Studying abroad in Japan might sound intimidating to some, especially for those who don’t understand a word of Japanese, like how I was. When I was a high school junior, the thought of having to master all the kanjis sent chills down my spine. Back then, I didn’t even think to study in Japan because of my naïve assumption that I would not be able to survive in Japan with my terrible Japanese skills.

I somehow miraculously discovered and ended up in Sophia University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts, where all courses are taught in English. Thanks to that, I’m living the best years of my life in the heart of Tokyo. Study in Japan is a new series of articles offering insights on English-taught programs offered by universities in Japan for international students based on the perspectives of current students. By reading this series, I hope you’ll be able to find your dream school to study in Japan, without language barriers. If I could do it, you can do it too!

To start off this series, let’s dive in and see what it’s like to study in Japan through English-taught programs offered by Sophia University.

Faculty of Liberal Arts

The Faculty of Liberal Arts is the oldest undergraduate program fully taught in English at Sophia University. Having roughly 200 freshmen and a limited number of transfer applicants each year, you might expect to find a very limited social circle due to the small class size. However, with a large global network of partner universities, FLA welcomes exchange students who join full-time students in classes and extracurricular activities. With over 20% of full-time students being non-Japanese and hundreds of exchange students from around the world, FLA students can expect to form a large and diverse group of friends and graduate with a global mindset. There are three main majors offered by the Faculty of Liberal Arts: International Business and Economics, Comparative Culture, and Social Studies.

Here’s what people in FLA think about their program:

Arthur Burov (Russia): 3rd-year student, Faculty of Liberal Arts, International Business and Economics Major

Arthur Burov

What classes are you taking this semester? Which one is your favorite?

“I’m taking Japanese, Venture Management, Propaganda, and Public Opinion Persuasion and Christian Humanism studies. My favorite class is surprisingly the one where I have to do the most work: Propaganda Studies. I love it because of the discussions, intensive readings through which I learn so many theories and overall due to the sensation of a change in my perception of the media I consume daily.”

How big are the classes? Are there lots of international students?

“Depending on the class, there may be just a dozen of students, up to a hundred. One one of the classes I am taking is huge, but there are lots of foreign students. I think Sophia University is the kind of university specializing in English-taught courses, with the office in charge of student exchange programs accepting about 300 exchange students every semester. To be honest, I think the majority of students in my courses are non-Japanese students.”

On the scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the quality of the classes?

“7 on average, but it really depends on the class.”

What is the most surprising thing you discovered about FLA?

“Perhaps, the fact that I have so many compulsory courses and graduation requirements.”

What kind of person should major in International Business and Economics?

“An open-minded person; the one who is easy going but also responsible. A person who is ready to challenge themselves when necessary, a person who is motivated to overcome the difficulties, and a person who is good with numbers.”

Describe FLA in 3 words.

“Inclusive, personal, full-of-opportunities”

Tiger Shigetake (Japan): 4th-year student, Faculty of Liberal Arts, Political Science Major

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Can you introduce yourself to our readers, please?

“Hi, my name is Tiger Shigetake. I’m born and raised in Tokyo. I’m 21. I’m in my fourth year of university, with two more semesters left, including this one, and I’ll graduate next September. At first, I majored in International Business and Economics in the first two years, then I switched to Political Science major.”

What classes are you taking this semester? Which one is your favorite?

“I’m taking six classes this semester: Web Design, Propaganda Studies, Politics and Society, French, etc. My favourite class is actually Politics and Society because the class is not so uptight. I feel close with the professor and the class discussions feel really down-to-earth.”

How big are the classes? Are there many international students in your faculty?

“The size of my classes usually range from 15 to 25 people, but the smallest one is French which consists of only 10 people. There are many international students in my classes, so there are lots of diversity.”

On the scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the quality of the classes?

“At the moment, I would rate the classes a solid 9. It does get bland sometimes because the classes are very long (1 hour and 40 minutes per session). Despite that, the classes are still quite interesting.”

What is the most surprising thing you discovered about your program?

“What surprises me the most is actually the fact that no matter what you take, you still graduate with the Liberal Arts degree, so I think it doesn’t really matter.”

