International students enjoy the natural beauty of Tokorozawa CampusWed, Oct 21, 2015
How much do you know about Tokorozawa Campus? If you visit, you may come across international students devoting themselves to Sports and Human Sciences research. We met with Korean student and first year Master’s student at the Graduate School of Human Sciences, Kwon Aram, and Chinese student and second year Doctoral student at the Graduate School of Sports Sciences, Xiang Mi, to discuss their reasons for choosing Waseda and their plans for the future.
Why did you choose to study at Waseda?
Xiang: I have been interested in sports health care ever since entering college but my university at that time did not offer a related area of study. I knew I wanted to attend graduate school but there were very few universities in China that specialized in sports health care. I started looking at programs overseas and discovered that Japan is one of the top countries in the field. Thanks to TV and other media outlets, Japan has a good reputation abroad for being a safe country. I thought that since Japan is an Asian country, its culture would be similar to my own. I also developed an interest in the Japanese language.
Kwon: I majored in Japanese as an undergraduate student and have been interested in the language for a very long time. After graduating, I wanted to learn more about Japanese society so I enrolled in a graduate school in Korea where I completed their Master’s program. I wanted to further my research and for this reason decided to study abroad in Japan.
Did you have any interaction with Waseda prior to coming to Japan?
Xiang: There are many famous people in China that graduated from Waseda. Waseda has a great reputation in the field of sports medicine, which is one of the reasons I wanted to study here.
Kwon: Waseda is very famous in Korea. While studying as a graduate student in Korea, I came across a book written by a Waseda professor that left a deep impression on me. These interactions inspired me to come and study here.
What was your family and friends’ reactions like when you decided to study in Japan?
Kwon: My parents did not really say anything regarding my decision. Since my fields of study as an undergraduate and graduate student were related to Japan, they were not surprised by my decision and did not ask me questions about why I wanted to go there.
Xiang: My parents did not have any problems with me going to Japan. I was in Japan when the Great East Japan earthquake happened so at that time my parents, relatives, and friends would tell me that Japan is dangerous. However, I was not worried at all. I have always felt that Japan is a safe country and I feel the same way to this day.
Can you tell us about your experiences studying at Tokorozawa Campus?
Kwon: I remember being a bit surprised when I first came to Tokorozawa Campus. It takes around ten minutes by bus from Kotesashi Station and is surrounded by nature. Although there are very few places to eat around campus, its distance from central Tokyo makes it a good location to focus on research. I think it is a great place for those who want to conduct research in a calm environment.
Xiang: The scenery and atmosphere of Tokorozawa Campus is great. It is a calm environment and people often refer to it as “Totoro’s forest.” It is far from the nearest station and there are very few stores and restaurants nearby but it is a great place for sports sciences students and is equipped with exceptional facilities for research and physical activities.
Did you have any troubling experiences after coming to Japan?
Kwon: This is my second time studying abroad in Japan so I did not run into too much trouble. However, it was my first time signing a housing contract. This was a difficult process and I often had reservations as to whether the accommodation I was deciding on was the right choice. When signing a housing contract as a foreigner, unless you know a Japanese person that can act as your guarantor, you will need to sign a contract with a guarantor company. Because you are signing a contract with a company you are unfamiliar with, this can be a nerve-racking experience. There is a lot of paperwork involved when coming to study in Japan. My advice to other international students is to ask for support from Japanese people or other international students. This can help make your transition to Japan a smooth one.
Xiang: I started studying Japanese after coming to Japan so this made many things difficult. For my first semester, I lived in a Tsukuba University dorm so there were no contracts involved. I think it would be a good idea for Tokorozawa Campus to have its own dormitory. I had to complete a lot of paperwork after coming to Japan and many situations required me to have a Japanese phone number and bank account. Life can be inconvenient for international students coming to Japan because they do not have these. Fortunately, I did not have too much trouble but I recall some of these inconveniences when I talk with other international students.
Did anything surprise you when you came to Japan?
Xiang: Prices were more expensive than I expected.
Kwon: Since this is my second time studying in Japan, I have grown used to life here. If I look back to when I first came to Japan, the most surprising thing for me was the amount of paperwork. I was also confused on many occasions when store clerks refused to accept credit cards. I would hand over my card and they would simply tell me “you can’t use that.” I was not accustomed to the cash-based culture of Japan but now I remember to carry cash with me wherever I go.
Do you notice anything different when you return to your home countries?
Xiang: I often travel back to China for research. The last time I went back was this August. Compared to how quiet people are in trains in Japan, trains in China are very loud. Japan is clean no matter where you go despite there being no trashcans. In China, even if there are trashcans, people throw garbage into the streets. Everyone in Japan is polite and considerate.
Kwon: The overall atmosphere of Japan is different from Korea. Like Xiang said, Japan is quieter, but on the other hand, I think Korea is more dynamic.
What are your plans after graduation?
Xiang: I have wanted to become a teacher since I entered college. I am a doctoral student now, but once I graduate I would like to return to China and become a professor. If possible, I would like to promote international exchange between China and Japan.
Kwon: I am now a first year Master’s student, but I would like to go on and pursue a doctorate. After I graduate I want to teach or conduct research. I am open to working in any country as long as I am interested in the position.
Can you share some words of advice to those thinking of studying abroad in your home countries?
Kwon: Deciding to study abroad is a very difficult decision to make. Studying in another country with a different language requires a considerable amount of energy. However, it is very fulfilling to learn about a country while living there. With its comprehensive education system and exceptional faculty and students, Waseda is a great place to study as an international student.
Xiang: I advise those interested in coming to Japan to study Japanese and English beforehand. I think it is better to study Japanese before coming to Japan. If you do not understand a certain level of Japanese before coming, life will be difficult and a lot of time will go to waste. You should also put a lot of thought into what you want to do and what you want to research. There are many opportunities at Waseda and you should do your best and take advantage of them. One thing that surprised me about Waseda was its extracurricular activities and circles. Other universities have circles and clubs but they are not very popular. However, in Japan, especially Waseda, I feel like students are living fulfilling lives where they can have fun while pursuing their academic interests.