Many aspects should be considered in choosing a university. They might be academic life, student clubs, sporting events, or the university’s facilities itself. It is because of the unforgettable learning experience that we want to cherish during our study. In this article, Made Ayu Sayaka will share with you why Waseda University in Japan is such a perfect place to study.
As a private university located in the very heart of Tokyo, in Shinjuku, Waseda University offers the fun campus culture experience and a great academic vitality. Waseda has more than 50,000 students, amongst them 5,000 are international students.
- Academic Life
Founded in 1882, Waseda has 36 departments organized into 13 undergraduate schools and 23 graduate schools. Amongst those, Waseda has also started its International Programs–the classes are entirely taught in English, aiming to attract more international students. The university follows the Japanese academic calendar, which is quite different from other countries. The Spring Semester runs from the 1st of April until the end of July, while the Fall Semester starts from the end of September until the first week of February. Entrance ceremonies are held in the first week of April, in the beautiful spring with Sakura trees blossoming. It also has Entrance ceremonies in September for the International students.
First period classes starts at 9 AM and the last period, the fifth period, ends at 6 PM. While starting class at 9 AM might not sound that bad, but walking to school at 9 AM in the freezing winter can be quite a challenge! Free periods in between classes are usually spent studying at the central library, hanging out with friends in the student lounge, or taking naps under the trees in the Okuma Garden, a beautiful garden in the campus.
At Waseda, first year and the second year are the busiest years, with students taking maximum allowable credits (from 17 credits to 28 credits, depending on the faculties). One class is usually worth 2 credits, but that also depends. It is not uncommon to find first-year students juggling 13 subjects in one semester– crazy! The workload will usually lessen gradually. On top of that, students also participate in outside campus activities–which leads to the next topic, circles.
In Japanese universities, there are two types of student-led extracurriculars: Clubs and Circles. Clubs are intensive, rigorous student organizations. They’re the ones who represent the Waseda university officially at varsity level tournaments. They train intensively almost every day, and they are generally for professional purposes and not recreational. Circles, on the other hand, are more common; they are flexible, laid-back student gatherings. There are around 500 official circles and countless unofficial circles at Waseda. Most Waseda students participate in circles. Circles usually meet up once or twice a week after classes, but members can join practices whenever they are free (except during event preparation periods). Circles and clubs accept new members in April during the Shinkan season. Shinkan is one-week period where various circles try to recruit as many new members as possible. While most circles are held in Japanese, there are some international circles too; so if you don’t speak Japanese, these international circles are a great way to start.
Waseda is famous for its large number of circles; it has the usual sports circles such as tennis, basketball, swimming, ski, to academic-oriented circles: debate, research, to the unique and unusual: Doraemon research circle, Gundam research circle, cheese-lover circles, and many others. Chances are what you like will be available. Clubs and Circles have gasshuku, which is a practice retreat where all members stay in a villa together, practicing and socializing together. So, circles are a great way to immerse yourself in the Japanese culture.
- University Events
There are tons of annual events at Waseda, the biggest being the baseball Sōkeisen and Waseda Festival. Sōkeisen translates to Waseda University- Keio University tournaments and the baseball tournament is the most popular one. Keio University has always been Waseda’s biggest rival, so the annual baseball game is always highly anticipated. Another big event at the university is the Waseda Festival. It is an annual university-wide festival which is held every 4th and 5th of November. There are hundreds of performances by the circles and the clubs, from dance, music gigs, and many more. There are food stalls too, run by the students! On the days of the festival, thousands of visitors flock to the university, making the Waseda festival one of the biggest university festivals in Japan. There are many other events too, such as the American football Sōkeisen, talks and seminars.
There is a large gakushō or the school cafeteria which provides various food, from Japanese meals such as curry, miso soup, ramen, to western food such as pasta and steak at the campus. The university cafeteria’s food is delicious and inexpensive, but the location of the cafeteria can be quite far from your classroom, so it might take time to walk there and back to the classroom. There are also various small bento (take-out packaged meal) shops and convenience stores scattered around the campus. The lunch break is only 50 minutes, from 12.10 to 13.00, so there is limited time to get lunch, causing most students to run to get bento at the convenience stores instead of going to the canteen. Waseda is famous for its abura soba, which is a soup-less ‘oil’ noodles and there are many abura soba shops around the campus.
Waseda is located in Shinjuku, which is one of the busiest subs of Tokyo. While it is great to be close to the bustling opportunities in Tokyo, but at the same time, the drawback is that the cost of living can get quite expensive, especially the housing fees. Renting an apartment near the campus will easily cost around 70,000~90,000 Yen per month (approximately 10 million IDR). Because of this, many students choose to live quite far away from the campus, where the rent is much cheaper. Aside from apartments, the other option is living in a dorm. There are many off-campus dormitories owned by the university, some of them provide meals and cheaper than renting an apartment.
It is very common for Japanese students do part-time jobs during their free time to earn extra cash. Most students do part-time jobs such as waiter/waitress, restaurant staff, with the average hourly wage around 1,000 Yen/hour. Many students also do high school students tutoring too, with average hourly wage around 2,500 Yen/ hour. The good news is, with the labour shortage in Tokyo, it will be relatively easy to land a part-time job! The most important thing of being a student is to study and not to work, so it is advised not to get too caught up too much with part-time jobs and keep prioritizing academics.
So, it’s normal for a Waseda undergraduate student to juggle classes, circles, and part-time jobs at the same time. University life in Tokyo can be quite stressful and busy, but at the same time it’s fun, rewarding and exciting. And that’s the most important thing: making the most out of the four-year university life in Japan.
Photos provided by author