Once again, congratulations on being admitted to Keio University! We hope you are as excited to enroll at the Keio University Shonan Fujisawa Campus as we are eager to meet you in September.
Our spirit for welcoming new students is more than ever because we understand the difficulty in deciding to leave your hometown under current circumstances. Every year, we place great importance on supporting our international students, and of course, this year is no exception.
Please take a moment to watch these special videos for you, and if you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact us. We are always here to support you.
We look forward to seeing everyone soon!
From Chairperson of the SFC Global Committee
From GIGA Students
Prof. Tatsuma Wada
AIS (Association for International Students)
Focus: International Finance, Econometrics, Macroeconomics
Titles, affiliations, student years, etc. indicated below are accurate at the time of April 2020.
Tips for Living in Japan from GIGA students
＋ Academic Activities
Make sure to explore your interests by looking out for kenkyukai (seminars) and courses offered at other campuses (there are some limitations). We generally recommend taking as many courses as you can per semester early on so that you can focus on job hunting and your graduation project in your 3rd and 4th years.
In your freshman year, you need to take Fundamentals of Information Technology 1 and 2. These classes will teach you the fundaments about HTML, CSS, and Java Script. There were a few times when I wished I had grabbed a FIT book and read a few pages. If you learn the basics or at least go through a few things beforehand, it will be much easier!
My first impression of SFC is its diversity. I will assume that you have already known that Keio SFC is in an Interdisciplinary Environment, which means you will get chances to take lots of lessons that are interceptions of different but related areas. In those lessons, the professor will guide you through what is happening in the industry right now. Instead of teaching you how to use one technique, it focused more on how the techniques are used and how it will be used in the future. Personally, I find it very helpful to get a better understanding of industrial trending and to set my future career goal. GIGA will provide you with an excellent environment to learn both Japanese and English. You will meet lots of Japanese students in GIGA that are native English speakers, and most of the class will require you to give an English presentation regularly. So do not miss your chance here to master multiple Languages; it is one of the natural advantages that GIGA could provide you.
When you are going through the course selection procedure, I recommend asking for suggestions from people who have taken it before. Sometimes there are students who realize at a later time that some courses are actually not within their area of interest and could’ve taken a different course, thus if you have any question, feel free to ask me, or I can also help you redirect your question to someone who may have experience.
＋ Circle (Student Organization)
There are many clubs you can choose from at Keio. Club activity is what makes Keio different compared to other foreign universities. So please do not hesitate to join a club! Even though it is possible that club members are not fully fluent in English, you can still join a club if you have a passion to become a member of that club. It is a great opportunity to improve your Japanese skills by communicating with Japanese students. Of course, there are some clubs that are made up of only GIGA students, but the number is comparatively fewer than the number of clubs of Japanese students. As a club orientation will be held around October, it will be a great chance for you to go and check out what kinds of clubs exist at Keio.
The Association of International Students is a circle in the school dedicated to improving the campus life of foreign students. As such, it consists entirely of students, both foreign and Japanese, working closely with the Office of International Affairs to help foreign students integrate into life in Japan. They also host events such as the circle orientation and the seminar orientation, so do follow their social media to get updates!
I am a part of Japanese traditional tea ceremony circle and it gave me a chance to become friend with variety of students at SFC.
If you do not speak Japanese, this will be a huge breakthrough for you. I did not speak Japanese at first but I am now able to do job-hunting in Japan (就職活動) with full Japanese. I forced myself to join Keio’s Kendo Club, where there is no English speakers at all, and practiced Japanese everyday within that environment. Especially if you are looking forward to living in Japan for a certain period, it is extremely necessary to communicate with local people everyday. Not only in SFC, but also in other campuses, Keio has a lot of circles, sports clubs, seminars, etc. So, I strongly recommend you to fit yourself in to such opportunities.
＋ Arrival in Japan
Haneda is recommended because it is located in Tokyo, just next to Kanagawa Prefecture where SFC is located. While Narita also serves Tokyo, it itself is located in Chiba Prefecture and the distance is twice as far. In most cases, apartments/dormitories cannot be booked from outside Japan. So most GIGA students live somewhere else during their first days in Japan. Find a hotel, capsule hotel, Airbnb, or another place for your first days in Japan; if you book well in advance, who knows you will get a special price.
