"Internships are far from just about studying". Zhenya Danilova decided to choose Japan for her exchange trip
Zhenya Danilova, a second-year master's student in International Management, spent the autumn semester at one of Japan's most prestigious private universities, Waseda University in Tokyo. Zhenya talks about her experience at the QTEM networking master's program and why you shouldn't worry if you don't have much experience in data analytics or programming.
Planning for departure
Hi! My name is Zhenya Danilova and I am finishing the second year of my Master's degree in International Management at the Higher School of Business at the National Research University Higher School of Economics. In the spring of my first year of study I applied for the QTEM network master course and in the autumn of my second year I went to Waseda University in Tokyo to study for six months.
QTEM consists of three parts: an exchange at a foreign university, an online GBAC competition within QTEM and an internship at a company of my choice. Let me tell you straight away, don't worry if you don't have much experience in data analytics or programming - for example, I didn't. It's nice that QTEM has a lot of freedom, and you can choose your own courses at the university or company for an internship. To apply for the QTEM program, I wrote an application, enclosed my GMAT and IELTS scores, passed the selection process at the Higher School of Economics and was given a choice of six QTEM partner universities where I could do the exchange. Several universities in China, Japan, Germany, Austria and the UK were waiting for us. I chose the private Waseda University in Tokyo because the country is very close to me: I studied Russian-Japanese relations at undergraduate level, have been to Japan several times and speak a little Japanese.
The International Exchange Centre introduced us to the coordinator from Waseda University, and about six months before the internship I started collecting documents without being in a hurry with them.
Waseda University provides an opportunity for QTEM students to enter a lottery and get a place in a university dormitory. The university has several of its own dormitories as well as partner dormitories, so a place is likely to be available. You can also find your own accommodation, it is cheaper but often not as comfortable. I lived in the Waseda Hoshien hostel near campus, about a 7 minute walk. The hostel has all single rooms, a shared kitchen and bathrooms on the floor. Shops, cafes, an underground station and bus stop are nearby. The hostel is in a really nice area, very close to the campus - I think I'm very lucky.
Studying at university is divided into semesters and quarters. I studied the whole fall semester, in which we had fall and winter quarters, almost like in school. Before the semester starts, there's a lottery to choose courses: everyone can sign up for some of them, while others have limited places. You can also take Japanese classes and study grammar, vocabulary, characters, or all together, depending on the level. An important point: even for level zero, you already need to know the "Japanese alphabet" - hiragana and katakana. Since I came through the QTEM programme, I had to choose courses according to their requirements: 1) courses with a mathematical profile and 2) a minimum of 20 credits in one QTEM subject module. Many courses have tests, homework, presentations during the semester and at the end of the course many ask for a final paper or exam. Sometimes both are required.
The university has a swimming pool, gym, dance classes, aikido and lots of things for the mind and body. There are over 700 hobby clubs, it's amazing! For example, I went to an agriculture club where we looked after the vegetable garden every week and also went to farms to harvest crops or tangerines. There's also a club for martial arts, photography, anime, ikebana - whatever. Waseda has an international student centre which also has different activities, a conversation club, joint trips to cities and lots of other things. I think it's a great opportunity to meet guys from all over the world, so we used the opportunity.
Life in Japan
Japan is a very controversial country. It's hard to be a foreigner here, it's hard to make friends with the Japanese and feel like you belong. The Japanese like to have tacit and explicit rules to make everybody feel comfortable, so they expect the same from the foreigners. Everybody respects each other's boundaries, there is no talking on the phone in public transport, they sort the rubbish, they walk in rows in the streets and it seems to be a perfectly ordered world.
In Japan you have to fill in a thousand and one pieces of paper to get a resident's card or insurance - there is a lot of bureaucracy. Credit cards are not widely accepted so I would argue with the statement that Japan is a technological paradise.
Japan is very big, you can't see everything or go everywhere, there's always something new. During half a year in Japan I walked a lot in Tokyo, I went to the mountains and the sea, I admired the red maples and sakura trees. It seems to me like I could visit the country a hundred more times and it would always be a new experience.
Studying at Waseda University in Tokyo was one of the highlights of my life, frankly speaking. The internship is far more than just about studying. It's about people from all over the world, making friends, sharing experiences, immersing yourself in a foreign culture, trying to learn about it and finding your place. I wish everyone who would like to go on an exchange to do so, especially if you want to go to Japan. If you have any questions, you can message me on Telegram @danilova_jane. And yes, I advise you to shoot Japan on film, it's worth it! Catch a couple of photos from my internship. And good luck!