Waseda WeeklyWaseda University

Career Compass

Dear me a year ago, you made the right decision

Making the bold move to study abroad from Singapore

Vanessa Yu Wen How
Student at the School of International Studies

When I was twelve, a Japanese film I saw captured my interest in the Japanese language. Charmed by how beautiful it sounded, I would practice speaking in front of a mirror when no one else was in the room. Thanks to my grandmother, I started attending Japanese language school as a junior high school student. That was when I first realized how different Japanese grammar and expressions are compared to my everyday English and Chinese. You could say that my new discoveries were exciting, but otherwise, a pain in the neck. It was just so difficult, and there were times when I wanted to call it quits because my proficiency would not improve. However, the more I learned, the more interesting it got, and I knew I wanted to continue studying Japanese even in college.

I was born and raised in Singapore, so I assumed that naturally, I would stay there for university as well. What changed my mind was my high school graduation trip to see a friend studying in Japan. Seeing how satisfied she was motivated me to study abroad too. After coming back, I discussed this thoroughly with my parents and applied to the School of International Liberal Studies (SILS) at Waseda University.

Wearing a yukata at a summer festival event in Singapore’s Japanese language school

Then, the time came for me to make a decision, as I received acceptance letters from both SILS and a national university in Singapore. I knew that staying in Singapore meant security and steadiness, but at the bottom of my heart, I knew I was looking for a new adventure. Although it was a tough choice, I enrolled at Waseda, drawn to the opportunity for meeting and studying with talented students from all over the world and various backgrounds, not to mention SILS’ unique academic curriculum allowing you to choose courses of your interests from a wide selection, something that is uncommon in Singapore.

Time flies and it’s already been a year since coming to Japan. Of course, I do feel frustrated or overwhelmed sometimes by living in a country where the language and culture completely differ, but my life here is never boring. I like trying out new things through classes and circle (club) activities. At the same time, being away from home made me realize how remarkable Singapore is. Currently, I serve as vice president of Waseda Singaporean Student Association, helping out other Singaporean students and holding events on Singapore, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the nation’s founding last year.

It’s been fun and meaningful every day since I arrived. If I could say something to myself a year ago, I would say, “It’s daunting at first, but I am so glad you decided to follow this path.”

What surprised me the most about Japan

With other Singaporean students (Vanessa on the very right)

What surprised me the most was how Japanese people eat carbs-on-carbs, for example, yakisoba pan (fried noodles sandwich) and the udon and katsudon (noodles and pork cutlet over rice) set menu. I had never seen this kind food combination before, so I was very surprised. Speaking of Japanese food, something I have been enjoying recently is gyutan (cow tongue). Eating grilled cow tongue over warm, freshly cooked rice is quite pleasing.

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