I would suggest that you arrive a week before the entrance ceremony to prepare for moving into a new place, opening a bank account, and also getting a new phone number in advance as you might be busy when the school starts.
I live near the campus which is very convenient for going to classes. I would really recommend living near campus because it allows you to stay at the campus longer which widens your opportunity to do many things at the campus such as circle and kenkyukai.
I live in the dorm in Shonandai and it takes me around 17 minutes to school by bus. The bus line often gets really long and the bus is usually crowded so some of my friends bike to school, weather permitting. Also, the dorm offers breakfast and dinner on weekdays, so I don’t have to think about what to eat. However, if I want to eat out with friends or senpais, I have to skip dorm food, which is, in fact, a waste of money. If you are considering living in a dorm, make sure to start your application beforehand as you might need a guarantor and prepare some necessary documents. Besides dormitories, many of my senpais (upper class students) rent apartments in Shonandai. Compared to dorm rooms, apartments are relatively bigger and the rental fees are cheaper (since it is not included any utility and food expense).
The three most popular areas for GIGA students to live are: Endo (which is close to SFC), Shonandai (the closest station from SFC), and Yokohama (close to Hiyoshi Campus). Each option has its own pros and cons. And when thinking about your housing location, try to include other options as well. There are quite many SFC students living in Tokyo, or even Chiba. I myself live around Fujisawa Station which is four stops away from Shonandai Station.
Don’t wait till the last minute to search for accommodation. Most of my friends live around Shonandai Station or near campus. Whereas some of them live near Tsujido Station where you can take the bus to school like at Shonandai. Yokohama, Yamato and Machida are also relatively popular choices among SFC students. You may also be interested in staying at private dormitories and Keio dormitories. As for my experience, I started looking for accommodation in late August, which made me panic since I was only able to secure an apartment at the last minute before school starts. Therefore, I would suggest you to allow yourself more time to search for accommodation.
For me, I was lucky to get in one of Keio’s dormitories that’s located between school and Shonandai station at the very beginning. I stayed in the dorm for one and a half year and chose to move to Yokohama because I go to Hiyoshi Campus for Keio Kendo Club’s training everyday. Many SFC students also live near Shonandai station. I suggest you to live in the dorm first if possible if this is your first time living in Japan and then move to somewhere else that you think fits you the best if you want.
There are many preparations that can be done before you arrived to Japan. You can contact the realtor and set your eyes on some suitable apartments, all of the necessary information is normally available on the realtors’ website. If you don’t want to bike to school, you can get an apartment at cities like Fujisawa, Yokohama based on your preference, but keep in mind that the bus line to Keio SFC can be really crowded. You can ask someone to get you a train&bus pass (Suica/Pasmo), which will be convenient to have for your Japan exploration sight-seeing and daily commuting.
＋ Japanese Language
I started to learn Japanese after coming to Japan. It would be better if you start to learn some basic Japanese before entering SFC as you might need to use it a lot in daily conversation. But if you haven’t started yet, don’t worry. SFC offers different levels of Japanese courses for students to choose from.
Living in Japan as a foreigner without much Japanese is not easy, but it is a great experience itself. At SFC, we have a lot of international students’ groups to help you, like AIS or Keio SFC International Students. Still, I recommend learning some basic Japanese beforehand.
Getting straight into it, those who are already conversationally fluent in Japanese, you will find it easier to integrate into society and fit right in. To those who have yet to, or just started to, embark on your journey of learning Japanese, the courage that it took to make the decision to travel on your own to a foreign land is an asset that will serve you well.
