5 C’s to Consider When Choosing a Circle

Collegiettes who attend Japanese universities are not only pressed with decisions about classes and part-time jobs, but also about what circle(s) to join.

Circles (サークル) are the equivalent of American college clubs and intermural sports. Circles are made up of and run entirely by college students, and tend to be a lot more casual than official school sports teams. For most Japanese students who have gone through the rigorous club system in middle school and high school, circles offer a chance to meet people of similar interests in a more relaxed, less time-consuming environment.

Waseda University offers a plethora of different circles. There is a circle for almost every sport, hobby, interest, or pastime possible. From music circles to sports circles, circles for people who like anime, debate, volunteering, or mountain climbing, there is a circle for everyone! With the Waseda Festival coming up, circles are under the spotlight as many of them prepare to set up booths and put on performances to showcase what they're all about!

As an enthusiastic collegiette, you may find it tempting to join circles but with the hundreds of official and unofficial circles at Waseda University, it may be hard to find a circle that is the “right fit” for you... But fear not! Her Campus has put together a simple guide that aims to help you narrow down the choices that are perfect for you.


1. Capacity

Although this may not seem like the most important factor when choosing a circle, the capacity of a circle is very important! Are you the type of person who gets bored seeing the same people every week? Then maybe you should stay away from smaller circles. Are you somebody who tends to feel lost in a big crowd? Then big circles may not be right for you.

Look into how many members there are in a circle, as well as how many members are accepted every year to get a good estimate of circle size and whether it's right for you.


2. Communication

If you are somebody who is comfortable with Japanese, there is a good chance you will be able to join any circle. However, if you feel that your Japanese is still subpar, you may want to look into the communication of each circle before making any decisions.

While most circles at Waseda are open to international students, there are some circles where the members may only be able to speak Japanese. If you want to challenge yourself into speaking Japanese choosing an all-Japanese circle may be right for you. If not, it may be safe to stick with a circle where members are more open to speaking English. There are also circles for specific languages other than English and Japanese for students from all around the world!


3. Cost

Just like every other aspect of college life, it’s important to think about the cost of a circle before joining. Depending on the circle, there is usually a fee to join, which can range anything from 0 to 15000 yen (Equivalent US$150) and up. In addition to membership fees, some circles can become quite costly when considering circle events, trips (合宿) , and gear.

If you are a collegiette on a budget, estimating how much a circle will cost you over a year should be an important determinant before joining.


4. Commitment

Although circles may be more casual than school sports teams or school-run organizations, there is also a certain level of commitment required for each circle. Some circles may require you to come once a week, everyday, or not at all. Between classes, part-time work, and other social outings, a collegiette must make sure that they actually have time to fit in their circle activities.

There are also circles that require a 3-year commitment from their members. If you are only at Waseda for one year, or if you are considering taking a year-off or studying abroad, it may be a good idea to stay away from those circles or at least have a chat with those who head the circle to get an idea of how to work out a more flexible schedule!


5. Compatibility

Most importantly, when choosing a circle it is important to consider the compatibility between the circle and you. It is strongly recommended not only to contact the circle you are interested in, but also to go once or twice to see how you feel in the circle.

Each circle has a unique atmosphere and unique members, so to find the “perfect fit” it is essential to actually go and check out the circle and make sure that you feel comfortable. Talk to the members, hang out with them, find out what the circle does, how the relationships are like between senpais and kouhais! While one circle may be horrible for one collegiette, it could be perfect for another. Don’t listen to off-hand remarks about circles take it as the truth; you never know until you try it out for yourself!

The best part about the Japanese circle system is that there are so many different circles to try out. You don’t necessarily have to pick one; many students are in two or more circles (this is called兼サー in Japanese). Circles offer so many great experiences and chances to meet different people who share the same interests. Whether you’re a one-year exchange student or a full-time student at Waseda, Her Campus recommends everyone to look for the perfect circle for you to enhance your years in Waseda!