Waseda program update

April West

Many students on campus have probably heard of the Waseda Program, but some may not actually know what it is. The program, entering its fifth year at Lawrence, gives students from Waseda University in Tokyo a chance to go to several universities around the globe for a year.
The participating students’ goals are to improve their English and take classes in one of three areas: environmental studies, gender studies and international relations.
In addition to courses in the three areas, Waseda students take several English as a second language classes and a freshman studies course geared especially towards them. They also take three courses entitled “Introduction to American Society,” which meets once every two weeks.
For most Japanese students to be able to study at American colleges, their English has to be nearly perfect. In contrast, the Waseda Program gives students a chance to go to college here, enhance their English skills and learn about American culture all at once.
Students of the Waseda program room with Lawrence students for a year, a learning opportunity for both counterparts. To be a Waseda student’s host you do not have to have taken any courses in either Japanese language or culture.
“Some of the most fun rooming situations have been for people that have not taken any classes in the Japanese language or lifestyle,” said Waseda Program director Cecile Despres-Berry.
Roommates are often the deciding factor for whether or not the Waseda students enjoy their stay in the United States. While they are here, their roommates are the closest they may have to family, and they often go home with their roommates over weekends and holiday breaks.
“Having a Waseda Program roommate is a great way to meet other Waseda program students. Unless you make the effort, they can be hard to get to know,” said senior Casey Cooper-Fenske, who is participating in the program for the second time. “Many of them don’t know anyone so they are extremely friendly and open with their roommates. Me and my old Waseda roommate still visit one another and she is still one of my best friends.”
Lawrence can be a difficult place for some of the Waseda students to adjust to because they come from an academic environment in which high school is the most rigorous period of their lives. Rather than standardized testing such as the SAT or ACT, each college in Japan has its own rigorous entrance exam, and once these are passed, college is seen to be relatively easy.
“They sometimes see it as a downtime between high school and the working world,” explains Despres-Berry. University for Japanese students often consists of large lectures where they have multiple-choice exams at the end that are worth their entire grade.
However, Despres-Berry considers the students that are part of the Waseda program as usually exceptional people that are extremely motivated and curious.
Cooper-Fenske comments, “[This] is a great program and I would recommend it to anyone. It can be fun teaching someone the ways of your culture and learn about theirs, and even in some ways it feels really good to dispel bad reputations that they have heard about Americans.”
There will be 14 new Waseda students at LU next year, and they are still looking for roommates. If interested, contact housing coordinator Jen Smith at x6765 or director of the Waseda Program Cecile Despres-Berry at x7130.