The iconic statue of Shigenobu Okuma, the founder of Waseda University
I had thought that my university experience at UTS was the same for every other university in the world, but after experiencing life at Waseda University my views have changed exponentially! Perhaps it is the difference in culture, or just the sheer size of Waseda but I have been absolutely floored by my experience as an exchange student here.
Since Japan has an extremely large population, it makes sense that a lot of the universities and facilities here are massive. There are more than twenty buildings for the Waseda campus (Nishi-Waseda being the other campus which has a free shuttle bus going in-between them during the day) with a building dedicated entirely to language learning (the International Centre for International Education) which is where most of my classes are since I am a part of the Japanese Language Program under the Centre for Japanese Language.
There are many cafeterias and small eateries about the university, since Waseda University’s classes are structured around time periods with a 50-minute break in between periods 1 and 2 the cafeterias around campus are packed with students. You can also find some convenience stores like FamilyMart (or FamiMa for short) in some buildings. Eating on campus is very economical! The cafeteria food ranges from 200~350 yen depending on what you want to eat, and there is a really nice bento shop just outside of my building which gets really packed during the lunch break.
University in Japan also starts really late (27th of September!), as of yet I have only had my orientation week where we are able to get a feel of the class with a 40-minute orientation and decide whether or not we would like to pick it up or drop it. After orientation week, week 1 commences where each class is 1.5 hours long and stretches from 9AM with the latest classes ending at 6PM. Since I am taking Japanese learning classes exclusively, all of my learning has been classroom based only with no lectures, though if you are in a different faculty such as Social Sciences or Engineering it is more lecture-like than classroom-interaction style.
The view of Nishi-Waseda from my dormitory room window
Many of the Japanese language classes I am taking are really fun subjects! One of the subjects I am taking is ‘How to read books by yourself’ where you bring in a Japanese book of your own choosing and you read it in the class. The assignments being that you write a report about the book, and making notes on things you did understand, things you did not understand etc. I am looking forward to how that class unfolds for me!
I have been studying Japanese for the past few years at UTS but the experience is quite different from what I am taking at Waseda. Aside from ‘How to read books by yourself’ some other classes I have been taking are subjects such as ‘Learning Japanese Through Blogging’, a subject where you use the Japanese you have learnt from other classes and write blog posts about whatever you like! I am also taking ‘Expressing yourself through Japanese short poems, Tanka and Haiku’ where you create Tanka and Haiku in class and present them! The language classes are numerous and vary in level and style so you are able to choose classes appropriate to your level and to your weaknesses and strengths. I am personally really bad at writing in Japanese so I have taken a lot of writing classes to make up for that weakness!
The teaching style varies depending on the type of class you are taking. If you are taking a class that focuses on speaking, there will be less talking from the teacher and more presenting and doing speeches from the students. If you are taking a kanji learning class then it is more you sitting down and writing notes and memorising kanji from the teacher than it is active discussions and speeches etc.
One of the best things about coming to Waseda was finding out about the club culture here.
There are two types of clubs: サークル (sa-kuru, circle) and 部活 (bukatsu, clubs). Bukatsu are reserved for more serious societies that will probably have an impact on your future employment or increase your skills in a way that affects the direction of your life once you graduate from university. Some examples of this are the calligraphy club, many of the sports-related clubs etc. However, circles are more social and relaxed where you can make friends and do fun activities! Some of them include Wasulele (a circle at Waseda where you just make friends and play ukulele, wild) and more exchange student friendly ones like the Waseda International Club. I am personally keen on joining the Okuma Singers club where you just hang out, eat food, and go to karaoke!
Fireworks from the Kita-ku Fireworks Festival
I have only been in Tokyo for a month and despite travelling here many times before, being able to live here and truly experience life here has been wonderful so far. I am so excited for what the rest of the semester has for me at Waseda University!
Bachelor of Science in Information Technology/Diploma of Languages
Australian Government New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant recipient.
For more information about the UTS Global Exchange program please visit: www.global-exchange.uts.edu.au