mentioned, the money will be transferred to the personal Japanese account. As a newcomer, you take a language test before the lectures begin. This is carried out online on a specified day, either at the university or from home. During a certain period of time, you will test your own knowledge of grammar, kanjis and listening comprehension. You don't have to write something of your own. The test takes approximately 90 minutes. Upon completion, you will be assigned to one of eight levels, which correspond to the eight language levels of the language program at Waseda University. However, the classification serves only as a recommendation. If you want, you can also attend courses of a higher (or lower) level. Such a test does not have to be taken again in the second semester. The range of courses is extremely extensive, so that you can put together your own schedule according to your own preferences. An intensive Japanese course is offered up to and including level 6. Since this course is again divided into twelve groups per level, you don't run the risk of sitting in a crowded course with 20 students or more. Due to the subdivision, only ten to twelve students are registered per group. This ensures a good learning environment. In these intensive courses you learn about all possible areas of the Japanese language, mainly grammar, but also Kanjis. The lecturers try to give the students a lot of space to speak for themselves. There are also lectures and discussions. I see the fact that so much emphasis is placed on the students speaking in Japanese with their fellow students as a very big plus point of this language program. There are also a variety of other courses, e.g. on grammar, kanjis, keigo or special topics that were discussed and lectured with the participants during the semester. Depending on the course, there were also exams. In the intensive courses, either the grammar, the 4

Asked about 5 kanjis or the vocabulary of the last lesson. Depending on the level, there could also be a final exam or an essay over ten pages. If you study as a Bekka at the university for two semesters, you have to accumulate a total of 26 credits during this period, with at least 13, but not more than 14 credits in courses per semester. The intensive course counts 5 credits up to level 4, after that only 3 points. For the other courses you usually receive 1-3 credits, depending on the hours in the semester. In the winter semester there were additional courses that took place three times a week and were awarded 5 points. Even if I found the one I was taking very good (this course puts a lot of emphasis on speaking), I would advise others against it. In retrospect, it seems to me a lot more sensible to take more courses, even if they score fewer points. It is true that you have more to do, but the greater the leap in performance. It also increases the chances of meeting new people. That is one of the nicest things about this year: You get the chance to meet people from different parts of the world and study with them for one year. A little tip at the end If you would like to get to know people interested in Germany, then you should definitely go to the meetings of the Japanese-German Society. This holds a monthly get-together as well as an evening in which certain topics are discussed with one another. The participants are always well mixed with Germans and Japanese. Here you still get a good chance to use your Japanese. 5