College Life

Two of prominent international students studied at the SWU Business Design Department recall their college days, including academic program, dorm life in Boston, and job-searching in Japan.

Xin Yee Tee (Malaysia; affiliated during 2016-19)

Xin Yee was born and raised in Malaysia and she came to Japan in March 2014. She first joined a Two-year-Japanese-language program at Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo and then enrolled in the degree program of Faculty of Global Business at Showa Women’s University. 

Linh Nguyen (Vietnam; affiliated during 2015-18)

Linh Nguyen is from Vietnam. She studied at Showa in Tokyo and Boston, and University of Queensland. She is working as an Internal Auditor.

Xin Yee Tee (Malaysia)
Affiliated 2016-19

Xin Yee came to Japan right after she graduated from high school and has been living in Tokyo for more than 6 years. In this article, she will share her perspectives and thoughts about her experiences in Showa, Showa Boston, and also the process of job hunting in Japan. 

What do you think of attractiveness of studying in the two cities of Boston and Tokyo?

 

Sudying in Tokyo and Boston is a completely different experience and both the experiences have taught me that there are many different ways of living, other than the way I used to live.
      Tokyo is a very busy city. I remember that both when I was in the language school and the university, everyone around me always constantly switching between different things: attending classes, participating in different activities in the university, part-time jobs, and gathering with friends. 24 hours a day seems never would be enough for them. People here rarely stop to rest. Living in Tokyo is busy which makes me feel very substantial and fulfilling.
        Talking about hanging with friends in Tokyo, most of the time we will go to a cafe or restaurant, and occasionally we go shopping together. As for the relationship between people, in Tokyo, people often keep a certain distance from each other. Although this distance might be a little bit too far for foreigners like me. However, when you are getting used to it, you will know that people are keeping the distance because they do not want to over interfere with each other’s life to avoid making others feel uncomfortable. I find this really interesting.
        It is also worth mentioning that spring in Tokyo is gorgeous, and the place with cherry blossoms will be dyed into a light pink all around.
On the other side, Boston is a city surrounded by art and nature. Before going to Boston, I didn’t know much about art, or neither did I visit galleries often. I never had the opportunity to explore them in-depth. However, Boston is a city of art, surrounded by all kinds of art galleries and beautiful buildings. The atmosphere of the city will makes people feel that “art” is not something that is unapproachable. Also, as you might know, there are many famous universities around, so the academic atmosphere is particularly strong in Boston.
        In Boston, we tend to do different things while hanging out with friends. I remember that when I hang out with some local friends for the first time, I was surprised because one of them brought a blanket and then all of us just sit around in a beautiful park and chill. Other than that, for most of the time, we will visiting art galleries or university campuses together. Also, there is a pond near our campus, so usually my friend and I will go out for jogging before classes in the morning.
        In Boston, for the first time, I truly felt that the way we live our life will be shaped by the city we live in. The experience of living there taught me that we should always remind ourselves to pay more attention on the environment we live and enjoy the city we live. That’s what we usually forgot or ignored when we were in Tokyo.
In general, for me, life in Tokyo is relatively familiar, because it is kind of similar to life in Malaysia, although the pace of life is many times faster here. On the other side, life in Boston is something very different that I had never experienced.

 


What did you take from the experience of living with Japanese students at the Boston Showa dormitory?

 

The most important things I learned through living with my Japanese friends could be divided into two parts: Japanese language and the manner of speaking in Japanese.
Before going to Boston, I was studying in a language school in Japan for two years and also a year in Showa, which is an all Japanese environment. However, my Japanese was still relatively poor even after many years of language study. In Boston, although all the classes were in English, through living together with my Japanese friends for half a year, my Japanese had been greatly improved. In fact, I didn’t even realize it myself at the time, it was my classmates who told me that she thought my Japanese sounds a lot better since we went to Boston.
        In addition to the improvement of language skills, when I was in Boston, I had the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the Japanese way of communicating. Without that, I think I would never really understand how to “talk” in Japanese. I always think that a Japanese learner might be able to speak the language perfectly, fluently with punctual grammar and vocabulary, but he/she might not be able to communicate well with Japanese people. Because what important, is to really understand the way they communicate. In Boston, that was what I had learned.
        For example, although I don’t feel it myself, some (or most) of my classmates would think that I am a person with a strong personality and always speak straightforwardly. They might also think that I am a difficult person at that time. At that time, I realized some differences in the way my friends and I communicate with each other, and I started adjusting the way I talk to them. After a few months, my friends told me that they think the way I speak sounds less straightforward and offensive, and they think they feel more comfortable talking to me. If I never had the chance to spend time living with my Japanese friends, I might never realize the way I talked could sound too aggressive or sometimes even offensive that makes them feel uncomfortable. I think it is very important, especially for people who consider working and living in Japan. Not because that the way we used to speak was not good enough, but if we are living in the Japanese society, we should be aware that the way we speak might sometimes make people feel uncomfortable.