As many people might have mentioned, Japanese is significant for communication on a daily basis such as purchasing at a convenience store and conversing with your friends. Another thought of why learning Japanese to a certain level is important is due to job hunting and internships. When you are looking for jobs that require English, most of the job descriptions will also mention that “Japanese must be native or on business level.” Furthermore, Keio offers a variety of Kenkyukai(research groups that focuses on specific field of expertise) and many Japanese-only Kenkyukai will for sure pique your interest. Therefore, if there’s really a Kenkyukai that you will regret if you don’t join, you can maybe plan out your first two years studying Japanese hard and then join your favorite Kenkyukai in your third or fourth year.
One thing definitely worth mentioning is the importance of learning Japanese. Yes, GIGA is an English based program, and you can graduate without any problem, even not knowing any Japanese. But in order to get a full experience of College life in Japan, it is strongly recommended to keep studying Japanese while pursuing your academic achievement in Keio SFC. I am actually shocked that lots of the GIGA students can already speak fluent Japanese when they first arrive in Japan.
It is not a must for you to be totally fluent in Japanese, but it would be good if you could start learning basics of Japanese. After all, you would have to use Japanese on a daily basis such as when you are buying something at a convenience store. It would be desirable if you could start learning Japanese as soon as possible. As I could speak Japanese before my arrival, I found it relatively smooth to settle down since I could communicate with shops to arrange deliveries of furniture and applying for adding my Kanji name on the residence card at the office at Shinagawa myself.
＋ Open a Bank Account
There are many banks in Japan, and where should I open an account? Two factors that might be important to you are the account’s compatibility with the scholarship(s) you are receiving, and convenience. Most SFC international students receive the JASSO scholarship during their first semester. In order to receive this scholarship, you need a JP (Japan Post) Bank account. On the other hand, there is a Suruga Bank branch close to SFC, and they also have an ATM within SFC area.The Suruga Bank’s ATM in SFC could only be used with ATM cards issued by Suruga Bank or other Japanese banks. If you want to withdraw cash using a debit card from your own country, there are two ATMs around SFC that accept international cards. The first one is Seven Bank ATM which is located inside 7-Eleven (convenience store) across the Keio University bus stop. And the other one is JP Bank ATM which is located inside the post office in front of the 7-Eleven.
＋ Mobile Phones
You need to keep in mind that you will be bringing some documents from your home country to make a mobile phone. Make sure that you have everything (plus photocopied versions). This will save you plenty of time and hassle when dealing with official matters.
In order to buy a phone, you will likely need the permissions from both of your parents if you are not an adult (below 19 or 20 I don’t know which). I didn’t go through this myself so I don’t know, but apparently some of my friends had to either 1) have both parents be present with them or 2) give their parents a call, even if they are in a different time zone. Again, I don’t know the details so please confirm this in advance.
*there are a few things you need to prepare before your arrival, such as a parental consent form (filled out by your legal guardian) and the identification documents of the guardian for mobile phone or SIM contract.
I remember myself that I’ve made so many rushed decisions before and after coming to Japan. I’ve signed contracts without researching other opportunities when I came to Japan. I realized after signing contract for my apartment, there were actually dorms that offers breakfast and dinner to students. There were cheaper phone services etc,. To keep it simple, all I can say to you guys is that, before deciding one of your important decisions of your stay here in Japan, be patient and think twice!
The process of finding an apartment, opening a bank account, getting a phone number, registering at the city hall, etc (all the compulsory stuffs) can be a little bit taxing and confusing even if you are fluent in Japanese. I highly encourage you to contact the Student Life Section and the Office of International Affairs to make an appointment for a support session, they are very friendly and eager to help, and your life will be much easier.
If you are under 20 years old (Japanese complete adult age), which most of you probably are, it can quite be inconvenient to get something done without your parents’ written consent form. Some scholarship application also required parental consent, so you should prepare all the documents before going to Japan if possible.
Get in touch with senpais (senior students) or other Japanese classmates if this is your first time living in Japan! Maybe you are already quite good at Japanese, but I still recommend that you receive help from someone because Japanese rules are quite complicated (I spent 8 hours buying a cell phone sim-card). I received so much help from senpais and classmates. They took me to make my residence certificate, to buy furniture, to set up my Wi-Fi, etc., and I could never have completed so many hard tasks all by myself.