INTRODUCTION OF THE SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL LIBERAL STUDIES

Welcome to SILS; one of the most international student-friendly programs in Japan.

Interested in an English-taught comprehensive liberal arts program at a prestigious Japanese university? Waseda University’s School of International Liberal Studies, or SILS, meets all those and more, all at the beautiful Waseda campus in the heart of Tokyo, Japan.

SILS is a liberal arts school within Waseda University. SILS students are taught to be worldwide leaders through study in a variety of subjects, including international relations, political science, and literature. SILS students are both international students as well as Japanese natives. There are many reasons why SILS is a renowned school within Japan and beyond, particularly in its support for international students:

1. SILS has one of the most diverse student populations in Japan.

As of May of 2019, SILS has 2,858 students with nearly a third being international students. Waseda University also has one of the highest international student populations in Japan. 

International students at SILS come from all over the world. SILS represents nearly 50 different countries and regions in its student body. The sheer diversity at SILS means that the faculty and staff are well-equipped with services designed to help international students. This includes ample international student housing, academic advising, counseling, and more.

2. SILS is an English-taught liberal arts school that treasures academic freedom — perfect for any international student who would like to explore many different subjects.

At SILS, students have the opportunity to explore many fields of study. To support this freedom, SILS offers a substantial 800 courses, which fall into seven thematic clusters:

  • Life, Environment, Matter and Information
  • Philosophy, Religion and History
  • Economy and Business
  • Governance, Peace, Human Rights and International Relations
  • Communication
  • Expression
  • Culture, Mind and Body, and Community

Students can also choose to study in a concentration, which is similar to majors. Upon completion, students have become experts in a certain subject. There are 11 concentration programs as of the 2019 academic year.

SILS has small class sizes, with seminar classes being just 20 students to 1 professor. It is easy to approach professors with questions, and professors at SILS often know their students by name. This promotes discussion among international students and Japanese students.

International SILS students also have access to substantial Japanese language support that brings them to a native level.

SILS students have access to resources available from the Center for Japanese Language (CJL) within Waseda University. This includes taking language classes offered through CJL.

Firstly, there are comprehensive Japanese courses, which are well-rounded Japanese language classes that bring a student to the next level of Japanese.

There are also 230 themed subjects, each with their own level. These courses include topics such as reading, grammar, business Japanese, and society and culture. Students take such classes to supplement learning alongside comprehensive courses.

Students can also attend Waseda Nihongo Support, where staff offer advising and support. Students can come to the drop-in desk and ask any questions they have regarding Japanese grammar, vocabulary, and more.

3. There are many resources that SILS offers its students to set them up with opportunities, internships, and experiences to jumpstart their careers.

The SILS Internship Program helps students find exciting internships in Japan.

The SILS Internship Program is one way for students to get academic credit for internships. Students can apply from a list provided by Waseda University of around 13 internship programs with a variety of different companies. Elective course credits are awarded to students based on the number of hours they have worked at the internship. 

The SILS Global Network Center is a resource for all SILS students wanting to get the most out of their time abroad.

SILS Global Network Center (GNC) has information regarding employment for foreign students in both Japanese and international companies, independent career support, questions about studying abroad, and more. The GNC also houses SILS Advising. Students who are seeking help regarding any aspect of their study abroad experience are encouraged to see a SILS advisor.

The members of the SILS Sempai Project are a new student’s first friends at Waseda, and simplify a student’s transition into life in Japan.

The SILS Sempai Project is a student-run organization that aims to ease the stress of new and returning students at SILS. Sempai (先輩) is a Japanese word meaning “senior” or “superior”. Sempai act as mentors.

In the case of the SILS Sempai Project, a sempai is a continuing SILS student who would like to assist new students. SILS sempai are helpful and friendly resources. The sempai does course consultations, campus tours, and more. This resource is particularly helpful for international students, as there is a lot to adjust to when moving to a new country.

Waseda has an extremely comprehensive career support center that pays special attention to the needs of international students.

SILS students can find career support through the Waseda University Career Center. Around 75% of SILS students enter into the workforce immediately after graduation. General career guidance, career-related events, and individual counseling sessions are all available. The Career Center prepares students for careers at some of the top companies in Japan. Some of the most popular among SILS students are Google, Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, and Toyota Motor.

