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.
Li Manyu (China; affiliated during 2019-2023)
Li Manyu is from China. She have been studying at Showa in Tokyo from 2019. And she studied Boston online program when she was third year grade
Xin Yee Tee (Malaysia; affiliated during 2016-2020)
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.
What do you think of the attractiveness of studying in the two cities of Boston and Tokyo?
I think Tokyo is a very fast-paced and diversified city. The city is always busy but interesting. Living here, I can always get some new experiences or make some new friends from different countries or cultures. Moreover, Tokyo is a pluralistic city. No matter what kind of hobbies you have, it seems that you can be satisfied here.
Many people may think that Tokyo is an indifferent City, and people keep a distance from each other. But when you try to walk into the streets and lanes of Tokyo, you will find that the city is not as cold as you think. I have received a lot of kindness from strangers in Tokyo. Anyway, Tokyo is a big city, full of all kinds of people and things here. There are new and interesting things waiting for you to experience anytime and anywhere. This is also the reason why Tokyo attracts me. Because of this, my time studying abroad has become more rich and interesting.
Boston is a different city from Tokyo. I think Boston is a perfect combination of classical and modern, it is an old and dynamic city. Boston has a strong sense of history and culture. Many excellent universities such as MIT, Harvard university and so on are there. I believe that every students once regarded Harvard University as their dream university in their studenthood. So do I. So what attracts me in Boston is the historical significance and strong cultural atmosphere of the whole city.
What is your impression from the experience of studying with Japanese students?
Because of the different culture and education we receive, the way we get along is also different to a great extent. In the process of getting along with them, I found that most of their characters are relatively mild and do not easily have disputes or quarrels with others. They are unwilling to cause trouble to others, and also very polite. So I feel comfortable when I get along with my classmates. But the way Chinese people get along with each other is more direct, so sometimes when I talk to them, I will be more cautious and speak more tactfully.
In the process of studying with them, I learned more about the views of young women in Japan on some social problems, which broke many of my inherent impressions of the Japanese.
How do you feel and spend your life living by yourself in Japan?
This year is my fourth year in Japan. Tokyo is the place where I have lived for the longest time except my hometown. I always think the most valuable thing about studying abroad is not what knowledge you have learned, but some brand-new experiences you have experienced. Now I know more about Japanese culture and make many new friends. In the past few years in Japan, I became more independent, and began to clarify my own goals, and worked towards my goals step by step.
Now because of the COVID-19, I’m trying to reduce the number of times I go out, so I rarely go to my part-time job. Most of the time I am at home alone. Recently, I pay close attention to the 2021 Olympics and often call my friends to discuss the progress of the Olympic Games. Occasionally I went out to eat or drink with my friends. In the past, I should have returned back to China to spend the summer vacation with my family, but I couldn’t go back this time.
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.