Living in Tokyo gives one a lot of opportunities to visit other universities and attend classes there. So far I’ve become good friends with a lot of professors at Waseda University and have attended a few classes at different universities around Tokyo.
Because Toudai is a national university, I was interested in the gap between private and public universities, especially in terms of infrastructure and technology. Most classrooms at Toudai are not equipped with projectors or computers for presentations. Some buildings at Komaba are rundown with the floor tiles scratched up and darkened due to years of use. Projectors take at least six weeks to get fixed. So with some private institutions having tuition as high as some public universities the United States, I was interested in seeing where the money was going.
I decided to go to a women studies class at Hosei University. Although my friend kept reassuring me that the class was anything but interesting, I kept my hopes up because it would be a great experience to see how they teach the subject and what is taught in their women studies classes.
But before heading to class, what surprised me the most was the size of the campus. Despite being in the middle of nowhere, the campus boasted at least five cafeterias, and the way the buildings was organized, I felt a campus vibe — something I felt was not as strong at Komaba’s relatively small campus.
The moment I walked into the classroom, everything looked new. The desks, the projectors, the computers, there wasn’t a scratch in sight. The topic of the day was domestic violence and child abuse in Japan. Although I questioned some of the statements made by the professor, it was overall a good lecture and I learned quite a bit. What surprised me the most, however, was the fact that most students were unaware of the domestic violence situation in their own country.
We ended the class without discussion but handed in a report. While heading to the cafeteria, our conversation revolved around tuition fees and where the money goes. Hosei, I felt, wasn’t that much different from a university one would find in the United States at least in terms of infrastructure. All the “common sense” facilities — easy to access computers, printers, study spots, etc. — were there; it was clear where the money was going. But my friend continued to question why the tuition in the United States could go up to $50,000 a year.
Now this talk about tuition and the college system isn’t something new. When I’m with the AIKOM students one of our favorite discussion topics is the college system in our countries. The students from Europe are not shy to criticize the cost of education in the United States and how ridiculous it is to strangle the youth with so much debt. Speaking as a 21 year old American with debt, it is hard to defend America because sometimes I really do question why tuition has to increase every year. The more we talked about it, the more I learned about their education systems; in this respect, I can say that I learned a lot more than just “Japan” this year. Even having discussions with my friends who study at private universities, I get to hear another view of the Japanese education system.
We walked around the entire campus during the afternoon and I still couldn’t wrap my head around the size. It was big enough to have campus buses (!) running until 8 PM at night. Because of the rain, we spent most of our time in the cafeteria talking about everything and nothing so it was a fun day overall. Yeah it sounds like a regular college experience, but explaining everything about America in broken Japanese and making up grammar as I go on (先生、すみません） makes the experience much more fascinating. Visiting Hosei was just one event I never anticipated before coming here, and I think it will be these conversations with the AIKOM students and my Japanese friends that will stick to me and show how much I’ve grown throughout the year.