Doshisha: Registering for Classes

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LUNCH IS HELLA CHEAP. YES. This is my friend’s lunch of only 536 yen… but 95% of the food is non-vegetarian friendly ::cries::

There are many programs at Doshisha for foreign students. I will specifically be speaking about the nichibun program that is reserved for short-term exchange students, which all UCEAP students fall under. Though the UCEAP application had said that coming to Doshisha requires no Japanese language ability, it would have been useful to know that there is very little support for English speakers. I ran into many difficulties registering for classes because all of information was given to us in Japanese (probably… honestly, I still don’t know what they said). This post is about:

  1. Japanese Courses
  2. Difficulties with Elective Course
  3. Elective Course Selection
  4. One Important Tip

3 hours of Japanese Every Day

Doshisha’s exchange program focuses mainly on developing your Japanese ability. Students in the lower levels will be enrolled in a mandatory 10 semester units of Japanese that take up your 1st and 2nd period. You will test into the appropriate level during the orientation. The placement test is a multiple choice test of three sections, plus a verbal interview. The levels you get placed into range from 1-9, but there’s actually a secret 0th level that splits off of level 1. Only those with near fluency are allowed to opt out of the 10 units of Japanese. For everyone else, the 10 units of Japanese are quite a heavy load– more like 15 units worth of instruction, unless you’re in level 0 where it feels like <10 units.

Elective Classes: Problems

UCEAP requires that we take at least 14 semester units. Given the 10 units of Japanese, you will need to take 2-3 more elective courses during your time at Doshisha. Even though it is only 4 units, picking your elective courses is quite tiring.

First of all, most elective classes at Doshisha are 1-2 semester units. That significantly reduces your ability to transfer your units back to your home university if they have unit specifications for a class. For example, I could transfer an offered class back to Berkeley as a breadth requirement– if not for the fact that it Berkeley requires that it be at least 3 semester units.

Second, you will have very little time and resources to figure everything out. You’ll be given a few days to do your registration but you’ll also have to do about 100 other things at the same time. You’ll need internet if you want to check the class syllabi and compare the classes to your home university’s requirements. The biggest pain point is that I did not get campus wifi and my Doshisha login information until the day before class registration. Many people, including myself, had difficulty setting up their dorm/apartment wifi so we were unable to search for classes easily. Note that there is Kyoto public wifi, but it sucks right now in 2017.

Third, your selection of courses is limited or difficult to navigate.  Trust me. Japan is a country of paperwork lovers. Furthermore, Imadegawa campus, where all your Japanese classes are held, has mostly lower division classes. For a larger selection of classes, you have to be willing to commute 1.5 hrs out to the Kyotanabe campus.


Side Note: If you want to take a Kyotanabe course, you need to dedicate three class periods to the class, two of which to get there and back. There is a bus that operated by Doshisha which is free for students. It has a limited schedule and is basically overlapping roughly with the class periods. It actually might not be too horrible if you are also interested in sports clubs, since the Kyotanabe campus has all the athletic facilities and the Imadegawa campus has none. Kyotanable also has a free gym 🙂


Elective Classes: Navigating Your Options

Option 1: No Work at All

There will be maybe 5 open registration elective classes that you can register for freely and easily. Most are not transferrable to any of the UCs for anyone.

Option 2: Early Paperwork + Lottery + Not Able to Drop

Then, there are a set of elective courses that are under the “Advanced Registration” criteria, AR for short. Of the AR courses, a little over half of the classes (25~ classes) have no language requirement and are taught in English. Of the English courses, two-thirds (17~ classes), are taught at the Imadegawa campus– where all of your Japanese classes are– and a third (7~ classes) is taught at the Kyotanabe campus– a 1.5 hr chartered bus ride from the Imadegawa Campus. The AR course registration is decided by lottery, and AR courses can NOT be dropped if you are selected by the lottery for a specific class.

Option 3: Secret Paperwork + Instructor’s Approval

Finally, if you are proactive, there are ILA (Institute of Liberal Arts) courses you can sign up for that are completely taught in English. The biggest issue here is that they will not mention anything about this to you during the orientation. Pay attention to your orientation schedule and attend the optional “Orientation for taking Undergraduate subjects.”

  • If you miss that part of the orientation, go to the CGE/CJLC Office in Kofukan 5th floor, and ask for two things: the instructions (1) and approved course timetable (2) for ILA courses.
  • Officially, there are restrictions on who they allow to register for these classes, but they’ll accept anyone who fills out the paperwork properly and ON TIME. If it’s not on time, don’t even bother. You’ll submit the first time to get a stamp with the date. That stamp seems like nothing, but it is definitely required.
  • You’ll submit the paperwork a second time with the instructor’s signature. Online registration will be done for you, but do double check that it gets added before the deadline.

Option 4: Audit + UCEAP Approval

Surprise! There is one more bonus method to fulfilling your elective. UCEAP has two other ways to get credits: Special Study Project and/or Internship. Through intensively scraping the online syllabus, I found a graduate course taught in English by a visiting professor that I wanted to take. Doshisha does NOT allow undergraduates to register for graduate courses. But! I can “audit” the course and get credit for that course through UCEAP as a Special Study Project with permission of the professor.

  • You might have to ask around for the professor’s email. It’s not always listed and there is no generic formula.
  • You will have to email the professors of all these classes to get the time and day of the classes before classes start.  That information is not provided in the online syllabus, and there is no easy way to find course timetables in English.

Unexplored Option: Regular Undergraduate Courses?

(Maybe) It seems that there might also be undergraduate courses that are taught in English that you can register for in the same method as the ILA courses, but I never got the information on where and how to find those classes. Ask the CGE office staff.


Side Note: Open elective courses and AR courses usually have at least a few Japanese students in the class that speak Japanese as their primary language. ILA classes don’t really have Japanese students– there are many long term foreign students, some of which do speak both Japanese and English and have Japanese friends. Regular courses taught in English are a toss up. This was a pretty important factor for me since I want to make Japanese friends.


I wish I knew this before coming here

All in all, I don’t know anyone who was completely satisfied by the the course registration process. The classes I really wanted to take were not open for me to register for and I figured all the work arounds too late. The one piece of advice I have is that if you have a hard time, reach out to the program organizers from your university. For me that is the UCEAP Tokyo Study Center. Those people have much more leeway than you do when asking for exceptions. The Doshisha administration will be much more accommodating to requests made by your home university.