While engineering is still every 2nd Indian’s choice, I was perhaps way too adamant about choosing a different path. After doing my BA in Japanese at Jawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi), I decided to study further, instead of getting a job. I applied to three different universities in 3 different countries – Australia, Japan and UK. I should admit that Japan probably would not have been on the list if I hadn’t studied the language during my undergraduate. Before I started studying the language at University, my only contact with Japanese culture was origami – something I was obsessively into since junior high school.
As Indians, we perhaps often take it for granted that we speak English fluently and can get into universities in UK and Australia easily. Something similar happened to me – I got into all 3 universities and had to decide. The fact that I studied the language for 3 years and that Japan is a country with a completely different culture as that of India, lead me to Waseda University for an MA in International Relations.
During my 2 years of Tokyo life, I learned so many things that I probably wouldn’t have experienced in India or any other country. I was studying at Graduate School of Asia Pacific Studies at Waseda, which attracts foreign students from all over the globe. There are people from countries here I wouldn’t have ever been curious of if I hadn’t met them at all. I am happy that I got to be in such an international environment and got to know so many people and their cultures.
Talking of cultures, the fact that I lived in a share house for a long time instead of a dormitory, also helped me meet people of different countries. I learned to cook Japanese food, got a better understanding of the everyday things that Japanese people do, and got assimilated better in this country, all thanks to my share mates. I am sure it wouldn’t be different even if you chose a dormitory – being with people from different cultures is way too fun!
Going off on a tangent, I love cycling – I used to cycle a lot back in India, but somehow got into an accident almost every month. After moving to Japan, I have been able to cycle a lot more, and minus any accidents of course! For anyone who wants to pursue a serious hobby, I would say Japan is a country that will happily welcome you!
I often hear that language and food in Japan are the biggest issues for Indians but you really should not worry about the language – you will get by as long as you stay positive and treat it as an opportunity to learn a new language instead. As for the food – yes there are religious reasons for a lot of people, but if you try, there is plenty of vegetarian food available. For me, it was more of a discovery. I had been a vegetarian all my life until I moved to Japan. I believe that travelling or being in a country is incomplete without the food because that’s how you can taste the culture, so I gave up on being a vegetarian and started eating all sorts of Japanese food – trust me, it is good!
Japan has been full of knowledge and opportunities for me – not just at University but also outside. During my 2 years at Waseda, I also got to do an internship with a UN organization and later at a venture capital. The internship at the VC helped me get in touch with the IT startup industry of Japan which later fuelled my thesis. I got in touch with the startup community of Japan and met new people every day, learning something new every day!
Life is of course full of ups and downs, and it’s not all green and bright always. I had my share of trying to understand and adjust. The most difficult of all was perhaps job hunting. I wanted to stay in Japan and work, so I started looking for jobs during my 2nd year. A word of caution – it’s not so easy, especially when you have certain expectations. I didn’t want to be stuck with any kind of job just for the sake of staying in Japan. Despite having language abilities, I faced a lot of rejections. In Japan, what’s more important than your achievements and degrees is whether you match with the company’s thought process or not. It was a long road – after spending almost an entire year looking for a job, I found one. And guess what? A job as an engineer. No, it’s not because I have no options, it’s because I wanted to be an engineer. I loved programming back in high school but decided to not go with the flow because I wanted to do something different. So, my ideal job was being a web programmer at a Japanese web service. I finally got it and cannot wait to get started in April 2017! I graduated in September 2016 so there is some time before I start – but don’t worry, companies usually take care of your interim visas as well. Moreover, you can always ask the university for help – I have pestered them so much with questions, but they’ve always managed to answer with a smile.
All in all, Japan has been wonderful to me. I got to study things I liked at University. And I get to do what I like for a living. I am sure I wouldn’t have been able to get back to programming so easily if I was in India.