Social Intelligence (SI) Program is an eye-opening opportunity for us to learn about things we would not come across in our daily life. It contains a vast variety of topics such as global issues, world economy, and speeches by companies. These opportunities encourage us to deepen our understanding of the overall job hunting process.
What I have benefited from the SI program is a broadened view of the diverse views amongst people from different backgrounds. I was able to discuss various topics with people that I have never encountered before, regardless that we live in the same dorm. Wherefore, not only do we deepen our knowledge on issues about society, but we can also expand our personal network by interacting with a collection of individuals. There will be times when we face difficulties such as coming across the language barrier as there are people from all over the world. The solution to this issue is viewing this as a chance for us to enhance our communication skills. Studying is a must for every student. Therefore, I believe that through applying these skills we have obtained in the SI program, it helps us to refine our abilities on both academic and social aspects.
SI program also prepares us with the right attitude and mindset as we work on acting independently while we train our logical thinking skills. Through the SI program, we get to deepen our knowledge and exchange ideas and thoughts from different cultures. Therefore, it is significant for the residents of WISH to apply these experiences to make our future even brighter.
Act first, think later: Advice by WISH’s Resident Assistant to prospective and current students
Identity struggle during childhood
Li Yue, student at School of Political Science & Economics (English-based degree program)
Born in Nagoya but of Chinese descent, Li Yue lived in Japan until he was six because of his father’s work. While he did return to Beijing afterwards, Li Yue came back to Japan again during junior high school, this time in Tokyo. Three years later before entering high school, he had to move to Shanghai, once again due to his father’s work.
Although he is not Japanese by nationality and descent, Li Yue had thought that he was Japanese when he was young because he not only spoke the language but also knew no country other than Japan.
“It was not until I was older that I realized I was Chinese when I first saw my passport and other legal documents. As such, I’d experienced an identity struggle in a very different way compared to people who are born into a bi or multicultural family.”
Li Yue (middle) giving a cultural presentation about China in Japanese at a local junior high school
While Li Yue did eventually come to terms with his identity as a Chinese, being in a diverse and international environment became important to him. That was one of the reasons why he decided to study at Waseda among all offers he received from other prestigious Japanese universities. Accordingly to Li Yue, Waseda does not only host the most number of international students among all Japanese universities, but also provides the most robust and comprehensive English-based degree programs. He specifically chose to study at the School of Political Science and Economics because he was interested in understanding how economies work.
Li Yue (front-most male student in blue T-shirt) and friends he made at Waseda
“Besides being a highly internationalized Japanese university, the other best part about studying at Waseda lies in the university’s location. Waseda is located in the Shinjuku district, in the very heart of Tokyo. There are many internship opportunities that students can find to grow and improve themselves in Tokyo because this is where most headquarters of companies are located. If you are thinking of working in Japan after completing your studies, you want to bear in mind that most job interviews are conducted at the headquarters here in Tokyo. Not to forget that being constantly ranked as one of the best private Japanese universities, if not the best, the Waseda brand gives you tremendous advantage over its counterparts.”
Apart from internships and job opportunities, Li Yue also notes that studying in Tokyo simply adds colors to student life. It is arguably the most happening city in Japan with countless events taking place all year round. Additionally, it is also easy to travel out of the metropolis to other parts of Japan or overseas thanks to its highly sophisticated transportation infrastructure.
Being a resident assistant at WISH
Photo of the exterior of Waseda International Student House (WISH) at dusk
Students engaging in group discussion during SI program at WISH
Launched in March 2014, WISH is an international student dormitory with a total room capacity of 872, where domestic and international students of diverse backgrounds live and interact with one another under one roof. Moreover, the Social Intelligence (SI) program compulsory to all WISH residents intended at cultivating leadership, as well as communication and creative problem-solving skills, are also held at WISH throughout weekdays during term time. Through active participation in the SI program and by living together with students from all over the world, WISH residents can not only further develop their soft skills, but also attain a deep cross-cultural understanding, both necessary to become successful global leaders.
Li Yue (front-right) and four other RAs
“After becoming an RA at WISH, I realized that domestic students and international students need very different kind of support from us and the university. Waseda takes in many Japanese students from outside Tokyo and one of our jobs is to help these domestic students get used to the city life. On the other hand, we not only need to help international students get use to city life in Tokyo, but also assist them in adapting better into a country that is culturally different from their own. Not to mention that many international students, especially those enrolled in the English-based degree programs, would experience language barrier when they first arrive in Japan. ”
Cooking event organized by RAs for residents at WISH
While the RAs at WISH would always try to make themselves available for consultation and assistance, not all international students would approach them when they need help. As such, Li Yue thinks it is important that he and other RAs stay proactive in communicating with the residents. To build trust with the residents at WISH, the RAs would often organize events to create opportunities for RAs, domestic and international students alike to interact with one another. It could be a sports game event, cultural sharing session through a cooking class or even a language exchange.
