Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
High School

5 Things About SILS You Need to Know

Waseda University is one of the top universities in Japan, and its School of International Liberal Studies (SILS) boasts an impressive multilingual liberal arts program covering a wide range of subject areas. Its English-based homepage gives off the impression of a unique, well-organized program and was attractive enough to convince me to choose Waseda. As is the case with any other educational institution, however, SILS has its fair share of both strong and weak points, the latter of which is harder to read up on if you’re not fluent in Japanese. 

I do think it’s worth mentioning that a couple of the “drawbacks” listed below have come across to me as such to me because I grew up attending an international school (and briefly attended a university in New York) — if anything, it might be more accurate to consider this a list of cultural differences between typical American and Japanese universities! 

  1. Everyone shares the same lunch break…and it’s only 50 minutes long. Classes at Waseda are split into 90 minute-long chunks, but strangely enough, lunch lasts less than an hour. Because everyone — and I mean everyone — has lunch at the same time, finding something (and somewhere) to eat is a time-consuming, chaotic ordeal. As soon as the lunch break starts at 12:10 pm, students have to rush out to the nearest convenience store, bakery, or fast food joint before everything is sold out. The Family Mart in building 11 (where most of the SILS classes are held) is often so packed that finding the end of the line is harder than grabbing an onigiri from the shelf. Of course, those who are lucky enough to have the next period off (1:00 ~ 2:30 pm) don’t have to worry about this and therefore have more options to choose from. If you have some extra time to spend on lunch, skip convenience store sandwiches and try out some of the ramen shops off-campus. 
  2. Course registration can be complicated. The online syllabus system only does the bare minimum, which makes it hard for students to find and compare classes that they want to register for. Although the SILS office does post a PDF list of courses before the first round of course registrations, they often do it at the very last minute. I usually put together a potential schedule on a Google Doc using the online syllabus system (pro tip: use as many filters as you can, or you’ll end up scrolling through hundreds of on-demand academic English courses meant for other majors) and revise it again once the PDF guide is published. Make sure to keep a list of back-up classes in case you get overenrolled! 
  3. There aren’t very many extracurriculars for international students. Sure, the SILS office sends out emails about volunteer opportunities for English speakers every once in a while, but these are one-off things. You might have a hard time finding a club open to ryuugakusei (留学生, international students) because of the language barrier. Don’t let this stop you, though — if you’re seriously interested in signing up something, try contacting them and ask if you can join! Japanese university clubs don’t usually explicitly state whether or not they accept international students, but most of them should be okay with it as long as you speak basic Japanese. 
  4. On-campus dorms aren’t a thing. Most American universities require incoming freshmen to stay in a dorm, but Waseda doesn’t have this kind of requirement. Students have to find their own accommodation, and this is often a challenge for international students because of the obstacles that foreigners face when renting apartments in Japan. Though there are a handful of dorms near campus (e.g. the WISH dorm in Nakano is only a few stations away from Waseda on the Tozai subway line), securing a room seems to be unnecessarily tricky. It’s weird, but I know more people who got rejected by WISH than ones who got in/live there. 
  5. Attendance can (seriously) make or break your final grade. Many of the lecture-style courses at Waseda place heavy emphasis on regular attendance, meaning that you can’t expect to pass if you’re only planning on showing up for exams. Although SILS is different in that the majority of professors look for active participation, a surprising number of the Japanese-based classes apparently only care about your physical presence. Sleeping? Eating? Binge-watching Stranger Things on Netflix? None of that matters, because you’ll probably be able to pass as long as you’re in the right classroom. 

These five points are just some of the things that confused and/or bothered me when I started attending Waseda, but I’ve learned to accept them as part of the ryuugaku (留学, study abroad) experience. Even if you don’t see these as things that need to be improved upon, I hope they helped you get to know Waseda and SILS a little bit better! 

Third culture kid at Waseda who loves disposable cameras, movies, hanami season, and collecting postcards.
Similar Reads👯‍♀️