What kind of person would fit in well in your program?

“I think the people who should come to FLA are those who are undecided about their major because they can choose freely the subjects they want to study, or even change their mind halfway through. I really recommend FLA to people like me, who want to try out different subjects before committing to one major. Also, FLA is perfect for global-minded people and third-culture kids.”

Describe your program in 3 words

“Safe, multi-cultural, fun”

Faculty of Science and Technology

The Faculty of Science and Technology recently launched two English-conducted programs in 2012: Green Science and Green Engineering. The size of the classes is kept small, with under 25 students admitted as freshmen each year for each program. Therefore, close interaction between the faculties and students can be ensured. The student body is diverse, with international students from various countries around the globe.

Let’s hear what people in Green Science and Green Engineering think.

Sohta Hoshino (Japan): 2nd-year student,  Faculty of Science and Technology, Green Engineering

What are the classes you are taking this semester?

“I’m taking a lot of classes: Electric Power System Engineering, Engineering and Applied Sciences, Macroeconomics, Japanese Literature, Basic Informatics, Calculus of Several Variables, Computer Studies, etc.”

Which class is your favourite?

“Right now, my favourite is Engineering and Applied Sciences.”

How big are the classes? Are there usually lots of international students?

“Most of the classes are quite small, with under 10 students, but the FLA ones are bigger, with around 50 students. There are a lot of international students.”

On the scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the quality of the classes?

“I’ll rate them around 7. Some are native English speakers, some struggle in lectures, but are understandable.”

What is the most surprising thing you discovered about your programme?

“Actually, there is nothing surprising. It’s quite what I have expected.”

What kind of person would fit in well in your programme?

“People who like science and engineering and MATH. If you do not like MATH… Turn around and run! This is not the faculty you want to be in if you struggle with math, because you’ll need it no matter what course you take in Green Engineering.”

Describe your programme in 3 words

“Engineering, Derivatives, Integrals”

Anastasia Tasya Gabriela (Indonesia): 2nd-year student, Faculty of Science and Technology, Green Science

What classes are you taking this semester?

“I’m taking Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Geoscience, Catalysis Chemistry, Topics of Green Science 2, Topics of Green Science 3, Lab, Science Tech&Environment, Basic Informatics, Basic Differential Equations, and Quantum Reaction Dynamics.”

Which one is your favorite?

“My favourite is Catalysis Chemistry. The contents are really interesting and clear. I am learning a lot of new things. The professor already had his notes ready so the lectures are well organized and I have clear and easy-to-understand notes to follow.”

How big are the classes? Are there many international students in your faculty?

“The biggest class is probably around 16 people and the smallest one is 2 people. If you mean by the exchange students, probably there are only 1-3 people, but as for the full-time students, we are a diverse class from different countries.”

On the scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the quality of the classes?

“It really depends on the classes. Some classes are really good but some are not. There are some professors with really good English skills, there are some with understandable English, and a few teaching by reading scripts. The materials also depend on the professor. Overall I may give the score of 7.”

What is the most surprising thing you discovered about the Faculty of Science and Technology?

“There are only a few students in each batch and we are divided into two majors. In my batch, there are only 10 students: 8 in Green Engineering and 2 in Green Science. The number of courses offered in English is still lower than what I would prefer, compared to the ones offered in Japanese. Maybe, this is because the program is relatively new when compared to others.”

What kind of person would fit in well in your program?

“A person who is willing to spare extra time for their independent studies and explore more by themselves by reading books and looking through the internet.”

Describe your program in 3 words.

“Could be better”

Sophia Program for Sustainable Futures

In Autumn 2020, Sophia University introduced a new English-based program: Sophia Program for Sustainable Futures (SPSF). This program offers bachelor’s degrees in the following disciplines: journalism, education, sociology, economics, management, international relations, and area studies. According to the official page, students will have opportunities to take both discipline-based courses and interdisciplinary courses to enhance their skills and strengthen their sensitivity to diversity! 

For more information on the Sophia Program for Sustainable Futures program, visit their main page and their online brochure!

If you are interested in the programs, please check out this link for more info. In the next column, we will be exploring Waseda University and its various English-taught programs. Stay tuned!