To enrich his Japanese school life and to create new memories, Jaw seized the chance of a doing a double degree program in Japan, which was his dream long before entering a Japanese university.

In this article, let’s hear from Jaw as he imparts his experience in doing a double degree program of Waseda University and National University of Singapore. Jaw will talk about what he learned in his two years in Singapore, hoping that his story will help students who are dreaming of doing double degree programs.

National University of Singapore (NUS)
Established in 1905 as the Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States Government Medical School, NUS has now become a comprehensive research university offering a wide range of studies including sciences, medicine and dentistry, design and environment, law, arts and social sciences, engineering, business, computing, and music. NUS is not only the first autonomous research university but also the oldest higher institution in Singapore, honoring as one of the top universities in the world.

Waseda University
Waseda University was founded in 1882 as Tokyo Senmon Gakko (Tokyo Speciality College). Waseda consistently ranks among the most academically selective and prestigious universities in Japanese university rankings. In addition, it is famous for its large internationality, with the highest number of international students comparing to other Japanese universities.

Waseda-NUS Double Degree Program (DDP)
Waseda students on the Waseda-NUS Double Degree Programme are hosted by the University Scholars Programme (USP). It is an academic program established in 2001 in NUS. The purpose of this program is “To shape independent, adaptable thinkers and doers who will make an impact in the world”.
Also, Waseda students on this program will be jointly hosted by one of the following two USP partner faculties: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) Faculty of Science (FoS).
The Waseda-NUS DDP will be a 2-years program studying at NUS.
Only students from the School of International Liberal Studies (SILS) are eligible to apply for the Waseda-NUS DDP.

Jaw (Taiwan), Waseda University, 5th-year, SILS

The application period for DDP was the same as applying for regular exchange programs, which begins in October. Students will need to provide their personal statement, GPA, language proficiency certificate (usually TOEFL iBT, IELTS, etc.) for applying for study abroad.

As for applying for DDP, aside from the documents mentioned above, students also have to prepare for an English essay test. An interview with professors will be needed thereafter.

Normally, students have options to choose from one to seven priorities including double degree programs and other exchange programs; in the case of Jaw, he was just interested in the Waseda-NUS DDP and put it as his top and sole priority.

What was the GPA requirement for applying Waseda-NUS DDP?
And what was your GPA when you applied?
I remember the requirement was above 3.5. My GPA was 3.99. The requirement might change, though. But I believe above 3.0 will be normal.

What was the requirement for the language certificate?
“NUS only accepts TOEFL iBT. The Minimum language requirements were 100. My score was 107 at that time.”

What did you do for the essay test?
“I only remember that it was quite difficult, asking you to write down your reflection after reading an article related to history, media, and philosophy.”

How was the interview with professors?
“Well, those were basic questions asking about your statement like why do you want to apply for this program. Also, the professors will be one from Waseda and one from NUS.”

About Double Degree Program

What brings you to the double degree program of Waseda-NUS?
“I have considered double degree before entering Waseda. There are mainly three reasons why I wanted to challenge the double degree program and chose NUS.
First of all, I felt like going to different countries as much as I could during my schooldays would be one of the best ways to enrich my cultural life and to broaden my horizon, having more stories to tell. Besides, it could be useful for my future career as well.

Secondly, I had never been to Southeast Asia and was deeply interested in it. I believed that Southeast Asia has enormous development potential in various aspects and would like to visit there in person. Why I chose Singapore was because of its highest achievement in academics. I knew that NUS is the best university in Asia; If I gain a diploma from NUS, it would be helpful when I search for a job in Asia. Also, there are better students in NUS, which could stimulate my own growth.

The last is that I thought two years would be just fine, to know more about the place, the environment, and the culture. For me, one year would be too short but if I go for two years, there might be stronger feelings and deeper learning.
Oh, and I thought it was pretty cool to have a double degree.”

How many credits you should get from NUS?
“I think it was 80 through 90 credits. Eventually, I got more than 90 credits though.”

How much was the tuition fee for two years?
“Two years of tuition fee of Waseda University.”

Did you get any scholarships?
“Yes. The scholarship I got was called WSC, an internal scholarship from Waseda. It was for students participating in DDP or a one-year exchange program. The total amount was ¥1,000,000.”

Life in Singapore

University Scholars Programme (USP)
In effect, students participating in the Waseda-NUS DDP belong to the program called the University Scholars Programme (USP). USP is a faculty separated from the normal NUS faculties, with an independent dormitory and teaching system. Furthermore, the professors live in the same place as the students, so students could easily contact them.
Jaw said that the environment itself of USP is very free and students inside are extremely outstanding; if they have any ideas longing to create, they could try to apply for the funds by handing out their project plan through USP.

What is the difference in the academic environment between Singapore and Japan?
“I feel that students in the USP are so intelligent. Everyone could build their study system themselves effectively. What’s more, they spend most time on studying and don’t drink that much as Japanese university students do.

They pay more attention to studies because of two reasons:
First, grades in universities will directly be related to their future starting salary.
Second, I believe that traditional Asian parents are also a part since most still care about their children’s grades in school.

In truth, I heard some Waseda students failed the double degree program. In that case, they only could stay for one year and the DDP will change into the normal exchange program. The biggest problem is due to their study measure and habit; it would be tough if you were still using the study way in Waseda here.”

What kind of courses did you take during your DDP? Did you find any difference between the professors in USP/NUS and Waseda?
“Not only courses from USP, but Waseda students are also eligible to take courses from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) or Faculty of Science (FoS). I chose to take USP courses and courses from the Department of Communications and New Media, which is under FASS.

One of the USP courses I took was ‘Examining Local Life’. It was quite impressing since the contents vary from Island studies to comic books; the medium report was performing arts, asking you to express yourself by utilizing the space. The final report asked you to examine local life, finding the local of Singapore and define it.

It was super difficult. Yet, from my perspective, professors in USP really teach in a systematically and logically way. Somehow in Waseda, I feel that there is less the rigor of academics; professors usually provide a framework or theory and tell you to listen to it, and no more.”

Did you attend any extracurricular activities?
“Yes. I joined clubs in USP and NUS, both are related to movies. What we do were simply making movies or videos.
I also did a lot of internships and part-time while I was in Singapore. I did various fields of jobs at that time, including PR managing social media and doing booths, student tour guides, and I was an assistant of a company president. The last one was a mentorship program I applied through USP and the company president was my mentor. I went to Myanmar with him at that time.
Foreign students share the same freedom as local students.”

Reflection upon this Double Degree Program

After achieving his two-year study in Singapore, Jaw said he has harvested fully. Here, he shares mainly two points of what he learned from this experience.
First, it was the rigor level towards academics. The image, feelings, and definition of university might change deeply after knowing how other universities’ attitude towards academics and how the professors treat it. Therefore, whether learning, cultural or academic aspects, students are possible to grow a lot.

Next, Jaw said that he made a lot of important friends in Singapore. There are many students from Southeast Asia in NUS and they are all smart and nice. In the future, they could also become good connections as well.

For those who would like to try double degree programs but a bit unfazed, Jaw encouraged, “Just go and see how it looks like.”
Of course, students will have to see if doing a double degree fits into their plan or not since for foreign students, they will have to figure out places to live in Japan after the program ends and this might be related to their willingness of working in Japan.
“You can challenge it first and see whether it is what you want or not,” Jaw mentioned.

Even though in Japan, the double degree might not be that helpful for a career since Japanese companies usually don’t care about students’ grades in universities. Jaw said people could gain more unless they leave their comfort zone; it is not just for job hunting, but for enriching yourself in various aspects.