Li Yue (front left) and other WISH residents on Mt. Fuji
“Through participation in events organized by us, I hope residents would not only change their worldview by learning about various cultures and languages, but also treat these experiences as opportunities to reflect upon their very own culture and identity, something that I myself struggled with in the past.”
Wishes for the university
“I think comparing to other Japanese universities, Waseda as a whole is putting in a lot of effort into internationalizing itself and making a name for itself on the global stage. I definitely hope that it would become a university highly recognized by the international community in research and education. But from an international student’s perspective, I would also like to see more student support available in English for international students because some services are only available in Japanese. I could understand that because Waseda is still primarily a Japanese university, most administrative staff are Japanese. However, I do hope to see even more diversity on campuses in future by having more international staff who could provide alternative views and more thoughts to the huge international student body. If Waseda could achieve that, it would certainly achieve true internationalization.”
Advice to prospective and current Waseda students
Solo trip to South Korea
“My first advice to students is to travel as much as you can. It can be a domestic travel and you don’t necessarily have to travel out of Japan if you cannot afford to. There are many things that you cannot see on news, from books or the Wikipedia. Sometimes, it is only through travelling that you can truly understand a place, culture, society or how things really are.”
Photo taken opposite Marina Bay Sands, Singapore
To supplement his advice to students, Li Yue gave an example of his trip to Singapore to visit a friend. Situated in Southeast Asia, he had thought Singapore was a very “Asian” country. He was not wrong because geographically, the country is located in Asia and demographically, the Singaporean population is mainly made up of Chinese, Malays and Indians. But when he was there, he recalls seeing many foreigners from western countries working in the Singapore. In addition, many people there speak multiple languages and it is not at all rare to see, for example, a person who looks Indian by appearance speaking Mandarin. He stresses that such experiences are very much unimaginable without personally visiting the country.
Full member of RAs at WISH
“My second advice to students is to “act first and think later.” Many times when we give too much thought to something, we end up not taking any actions. And as a result, opportunities simply slip away. I think the best part about us being students is that we are allowed to fail, unlike adults. Instead of worrying too much about failing or being obsessed with the outcome, why not take it as a challenge to learn and outgrow yourself? By taking the first step to try, you may end up meeting new people who would change the way you see the world. You may also end up opening doors to new opportunities that would have a great impact later in your life you would not have imagined. In any case, nothing would change if you do not act.”
Meet Sayaka from Indonesia, residence assistant at WISH
Sayaka was born and raised in Bali, Indonesia. Denpasar, the capital city of Bali and her hometown, is located in the tropical zone near the equator where a warm climate and regular amount of sunshine are enjoyed year round. Back in her hometown, Sayaka would often go to the beach for water sports or a walk, or simply to watch the sun sets into the vast blue ocean at dawn. It is a nature-rich island of peace and relaxation, and has a moderate pace of life which many people would find comfortable with.
Before coming to Tokyo, Sayaka had never once left her hometown to live in another country in her entire life. To her, life in Tokyo feels faster and people seem to be constantly in a hurry, rushing to even make the green light and the train. She recalls experiencing some culture shock when she first arrived in the capital of Japan, but stresses that it does not mean she dislikes the city. In fact, she likes how Tokyo is clean, tidy, safe and convenient, and that it is a fun and happening city that one never gets tired of. While Sayaka has pretty much got accustomed to her life in Tokyo, things definitely did not turn out to be a bed of roses, at least at the beginning when she first came to the country.
Hometown of Sakaya – Bali, Indonesia
Meeting a seemingly familiar yet unfamiliar culture
“I literally freaked out when I first spoke to the local Japanese students at Waseda.”
These were the words of Sayaka as she recalled the days not long after her arrival in Tokyo. Born to a Japanese mother and an Indonesian father, Sayaka had some prior Japanese knowledge which she learned from her mother and at a Japanese language school she attended on weekends in Indonesia, before coming to Japan. However, as she did not really have the chance to speak to people of her age that grew up in Japan, trying to interact with them for the first time in Japanese was challenging. Furthermore, the road to adapting to Japanese culture and way of thinking poised another challenge. For instance, as Japanese people tend to be very polite and prefer not to say things bluntly, Sayaka needs to be mindful of this culture and be careful with her choice of words around them. This had caused her to be extremely self-conscious about her Japanese language ability at first, to the extent that there was a period of time when she simply did not speak to them at all.