 

How did you observe the Japanese college-grads’ job-hunting activities?

 

The biggest difference between the job searching of both countries is that Malaysian students would have the flexibility and free control of the entire process. In Japan, the whole process is rather inflexible. Each stage and duration of the process is pretty much fixed without any flexibility. Moreover, there are also clear requirements for the appearance of job applicants. So, in Japan, the appearance of job applicants looks the same: black suits, black shoes, black briefcases with almost the same style…I personally think that the definition of tidiness and decentness in Japanese society is a bit of the extreme, which explains why the standard becomes very narrow. Students who are unable to meet the requirements of job searching often have a much-reduced chance of securing a job and students who have missed a specific job search period will also find it more difficult to find a job.
        Conversely in Malaysia, although there will be an estimated job search period, it will only be deemed as a reference, not a rigid requirement that must be followed. Students who missed or chose not to seek employment during this period will not encounter more difficulties in the future job search just because they did not manage to find a job before graduation. There are no overly specific/fixed requirements regarding the appearance of a job applicants. The overall sense of cleanliness is very important, but in Malaysia, the definition of tidiness is relatively looser and more diversified. Perhaps this is also related to the multi-ethnic cultural background of the country.
        Although these are the apparent norms of job searching in Japan and Malaysia, through job searching itself and during a conversation with friends, we can almost feel the change in the process of job searching for each country. In Japan, people began to accept a more diverse mode and types of job seekers; in Malaysia, people began to further improve the standard of job searching activities.
        In addition, one of the most interesting things that I found about the job searching in Japan is that, there is a highly utilized program called “One Day Internship”. This type of program have indeed provided a lot of opportunities for job seekers by allowing them to have a further understanding of various companies and industries by visiting and attending the program. However, in fact, it is not the usual internship that we have known about.
Furthermore, another thing that surprised me about job searching in Japan is what I called ultra-short interview. I was asked to make an impressive self-introduction (without any preparation time) within 20 seconds during a company orientation. Unfortunately, I did not get selected as a qualified job applicant after the interview, as I was unprepared and did not manage to answer well.

 

What kind of difficulties did you face during your job-hunting activities?

 

The biggest challenge should be to remain optimistic and believing in myself despite several counts of failure. Especially the anxiousness and the sense of confusion that I get when the thought of having to leave Japan after I’ve graduated if I couldn’t secure a job by then. Moreover, although it is normal to encounter failures during interviews, it still makes me feel like such a failure and I can’t help but to blame myself for that.
        I remember that at that time, people around me always remind me that during job searching, there should be an equal relationship between the job seeker and the company, and I should not feel that I am begging others to give me a job. Throughout the job search process, we must determine if we are the right fit for that company. Looking back now, this statement is indeed helpful, but it’s always easier said than done. No matter where they are, I hope the fellow job seekers can keep this in mind and truly believe in themselves.

 

How did you see the career-development support from the Showa Women’s University?

 

The university gives a public impression that they have provided substantial support for job searching. And this is indeed very true.
        In terms of the system of the university, no matter what academic year you are in, the university has prepared a variety of employment-related activities and lectures designed for students of different academic years. Many of these activities are not only about helping the students to find jobs, but also to give the students an opportunity to understand the society from different perspectives, and also to think about who they want to be in the future. Therefore, even if you are an international student who does not plan to work in Japan, participating in these activities will help you gain a deeper understanding of the Japanese society.
        For students who are job searching, the Career Center has also provided a lot of practical help, among which the guidance on interview practice, drafting of resume and/or related articles are most often utilized by the students. Students can utilize various support systems unlimitedly during their job search. I still remember going for mock interview exercises several times before any scheduled interviews.
        In addition to various designed activities, as long as the students are willing to take the initiative to ask for help, everyone in the university are generally very willing to lend a helping hand in providing various suggestions. Not only the faculties of the Career Center, but also professors of their own department. International students can also get advice from the staff of the Center of International Exchange. Therefore, it is important to actively look for various channels that can offer you help. During the job searching process, I have had several in-depth conversations with almost all the professors I met, and all that I’ve learned throughout those conversations are still very inspiring and useful to me now.

