Coming all the way from Hamburg with her passion in Japanese, Antonia started her life as an exchange student in Japan since September 2019. Though her stay is only for a half year, she makes sure to always seize the moment, creating herself a memorable journey as a story to be told.

Back in Germany, Antonia majored in Japanese studies and musicology. As part of the Japanese studies requirement, it is a must for her to study abroad in Japan. Antonia has chosen Waseda University as her study abroad destination and is currently studying in the School of Social Sciences. In this article, Antonia will be sharing her Japanese school life. Let’s see how she has been enjoying her exchange!

Dormitory Life

Antonia (Photographer). (2019). Waseda Hoshien [Photograph]. Own work

For exchange students studying for either one or two semesters, most of the students will choose “Waseda Hoshien” as an accommodation. This student dormitory is only a 5-minute walk from Waseda’s main campus. Waseda Hoshien has three buildings and two different types of bedrooms, either a single or a twin type; furnitures like closets, a bed, a refrigerator, and a desk are all included inside the rooms. Also, there are public sharing facilities in Waseda Hoshien, which includes a kitchen, coin laundry, shower rooms, etc. Rental costs depends on the room type, which is around ¥60,000 to ¥80,000.

What surprised Antonia was when she was informed that students won’t know which building or room they will be assigned to, and it was possible to not be selected at all. Students will need to write down their preferences and budget during the application.

“Eventually, I got a room which cost me ¥60,000 per month. I will suggest to set your budget up to ¥70,000 to get more possibilities,” she said.

Morning schedule: Start off with some Music
“I go to Toyama campus in the morning and reserve a music room to practice my viola, normally three times a week. You can book the room for 90 minutes and I usually book it from 9:00.

Also, I’m currently joining an Orchestra circle in Waseda and I go to practice two times a week as well.
People from the Orchestra circle are nice and open-minded. But I would recommend foreign students learning at least some Japanese communication skills before joining any type of circles.”

Antonia said that joining a circle is a good way to feel the Japanese environment and it is helping her studies. She was also really surprised how the Japanese students directly practice in the hallways instead of being in their rooms. “You can immediately hear the music when you get inside the building! Everyone also seemed so committed to their circles.”

What kind of classes are you taking in Waseda?
“I am interested in Environmental Studies and Community Development in the social sciences field. I took classes like Environmental Law, Social Design, Rural Development and the Theory of Community Development. I wasn’t allowed to take any classes in Japanese, so I only take English courses.”

How do you feel about the classes?
“If possible, I would like to take the courses in Japanese as well. I feel that some of the Japanese professors might have difficulties speaking in English, but I believe they are very knowledgeable in their fields and the contents are interesting.”

What classes did you take in Germany for your Japanese studies?
“In Germany, the courses were just general studies about Japan. So I am also glad to learn things directly from the Japanese side through the course like Japan and Globalization in Waseda, and have a feel of the Japanese society by actually staying here.”

Meals in Japan

What do you usually eat in Japan?
“I normally eat two meals and often cook for myself. When I have classes, I usually just directly go to the classroom. But I am an inconsistent person, so sometimes I just skip my meals.”

Antonia (Photographer). (2019). Eating outside [Photograph]. Own work

Antonia mentioned that she likes to go to the supermarket and grocery stores to look for ingredients for a healthy diet. Every Friday will be her grocery shopping day with her friends. Also, after practicing in the orchestra, she sometimes will hang out with them to have dinner.

“But my biggest problem is that I love coffee and sweets too much. I like to search for coffee shops during the weekends to have a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. For my food expenses, it cost about ¥15,000 per month. I know I have to economize from now on.”

Part-time job: Teaching Assistant (TA)
Antonia said that though she got a scholarship from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), it did not allow her to apply for any other scholarships and it was not enough to afford her life in Japan. Luckily, she got an e-mail from Waseda, asking for her willingness to become a Teaching Assistant (TA) in a German language class. The class is every Tuesday and the salary she will receive is ¥1,100 per hour.
Her tasks are to check students’ assignments, have discussions with the students in the class, correcting students’ PowerPoints and so on.

Exploring Tokyo

Antonia (Photographer). (2019). Momiji [Photograph]. Own work

Antonia talked about her weekends in Tokyo. She enjoys walking around in parks like Ueno Park and Yoyogi Park and also enjoys going to Meiji Shrine as well.
“Tokyo is a big city but it is still nice to walk around somewhere. I try to walk a lot, not only finding nice coffee shops and bakeries but also observing people on the streets and how the houses look like. I think it is really interesting. Sometimes I go hiking on Sunday. I went to Mount Takao last time.”

Antonia’s feelings about her journey
“In general, I think I enjoy my life in Tokyo more than in Hamburg. Sometimes I feel depressed in Hamburg; there are so many automobiles and I don’t think there are enough spaces for pedestrians. Also, there is not enough public transport. Moreover, the weather is much nicer here in Tokyo and the people here are nicer, too.”

Antonia (Photographer). (2019). Momiji-2 [Photograph]. Own work

“I wanted to go for an exchange to Kyoto at first, but due to my application period, I only have choices for Waseda and Saitama university. Now, I am in Waseda and I just really happy to be staying in Tokyo. There are many opportunities to do day trips but you need to have the time and the money. Still, I enjoy the city life, the weather and the cultural wonders you can find here. I am so glad that I can be here.”

Joy is not in things; it is in us.

Richard Wagner

Antonia lives simply and happily. She deeply enjoys this half-year exchange program, embracing her life in Tokyo. Filled with courage and curiosity, Antonia said that she would love to have a gap year and visit other countries after finishing her studies in Germany. This experience in Tokyo will definitely become a precious part of her life.