Living life to the fullest at Waseda University
Group photo of TEDxWasedaU members
Months had passed since Sayaka started her undergraduate studies at the School of International Liberal Studies (SILS). If there is one thing that she has learned, it is definitely to not hold back from trying new things and gaining new experiences.
Event poster designed by Sayaka
Sayaka is a member of the production team in TEDxWasedaU, a non-profit organization and largest student-organized TEDx community in Japan devoted to spreading ideas worth sharing. Every year, TEDxWasedaU holds a major event as well as community-based salon talks and discussions. In addition, a Student Speaker Competition (SSC) is also held annually to recruit potential student speakers for the main event. Using tools like Photoshop and Illustrator, she would make posters, banners and logos for events held by TEDxWasedaU, a community where creative, inspiring people of diverse backgrounds gather to meet each other.
Trying to step out further from her comfort zone, Sayaka decided to spend her first summer vacation overseas at London School of Economics and Political Science, where she spent three weeks taking classes and enrichment courses to broaden her horizons.
“The greatest takeaway from my internship was to be able to learn to connect better with people of different backgrounds, be it Japanese, Singaporeans or other nationals.”
On top of that, she has also done an internship with Hakuhodo, one of Japan’s oldest and largest public relations companies, at its branch in Singapore for about a month. The internship Sayaka did in Singapore serves as a reflection of her very own study abroad experience and has definitely helped change how she would once be overly self-conscious about herself around Japanese people, to someone who is more confident and can better relate to Japanese people and culture.
“I am going back to Indonesia this coming summer vacation in August for volunteering work. There is an official student club at Waseda University called Wasen, and they would go to Indonesia annually to give talks about natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunami. Both Japan and Indonesia experience a lot of earthquakes every year. I hope what we are doing can raise awareness of such disasters among the local people in Indonesia and hopefully, they would be better prepared for them in the future,” said Sayaka as she expressed her wish to contribute back to society.
One of the difficulties that international students would be experiencing is finding a place to stay during their overseas studies. On that matter, Sayaka said she was glad that she was offered a place to live in the Waseda International Student House (WISH).
WISH residents engaging in group discussion during SI program
Launched in March 2014, WISH is an international student dormitory with a total room capacity of 872, where domestic and international students of diverse backgrounds live and interact with one another under one roof. Moreover, Social Intelligence (SI) program compulsory to all WISH residents intended at cultivating leadership, as well as communication and creative problem-solving skills, are also held at WISH throughout weekdays during term time. Through active participation in the SI program and by living together with students from all over the world, WISH residents can not only further develop their soft skills but also attain a deep cross-cultural understanding, both necessary to become successful global leaders.
Towards the end of the second year stay at WISH, residents will have a choice to apply for becoming a residence assistant (RA) of WISH, of which some of the benefits include getting to live in a bigger room and having a personal bathroom, otherwise shared with the rest of the residents. At present, there are merely about 34 RAs at WISH, and because demand is high, applicants usually have to pass a series of assignments and interviews as part of the strict, competitive selection process.
Sayaka’s first step towards making WISH a better place
Now an RA, Sayaka was one of the applicants. She remembers given an assignment that required her to give suggestions on how she could improve one of the floors in WISH, and then implement those suggestions in a given amount of time. As WISH was still relatively new, Sayaka thought that there could be even more interactions between domestic and international students during their private time, and decided to make a board made up of self-introductions of each student living on the 10th floor as a way to break the ice.
Since becoming an RA in April 2018, Sayaka has been providing student support for the residents at WISH. As she could speak fluent English, Indonesian and Japanese, the trilingual became a highly demanded RA by the residents for help and consultation. Additionally, RAs are also required to help organize and coordinate events and SI program, as well as make arrangement for accommodation that could hold hundreds of residents. While she has only been an RA for three months, Sayaka said she has grown and learned so much from leadership to planning, communication and public speaking skills.
Full member of RAs at WISH.