 

Linh Nguyen (Vietnam)
Affiliated during 2015-18)

What do you think of attractiveness of studying in the two cities of Boston and Tokyo?

 

In Tokyo, I was always occupied with coursework, scholarship applications, extra-curricular activities and part-time jobs. When I was in Boston, I had more time for language and cultural studies because most of my time was spent at campus. I was able to observe and experience many cultural differences between Eastern and Western cultures. The Japanese have a proverb, “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down’.” This means people in Japan are encouraged to blend in with their community and uphold their cultural principles, not standing out too much from what is considered normal. Americans, however, are encouraged and praised to challenge the concept of “‘normal’”, sometimes to their own detriment. The experience helped me embrace my unique background and deepened my cultural awareness and understanding.
        Because the program in Boston was compact, I was trying to check out as many restaurants, museums and university campuses as possible. The fear of missing out dragged me out of the Showa Boston campus to some new areas of the city every single weekend. As much as I loved Boston, I realized that the daily life in Tokyo got me carried away that I took for granted the opportunities to make the most out of living in Tokyo.
It’s worth mentioning that living in the two cities enhanced my language abilities significantly. I always found the help I needed with practicing languages and understanding the lectures because the teachers and staff at both the two campuses were very approachable and helpful. While it was quite challenging to take classes in Japanese with Japanese students in Tokyo, I had an enjoyable time taking classes in English with them in Boston because English was a foreign language to both me and my friends.
        Overall, living in the two cities enabled me to step out of my comfort zone. It allowed me to build my confidence. This experience also opened doors to many other opportunities and helped shape who I am today.

 

What did you take from the experience of living with Japanese students at the Boston Showa dormitory?

 

Prior to joining Showa Women’s University, I studied Japanese at a Japanese language school. However, my Japanese was impractical because I had studied it but did not practice it with native speakers. I had a hard time making friends at the beginning of my first year as I was somewhat different. I was the only foreign student in my department. My Japanese friends were shy and so was I. I couldn’t connect with them as if whenever we talked, there was an invisible wall between us that I just simply couldn’t break through.
        Over time, we developed more common interests, having lived and study together in the Showa Boston campus for six months. I was actively making new friends, learning about Japanese language and culture from them, and sharing with them stories of my hometown. By the end of the six-month program, my English undoubtedly advanced but my Japanese exceled beyond my imagination. Most importantly, there was no longer an invisible wall. My Japanese friends became some of my closest friends until this date. I learned to be genuinely interested in others and they taught me how to connect beyond similarities and differences.

 

How did you observe the Japanese college-grads’ job-hunting activities?

Entering my final year of university, I remembered I was scared because I was uncertain that I would find a job. To my surprise, universities in Japan and recruitment agencies made enormous efforts to facilitate students with better understanding of themselves, the job market and the timing of recruitment. Many free seminars and career forums provided students with information about companies and their hiring processes. The hiring companies also organized recruitment sessions and actively approached prospective students. Students were encouraged not to settle for just any job, but seek the jobs and the companies that fit their interests and personalities.


What kind of difficulties did you face during your job-hunting activities?

 

There were three main difficulties I encountered. First, it was the amount of preparation required to get ready for the job interviews. I was lost multiple times in the ocean of information about companies, recruiting examinations and interview techniques. It helped to have a tracking system to organize the information and track the progress with each company.
        Secondly, it was the pressure of competing with Japanese students. Some companies required the students to do web tests or to join group interviews. To cope with this, I attended seminars for foreign students provided by recruiting agencies and practiced interview questions with my Japanese friends. I also tried to identify companies that I resonated with and were likely to hire foreign students.
        Finally, it was the financial stress. From buying suits to commuting to different venues for recruiting seminars and interviews, the cost of doing job hunting was not cheap. That said, I think the experience of doing job hunting in Japan was a good opportunity to understand myself and to prepare for working in Japan.

How did you see the career-development support from the Showa Women’s University?

 

I had a very positive experience with the support from Showa. The Global Business professors, Career Support Center staff and the Center for International Exchange staff helped me with correcting my resumes and applications. They were always making time to help me navigate through my job hunting. I am deeply grateful for their dedication and care for not only me, but also for my fellow Japanese and foreign students. From my discussions with my friends from other universities, I can proudly say that Showa is one of the top universities with the best job hunting support for students.

 

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