Japan Studies (ACM) Waseda University Spring '05
- Opinions about the program
There were both really great and not so great things about ACM
Japan Studies. It allowed me to live in Tokyo, a major political,
economic, and cultural center of Japan, while staying with a Japanese
host family. Having a host family was one of my most valuable experiences
while abroad: they provided me with a support network, generously
welcomed me into their home and taught me about their culture.
I was also able to improve my Japanese
language ability, because I spoke to my host family in Japanese all the time. It was a safe, comfortable atmosphere to learn and make mistakes. I attended Waseda University's School for International Liberal Studies
(SILS). I had Japanese class for about 3 hours four days a week (although there was some variance in schedules by class and level), and had the option to take an additional linguistic/social workshop which was also taught in Japanese. Classes in academic areas other than Japanese were generally taught in English. The main problem I encountered was related to being placed in the appropriate Japanese language class. I entered the school in Spring Semester along with 5 other students, however the majority of foreign students had entered in Fall Semester. The placement exam's questions were a very different style of testing than I had ever encoutered before. Upon being assigned a class, I was asked to take another exam, following which my professors suggested I move down a level. Finding a class that fit me well was difficult, and I ended up breaking down in front of the professors, after which they finally placed me in a class that was most appropriate. The approach to class placement tended to be too rigid and near-sighted. As a result some students were not placed in a class that suited them well, and didn't benefit as much as they could have. In terms of my other courses at Waseda, some were better than others. A few I really enjoyed, however some professors had difficult lecturing in English. Outside of academics I found many opportunities to join circles (clubs) on campus and meet new people. There were also events within my School, amongst foreign students, and also amongst ACM program participants. I felt that Michiyo Nagayama was helpful in her support of the program, but the Resident Director for that particular year had little previous experience with Japan. He was helpful when he could be, but did not have the linguistic capabilities that might have been desired to fill the position. One last complaint I had was that SILS was attempting to implement a new grading policy, whereby only 25% of a class would be awarded an A, 25% a B, 25% a C, and 25% a D to prevent "grade inflation," regardless of the proximity of students' actually numerical scores. While in the past professors have generally not enforced this policy, SILS was attempting to make it a comprehensive rule. Overall, I think the program offerred some great opportunities, but because it places students in SILS, a brand new School at Waseda, there are still "kinks" being worked out of the system.
- Courses you took/could have taken
I took an Intensive Japanese language course (I think it has now been cancelled), and then entered Waseda and took: Japanese level 4, Modern Japanese Society (Japanese Language worshop), Intro. to Urban Anthropology, Globalization and Identity, Culture and Society of SE Asia. There are many, many classes offered.
- Credit transfers/credits for your major(s)
For the most part all my classes transferred, counting as 1.00
credits, and my letter grades also counted. However, because I
took 6 courses while abroad, and I did not petition to overload
ahead of time, not all of the
credits will be counted. Although I left at the end of interim, the registrar has yet to acknowledge that I was unable to take an interim, although I took a 6 week intensive language course upon arriving in Japan that functioned in the same way as an interim would at St. Olaf. I plan on
contacting Mary Cisar and seeing if this can be altered.
- Advice for future students
I think that this program has great potential. Those going should
be prepared to live in the metropolis that is Tokyo, and expect
to deal with daily commutes ranging between 45minutes- 1 hour and
20 minutes (one way) daily. Having a host family allows you to
develop deep relationships, but
remember that what you get out of it is equal to what you put in to it. Be sensitive and flexible, but also open and sharing of yourself. Don't forget to listen. I suggest reviewing Japanese to prepare for the placement tests (especially when entering in Fall Term) so that you will be placed in an appropriate class for your level. I highly recommend joining a "circle" or club so that you can meet Japanese students, and be exposed to different social groups and activities.