Wishes and goals for the future
Autumn at Waseda when most international students start their embark on their very first semester at the University
Sayaka feels that Waseda University has been doing a lot to make its campuses even more globalized as can be seen in the increasing number of international faculty and students, as well as courses conducted in English. Nevertheless, she feels that there is definitely more that can be done. Launched in 2004, the School of International Liberal Studies (SILS) which Sayaka belongs to became the pioneer to offer an English-based undergraduate program at Waseda University. At present, seven out of the 13 undergraduate schools and 13 out of the 24 graduate schools at Waseda offer degree programs taught entirely in English. As the English-based programs that these schools are offering are still relatively new, Sayaka feels that not many people from outside of Japan know about them. As such, she expresses her wish that these programs would become even more recognized and established in the future. Furthermore, while Waseda prides itself on being the university with the largest number of international student population among all universities in Japan, she hopes to see even more international students coming to study at Waseda and live in WISH. These are in line with the University’s aim to increase the total number of international students from the current 7,476 to 10,000 by 2032, as stated in the Waseda Vision 150.
Getting ready for shukatsu or job hunting in Japan
About what she wants to do after graduation, Sayaka says she wants to work for a Japanese company in the advertising and consulting industry. Given that she is trilingual and has a rich international background and experience, Sayaka feels that she can contribute a lot to the local Japanese firms as many are trying to expand themselves overseas. Since Japan is currently experiencing a super-aging society, there are definitely more work opportunities than ever for international students like herself.
Sayaka’s advice to prospective students
Friendship at WISH
“Japan is trying to be more open and global. But at the same time, the country is still pretty much homogenous and has its own perspective and way of doing things. For those of you who are thinking of coming to study in Japan, be open-minded and learn Japanese, even if you are thinking of enrolling in an English-based degree program. If you want to get the best out of your overseas experience, you have to learn the culture and the native language of the country you are going to, and this applies wherever you go. You should also join a student club or circle because there is where you will get the most interaction with local Japanese students outside of classes. There might be differences and clash of cultures at first, but that is the necessary first step to cross-cultural understanding. If you have already got a place at Waseda, make full use of the extensive student support, symposia and study abroad programs to enrich yourself and broaden your horizons. Keep trying new things and meeting new people, as these would new open doors to future opportunities that you would not have imagined. Lastly, you should definitely consider living in WISH, just like I do.”
Living in Tokyo for opportunities and personal growth (with video)
Convenience, self-reliance and friendship at WISH
Waseda University is dedicated to maximizing the academic and social experiences for students from all corners of Japan and around the world, encouraging them to become global leaders who meet the needs of society today. The Waseda International Student House (WISH) serves as its newest base for providing such a dynamic environment, where students learn to be compassionate and understanding of others as they live and learn together under the same roof. Francis Therese Calalang, a Waseda student in the EDESSA Program*, speaks about what living at WISH has been like.
*EDESSA is one of Waseda’s many programs which allows Japanese and international students to study together and obtain a Bachelor’s degree entirely in English. Read more about EDESSA here.
Aspiring to work in marketing or public relations, Francis Therese Calalang is a friendly and highly motivated student who demonstrates Waseda’s pioneering spirit. She is part of the 2017 TEDxWasedaU Organizing Team, which she decided to join after having been a TED speaker in 2016, and has also recently joined Waseda’s boxing club. Outside of Waseda, she currently works with Slush Tokyo, one of the largest start-up and technology event organizers in Japan originating from Finland, for their 2017 event. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and hiking. She says one of her most memorable trips in Japan was to Mount Fuji, which can be spotted from the kitchen at WISH.
Calalang, who is originally from the Philippines with experience living in multiple Asian cities, has lived in Japan for 5 years and attended a Japanese elementary school. She remembers hearing about the University even back then. “When I was searching for Japanese universities that offered courses in English, Waseda was one of the few universities that came up. It also has the largest number of international students in Japan, and growing up with an international background, this was really important. Another reason why I decided to attend Waseda is because of its location in Tokyo. I thought there would be more opportunities in the city for future internships and traveling.”
She puts her experience living at WISH this way: “Living here is quite interesting because it has more of a Japanese-living style than I expected. As a student coming from overseas, WISH has made the transition to university easier and getting guidance for local government procedures definitely helped. Initially, I thought living in a big city would be slightly stressful, but I actually don’t feel that way because the area where WISH is located is very family-friendly and peaceful.”
Calalang also points out its convenience and proximity to a lot of amenities. “For us who live in WISH, we get a wide range of eateries to choose from, two grocery stores, and the convenience of 100-yen and discount stores in the neighborhood which sell everything you need. The Nakano Central Park nearby is one of my favorite things since they usually have an event going on every week. When the weather is nice, my friends and I like to get takeout from one of the restaurants and have a picnic there.”
