Waseda and SILS through the lens of an international studentWed, Mar 17, 2021
Opening a new chapter to new people, academics, and an unknown place is exciting, but perhaps also a bit daunting. Having been a Waseda University student at the School of International Liberal Studies (SILS) for a year and a half now, here is what I can honestly tell you to welcome you into this environment.
Waseda University, and SILS to be specific, is a social space. While you develop your own voice and identity, you are surrounded by a hub of individuals that makes you want to reach out, network, and be inspired by others. What is even more unique about SILS is its international community that holds a distinctive personality that I have come to love and appreciate. Being of a Japanese, Malaysian, and Thai nationality with a background of growing up abroad mostly in China, I was unquestionably nervous about coming to university in Tokyo. I assumed I would have to communicate in perfect Japanese to make friends or that explaining my background might be confusing. However, I was proven wrong and perhaps in the most delightful way. I was instantly surrounded by individuals of similar backgrounds; being half-Japanese, being Japanese but having grown up or experienced being abroad, having attended an international school, or being of another nationality and loving the culture of Japan. There was so much in common and so much to share! At SILS, you are surrounded by people of such an open-mind and the diversity of culture and interest makes it a space possible of finding friends, making friends, and finding your place as well.
What is funny is that at SILS, the world really does feels smaller than it is – but not in a bad way! It is a great introduction to the larger global community and a great place to start building new connections. Being a part of this community at SILS undoubtedly gives you invaluable friendships and a more natural global awareness. Conversations are always sparking from common experiences, stories that others have, and a shared interest in getting to know the world better from where you are.
To be honest, going into university, a part of me knew what I was passionate about, but another part of me did not know what I wanted to pursue specifically. I think that is a fair position to be in at such a young age. However, as I was on my search for places to extend my education, I was attracted to SILS because of the academic freedom, the seven academic clusters that courses are based upon, and the academic culture of self-exploration. Now, a year and a half later, I am glad to say that it has been a fruitful experience and continues to be. As a liberal studies faculty, the range of topics that courses are offered on varies – just as most liberal arts faculties are known for. At SILS, although there are limitations to the extensity of courses as one might expect, it is a good place for exploration and possibility. The important aspect about most liberal studies faculties is that you yourself take initiative to shape your academic journey. With this in mind, what I was able to do at SILS was to step into the world of urban planning and social design through a holistic approach where the knowledge I have gained from the various courses and professors I have learned from at SILS intertwine to give me a more critical and flavourful perspective.
What I particularly love about SILS is that students are given the possibility to take courses on a range of subjects without immediate restrictions on what they have learned previously. It is a space that encourages students to try new things and consequently discover more about themselves every semester. Perhaps without the opportunity offered at SILS, I would never have found myself taking a class on architecture as a first-year student that, retrospectively, has drastically changed my understanding of what I want to do in the future and who I want to be. Another admirable aspect about SILS is that the academic discussion is open to students from all backgrounds. In one of my most insightful classes on urban studies taught by Professor Christian Dimmer, I started as a quiet participant to one that eagerly spoke to almost every class to contribute to the discussion because of how inviting it was of various opinions. Although this may be a personal perspective, for me, this is the academic environment taking place at SILS and it is a space constructed by the input of every individual’s choice.
Culture and Environment
Waseda University is a setting that has its own history that, as a student, you have the opportunity to walk through when you visit campus. The famous statues that can be found around the campus to buildings such as the Okuma Auditorium have become known as Waseda landmarks. Without a doubt, the Waseda campuses are beautiful places to be and learn in. Being a part of Waseda also allows for you to immediately engage with cultural activities through circles (i.e. student clubs in Japan) and also major events like the Waseda Festival (早稲祭); these are so much fun to participate in and definitely become a memorable experience of one’s university life.
Finally, we cannot ignore the fact that Waseda and SILS are located in the heart of a major city, Tokyo. One’s university experience is naturally integrated with the movement of the city; from learning more about the Japanese culture, lifestyle, and specialties. Learning in such a place gives you both the opportunity for personal growth and also for learning the Japanese language outside of a classroom setting. Weekends or days off can be spent with friends exploring the city, going to a cafe to study, or getting inspired by art! One of my favorite things to do is to find a new cafe in Tokyo to sit down and read or get some work done for a class. Tokyo is famous for cafes of different personalities and it is a perfect place to broaden your area of “study” with a more fun approach. Lastly, as you are walking around and observing the intricacies or patterns of the city and its people, what has been interesting for me is how this plays a part in the discussion in some of the classes that I have taken. The idea of living in a big city is exciting but it is so wonderful to know that naturally, this experience can play a crucial part in the way you think about what you are learning.
*This article was written and contributed by the following student.
Misato Fujii (2nd Year Student)
School of International Liberal Studies