Waseda Alumni Associations help ensure that Waseda students never forget the fulfilling times they spent at SILS.

Waseda has Tomonkai, which are alumni associations located in various cities across the world. Tomonkai represent the worldwide scope of Waseda international alumni. They are student-run, and any student of Waseda can find a community in them.

SILS also has its own alumni association, known as the Waseda University School of International Liberal Studies Alumni Association. It helps students maintain a relationship with Waseda University and fellow peers. Annual events and more are held by the association. SILS is celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2019, and will hold 15th-anniversary events for graduates from all over the world to have a reunion and further strengthen the alumni network.

SILS prepares its students for any future endeavor they choose to embark on.

Waseda University’s SILS has significant resources for its international students. It has great familiarity with its international student population, and works tirelessly to support them. SILS provides a unique opportunity for undergraduate international students who would like to study in English while living in Japan. With a comprehensive and diverse curriculum and a melting pot of cultures, SILS is sure to provide an excellent education as a foundation for any future pursuits.

DISCUSSING RESOURCES AND STUDENT CULTURE WITH A SILS PROFESSOR: MATTHEW KANE STERENBERG

Professor Sterenberg received his Ph.D. in Modern British History at Northwestern University, which is located in the United States. His interests lie in intellectual history and the history of ideas.

SILS has a wealth of resources available to its international students, and has the experience to finetune its services.

Professor Sterenberg believes that there are many resources that Waseda and SILS provide for international students. He asserts that this is because Waseda has a well-developed study abroad program with a long history.

The SILS office staff are extremely helpful, as they take their jobs seriously and go above and beyond to help students integrate into university life in Japan.

The faculty at SILS are also good resources. Many students who study abroad come to learn more about another country. Professor Sterenberg describes the wealth of knowledge that faculty members have about Japanese culture, history, and politics.

SILS students are both extremely intelligent scholars as well as social and community leaders.

Professor Sterenberg thinks that “SILS students are the best students at Waseda. They are not only good students academically, but also active in extracurriculars.” Waseda University is known in Japan for having many student-run clubs, known as circles. There are around 600 circles at Waseda, and over 90% of students participate in a circle.

Professor Sterenberg likes to have international students in his classes, because “they bring different perspectives and backgrounds to discussions.” As a part of the study abroad experience, international students aim to learn more about the people and culture of their destination country. The native Japanese students also share their insight, which helps international students broaden their perspectives. Professor Sterenberg thinks that it “works both ways”; indeed, both international students and Japanese students benefit from this diversity.

Despite the incredible benefit that international students will gain from the experience, they should also be prepared to face challenges upon arriving in another country. Professor Sterenberg thinks that students should be confident that they can overcome these in time with an open mindset.

“There can be extreme cases where students are having difficulties. If there are extreme cases, students should not suffer in silence.” In such cases, students are more than welcome to visit the SILS office and discuss these problems. SILS offers resources to help students in any sort of situation, and those in the SILS office are extremely willing to be of use.

Professor Sterenberg suggests that students take advantage of advanced seminars, which wrap up a student’s time at SILS.

SILS has advanced seminars, which many students choose to take. Although not required classes, students often find that the seminar is academically fulfilling. It follows the last three semesters of a student’s time at SILS. In the class, students write a graduation thesis.

Professor Sterenberg’s students typically write advanced seminar theses about history, but will also include perspectives from other subjects that the student has studied at SILS. In such an unrestricted learning environment, students have chances to study many different fields of knowledge and make connections within them.

SILS is academically and socially accommodating for international students.

SILS offers significant resources for its students. It is truly one of the most international student-friendly universities around, with its well-rounded class curriculum predicated on a variety of academic support systems. As Professor Sterenberg points out, “the liberal arts promotes tremendous intellectual freedom. SILS also gives you the opportunity to make connections between these fields of knowledge as you progress through the program.” SILS is not only a school with diverse classes and students, but also a supportive environment for international students. Its wealth of resources is a testament to its dedication to its international students.