Waseda Summer Session is one of Japan’s most popular and established summer programs. Since its inception in 2014, Waseda Summer Session has been offering 4-week, half-semester courses through the hot and sunny months of June and July. Approximately 80 students from over 15 countries around the world come to Waseda every summer to study alongside local Waseda University Students and explore the beautiful city of Tokyo.
Waseda University’s summer program offers a wide range of courses that cover most student’s interests. Specialized courses are conducted in business, culture, economics, history, literature, and art, politics, and sociology in the context of Japan and Asia. The courses are all taught in English by experienced faculty members from Waseda and visiting professors from top global universities. Many of the lecturers have working experiences at prestigious international companies or top institutions of academia and have a wealth of experiences to share. Furthermore, international students also have the opportunity to enhance their knowledge of the Japanese language through specialized language courses. For a more detailed look into all the courses offered at Waseda Summer Session for 2021, click this link here!
Insider’s look into a Summer at Waseda
So what is studying at Waseda Summer School really like?
Today, we are here with Charis Tay and Emmy Thompson who were participants of the Waseda Summer Session back in 2019 – the last summer school before COVID-19! Let’s hear what they have to say about the summer program:
Why did you decide to join Waseda Summer School?
Charis: Well my major was half Japanese so I really wanted to study there but I was unable to do a full semester exchange. Therefore, I decided to study at Waseda over the summer because it was English friendly and it was also one of the longer summer courses on offer at 4 weeks. Some of the other Japanese universities only had 2 weeks or 10-day programs.
Emmy: Because Japanese was my minor. I knew that it was kind of hard to travel abroad especially after you graduate so I wanted to study abroad as much as possible. When I was looking at the partner universities, I realized that I wanted to go back to Japan, this time over the summer, because I had been there previously during high school.
Also, I think that it’s worth mentioning that a lot of the Japanese summer courses have very cheap tutition from the eyes of an American! It was actually cheaper for me to study at Waseda than do a summer course at home.
What courses did you take at Waseda Summer School?
Charis: I took two courses. One was on Politics, which focused on political issues like Yasukuni Shrine. This course was interesting because my classmates were often from different parts of the world and brought interesting perspectives on each issue.
The second course which I particularly enjoyed was Literature & Art II, which focused on comparing the works of Murakami Haruki and Miyazaki Hayao. We watched a film every class and dived deeper into the film and literature techniques. I really enjoyed this class. It was interesting to compare novels and films and make a wider comment on Japanese society.
Emmy: My first course was about Tourism in Japan. The class was split into two halves. We spent the first half learning about foreign tourism in Japan, and the second half focused on local tourism in Japan. We learned about different strategies to promote tourism, particularly in rural areas that are seeing a population decline.
I took a Disabilities in Japan course which I also greatly enjoyed. This course was run by Professor Nakamura who is from UC Berkley and is in charge of the specialized department over there. It was very interesting to hear from Nakamura-sensei about the different case studies she had seen. A lot of the course focused on comparing accessibility in Japan and the US. We learned that accessibility tends to be better in city areas like Tokyo and Japan actually tended to have better accessibility than many parts of the US.
Where did your classmates come from?
Charis: Each class typically had about 20 people. There were about 80 students in the whole summer program and students came from all over the world such as China, America, Europe, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
What did you enjoy most about summer school?
Charis: I really enjoyed the wide range of classes that Waseda had on offer. The classes were also all quite chill so I had a lot of free time to roam the city of Tokyo. It was actually a part of the Waseda program for homework to not extend too much into outside time and students were encouraged to make the most of their free time.
Emmy: I liked how the class times were organized conveniently and my workload wasn’t too heavy so I was able to go traveling basically everyday!
A lot of other students went to Kyoto or Osaka but I decided to stay in Tokyo as it was big enough for me already. However, I definitely need to visit Japan again and travel to that region next time!
Where did you stay during the 4 weeks in Tokyo?
Charis: The guys got the option to stay at either a hotel-like accommodation or ‘Wakeijuku’, which was like a university dorm with traditional Japanese meals that included natto lol! However, all the girls had to pick a hotel-like accommodation. The place I stayed was located in Sugamo. I really enjoyed that area, there was a nice Dorayaki store.
Emmy: I also stayed at Sugamo with Charis. We would go out at night and could walk back home alone at night – I was impressed by how safe Japan was!
What was the best part of living in Tokyo?
Charis: I really enjoyed the atmosphere of being in Japan. And also, the Cobinis are so convenient! You can even get three meals a day from there, and they also have cheap drinks haha! I went there every morning with my friends and trying all the food was so much fun.
Emmy: Sugamo felt like a small city within a city and I liked how it was quite peaceful. There were lots of specialty stores, like a mochi store that had been open for 150 years! Hunting for tasty food was definitely a highlight for me.
Charis: The combini food and Dorayaki!
Emmy: I really liked the Melonpan. There was a really nice bakery in Sugamo. They had lots of different flavors.
Favorite place you visited in Japan?
Charis: Teamlab planet and borderless. I also liked this hiking trail in Saitama called Koburi Pass. I kind of regretted going there by myself because there were bear signs but it was a good stroll nonetheless! We also took a day trip to Kawaguchi-ko and it was perfect because of the peak lavender season.
Emmy: I really like the arts so I visited a number of moving museums, ranging from local small ones to big national ones. Teamlab is very famous but it was one of my favorites. I really enjoyed it. I had actually taken a few classes on Teamlabs back at my home university so it was interesting to see the digital and physical aspects come to life. I personally recommend Teamlab borderless more because of the interactive elements walking through water. You really have to visit and experience it yourself!
We also had a trip to Nikko with everyone attending the summer school which was quite fun. This trip was nice because it was held with all the different students from different classes so we were able to make friends right away.
Any tips for future students looking to attend a summer school in Japan?
Charis: I think a nice part of studying at a summer school is that you can take classes that you normally wouldn’t take at your home university. So I would advise you to go wild and take something you really like! You don’t really have to care about the credits and can just choose anything you want to learn.
Also, once you are at Waseda, go sit in during some random classes and maximize the summer session. Try to make lots of friends and go out as much as possible!
Emmy: Some people believe that that study abroad just for the summer isn’t worth it because it’s too short. Although a month doesn’t really seem that long, if you do something new every day you can really get a decent amount of things done! I think it is up to you to make it worth your time.
Also, I think it is quite important to study abroad as much as possible, and as early as possible. After you graduate, you may not have the chance to visit those countries again. In my case, I went on my first exchange to Europe but I didn’t quite enjoy it so much. I found my home back in Japan the second time I studied abroad.
… and there you have it. Thanks Charis and Emmy for the interview!
Studying at Waseda during the summer is a great way to get a taste of Japan. If you are unable to do a semester abroad or just want to be in Japan during the sunniest and warmest months of the year, take a dive into the wide array of courses offered by Waseda Summer Session!