Aside from its convenience and safety, students learn to become self-reliant and creative problem solvers at WISH. “I learned how to cook and how to save space here. I actually didn’t cook a lot before I came to WISH. I sometimes had to call home to ask how to make certain dishes, but other than that, it was mainly trial and error with help from the internet. Also, since we have limited space, you learn how to work with what you have to fit everything you own and purchase. The two things that worked for me were those 100 yen vacuum compression bags and this tension bar that I hung by the window for laundry.”
Ultimately, however, the best parts of living at WISH are experiencing firsthand and fostering friendships with Waseda’s diverse community. Such experiences become an excellent opportunity for learning as well as personal growth. “I have been lucky to have great Japanese suitemates who are laidback and open to talk without any formalities. The majority of my close friends are international students who also live here. Living together with them is nice because we get to see each other almost every day. They turn my living room into a study space when exam season rolls in, and after all the hard work, finding them asleep on my living room floor in the morning is sometimes hilarious.”
Nike Training Club’s pop-up studio in Shibuya
One of Calalang’s interests includes sharing her experience of living in Japan from an international perspective through her blog. Waseda University’s Office of Information and Public Relations asked her to create a video introducing the Waseda Campus and WISH, which is available below.
Privilege to Learn the State of the Art Engineering. Proceed With The Research & Be Able to Contribute to My Home Country
My childhood days have spent in Japan and my father has been engaging in constructing bridges, roads and maintaining them in Nepal. Japan is well-known for their high and precise level of skill in construction, therefore, I have thought of learning in Japan. At first, I did not have confidence in taking all my classes in Japanese and comprehend well. Fortunately, I have found that I could take classes offered in English and earn the degree in engineering at Waseda, therefore I chose Waseda University. I am blessed with the ideal learning environment and enabling me to learn the state-of-the-art engineering curriculum.
Besides the language barrier, departing from home country was a big issue for me until I arrived at WISH. Staff and fellow Japanese dorm students have taken care of me well. There are students from all around the world at Waseda Campus, and students are very helpful and friendly. This atmosphere is similar to the American School I have attended and it has helped me familiarize myself to the Waseda campus.
Nepal is the country that experiences frequent earthquakes similar to Japan. However, the idea of quake prevention awareness and to construct quake resistant buildings are not well informed yet. Therefore, I plan to proceed with my research on architectural method, quake resistant structure and in addition, disaster strategies and countermeasures and hope to take home these knowledge and skill. I am highly motivated to apply what I am learning now and to develop Nepal, a better country to live in.
（School of Creative Science and Engineering, S.S）
Dormitory is the Place for Nurturing Communication Skill & Autonomy. Full of Opportunities
I was attracted to the SI program that would be offered exclusively to the dormitory students and also given a chance to live with students from all over Japan and internationally. Especially in SI programs, guest speakers of major cooperation visit us or Alumnus would come and share their onsite work episodes. These opportunities have been helping me to become aware of how I should prepare myself for the future at early time. Also, I was awarded an opportunity to participate in the oversea training in Malaysia.
When I was new to the dorm, I had experienced some difficulties with Japanese students and international students over usage of the shared kitchen area and sanitary area. However, this has made me realized that it is important to share my thoughts as well as respecting others. This experience has given us a strong bond as WISH dorm students.
At WISH, there is a couple , our “Care Taker” we refer to them as “ House Master” and Associate, but basically, daily living style and management is up to students’ autonomy. Life at dormitory gives a chance to find out your “own self “and also enables to broaden your horizon. I suggest and encourage you to choose dormitory life as part of your college career and together, we can grow strong in communication skill and Autonomy.
(School of Education, R.A)
Participating in SI Programs is the bridge of my dreams.
Pictured at the Community Kitchen. (Pictured center)
The greatest attraction of SI Programs is that “To maximize my own possibility.” When I studied abroad in high school, I had bad experiences to discuss with students from different nationalities. I could not speak up my own opinion because I was caught up in the active emotion by other students. I could not express my opinion even when I was asked to do so. After this experience, I became to dislike discussion, but then I found SI Programs. In the SI Programs, I can learn not only the method of logical thinking taught by Japanese instructors, but also how to make an assertion in English taught by foreign instructors. In addition, international residents participating in the programs have different nationalities, and also Japanese residents have various backgrounds. To discuss with such residents is very stimulating experience for me. Through the SI Programs, I am able to find discussion interesting. Since I want to play an active role internationally in the future, participating in SI Programs is bridge of my dreams.