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Tatu Meagher

she/her
SFU Student Undergraduate
Arts + Social Sciences › Psychology | Education › Counseling + Human Development
Study Abroad › Exchange

Program:
University
Location:
Experience Faculty
This past Fall semester (September 2022 - February 2023) I was extremely lucky to study at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan. At Waseda, I was enrolled in the School of International Liberal Studies. I hope this report can be of support and guidance to future exchange students at Waseda!
Experience Details
Semester
Fall
Year
2022
Introduction + Preparation
Location Research

There are many platforms (e.g., reddit’s r/movingtojapan, mofa.go.jp, Canada’s travel advisories, discord) that I used in preparation to move to Japan. I found these websites to be a great way to keep updated with current events in Japan, as well as learn some tips and tricks needed in order for a successful move.

Financial Preparation

Before leaving Canada, be sure to notify your bank and credit card company that you will be out of country so that there aren’t any complications. During my trip, I mostly used a Canadian bank card to withdraw money from convenience store ATM’s (Lawson, Family Mart, and 7-11). Japan is still very much a cash-based society, so expect not to use debit or credit much. Also I would advise to make sure you are carrying enough money in cash (YEN, not CAD) when you travel over, just in case you are unable to sort things out with your bank and are unable to withdraw money for a couple days. I found Tokyo to be much more liveable than Vancouver in terms of cost of living. For example, food is generally 1200 yen ($12~) and under, while rent prices for students can range from around 70,000-85,000 yen ($700-$850CAD).

Packing

When they say to pack less than you think you will need, they aren’t joking. Returning at the end of study abroad can be super stressful if you are tight for space because you brought too many clothes from home (that you never wore. I am speaking from experience…). When packing for Japan, I brought only one checked suitcase (with intent to purchase a second on the way back). This way, I tried to make sure that I had enough space for everything I purchased while abroad. I highly recommend other exchange students to try and do the same thing!

Travel and Transportation

After arrival in Tokyo, you can purchase an IC card at any train station. In Tokyo, IC Cards (SUICA or PASMO) are used to get around by train and bus – similar to compass cards. I recommend that exchange students purchase the student discounted IC card. These cost around 27,000 yen/3 months and can be purchased using student ID and a slip provided at a train station inside the information + ticket purchase office. If you choose to go without the student discount card, you can buy regular IC cards at most metro (PASMO) or JR train stations (SUICA). Don’t worry about which card to get, either will work for travel just the same! As an added plus, these days you can also use IC cards to pay for things at vending machines, convenience stores, or game centers!

Preparation Tips for Future Students

I also recommend doing a bit of research before you leave in order to become familiar with customs and etiquette in Japan (e.g., not talking on the train, removing shoes in changing rooms, knowing which side of the escalator to stand on, etc.,). Additionally, it might be helpful to learn some everyday Japanese (e.g., how to survive conbinis, how to ask for directions, etc.,). A little knowledge goes a long way and can help your experience be a lot smoother than it might be otherwise.

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

I strongly recommend that all exchange students plan so that they arrive in Tokyo in time to attend the orientation. The first two weeks after arrival are quite stressful with administrative work (i.e., registering for health insurance, changing address at city office, arranging for a SIM card); something that really helped me was to attend orientation. Waseda exchange students are very friendly (chances are you will pick up some friends at the meeting). Getting to know people at orientation means that you can hopefully have buddies who will need to run the same errands as you (meaning you can go together!). That way, settling in is much less stressful!

Accommodation and Living

Securing a spot in Waseda’s dorms is quite difficult, but they will provide plenty of other options to help you find a place. If you choose to research for housing on your own terms, I would suggest Waseda Property Management Corp as a good place to start! During my exchange, I lived in a sharehouse about 45 minutes from Waseda campus. Although the commute is long and I wasn’t living with other Waseda exchange students, it might have even been nicer than living in dormitories!

Day to Day

The weather in Tokyo is quite warm throughout all months of the year. Even in Fall and Winter, mostly everyday was sunny and mild. Earthquakes happen much more often than you would think (sometimes multiple times a week)! The more they happen though, the more you get used to them (don’t worry too much!).

Learning and Adaptation

In terms of course registration, Waseda was very different from SFU; Waseda uses a lottery system rather than priority procedure. Consequently, I recommend future exchange students to be sure to pick 3-5 additional courses on top of what they plan to take. At orientation, Waseda will provide a lot of information on the more complicated parts of registration, so there is no need to worry! Importantly, look out for how many credits you will be required to take, so there are no surprises. Many Waseda students are required to take 15-20 credits per semester!

Accomplishments and Challenges

Something that I recommend exchange students to remember is that while you should always try your best, you should not take school so seriously that you experience burnout. Waseda’s schooling is very rigorous, so it is imperative that you give yourself proper breaks! My best advice with a 15-20 credit course load is to hang in there and to roll with the punches as they come. Once semester is finished, I promise the feeling will be as rewarding as ever!

Cultural and Environmental Observations

Tokyo is an amazing study abroad location – there is always something to do and somewhere to see! Some places and activities I suggest are eating Katsu Don at ごんべえ (Gonbee) near Toyama Campus, cafe hopping in Nakameguro or Sendagaya, picnicking in Shinjuku Gyoen, and taking advantage of the beautiful seasonal nature (Sakura or Ume blossoms, and Fall foliage). There are plenty of fun themed activities in the city for those that like Ghibli, Anime, Disney, LINE characters, and more!

Social and Extracurricular Activities

I highly suggest that future exchange students take part in Waseda’s campus life! There are plenty of circles (clubs) that you can partake in. Inside the classroom as well, there are lots of group projects and other opportunities to get to know your peers. Everyone that I met at Waseda was really friendly! Often, peers invite one another to grab dinner or coffee after class. Some advice that I would give is to try and push yourself out of your comfort zone when making friends. Don’t be scared to join circles or accept someone’s offer for an after-class snack!

Wrap Up

Some of the recommendations I have just outside of Tokyo include Enoshima, Kamakura, Yokohama, and Hakone. These can be inexpensive day or weekend trips perfect for bonding with friends! Some other places myself and other exchange students travelled to range from Gunma and Nikko (1-2~ hours by train) to as far as Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka in Kansai region (2-3~ hours by Shinkansen).

Reflection & Tips
Reflection

Throughout study abroad, there are many challenges international students face, whether it be missing family and friends, adjusting to a different culture, or navigating immigration procedures. My best advice is to hang in there! This is a great opportunity to show yourself how reliable you can be!

Advice for Future Students

If you are looking to become the best version of yourself, study abroad!! My study abroad has been the most beautiful experience of my life. The growth that you experience while away from home can be exponential, even within a few weeks. I strongly encourage anyone who is looking to adventure and develop a stronger sense of self to apply for an international exchange.

Author

Tatu Meagher

she/her
SFU Student Undergraduate
Arts + Social Sciences › Psychology | Education › Counseling + Human Development
Study Abroad › Exchange
visibility  426
Jul 6, 2023