留学生インタビュー

Why did you decide to study in Japan?

When I came to Japan in 1988, it was the "Japan is No.1" period, and people had great expectations for Japan's further economic growth, so I wanted to work in Japan after graduation. I also wanted to challenge a new language-Japanese. Another reason why I decided to study in Japan was that as I considered the environment in Japan was better suited for foreign students to achieve financial independence, as compared with Europe or the United States. For example, privately-financed foreign students who excel in their studies can apply for tuition fees exemption. If successful, the students can often take between 30 and 100 percent of their tuition fees exemption. There is also a relatively wide selection of various scholarships, and I also think it is easy to find part-time work here.

How did you spend your days as a foreign student in Japan?

I spent my first year studying Japanese at The Asian Students Cultural Association (ABK). I then enrolled at Chiba University's Faculty of Law and Economics, and after graduation, moved on to Hitotsubashi University's Graduate School of Commerce and Management where I received my Master's degree and Ph.D. in Business Administration. Looking back upon my life in Japan, I see that I was very fortunate. From my third year at Chiba University, I received the Rotary Yoneyama Memorial Scholarship for two years. While I was undergoing my master's program at Hitotsubashi University's graduate school, I received a scholarship from the Tokyu Foundation for Inbound Students, and during the doctoral program, I became a Japanese Government (then Monbusho, now Monbukagakusho) scholarship student. I will tell you more about the Yoneyama Scholarship later. When I was an undergraduate student in Japan, I always sat at the very front row in the classroom in an effort to have my professors remember my face. This was a way for me to pressure myself into having to attend every single class since they would know if I was absent. It is true that I was at a disadvantage compared to my Japanese classmates in terms of language, but as I sat at the front row and studied diligently every day, eventually, my Japanese classmates and seniors began to help me before my examinations or when there were things that I did not understand. If you study seriously, there are always people around you who will come and help you.

Can you tell us more about the Rotary Yoneyama Scholarship?

The Rotary Yoneyama Memorial Foundation is probably the biggest private scholarship foundation in Japan. It awards scholarships to approximately 1,000 foreign students every year. Furthermore, the foundation provides a counselor to each foreign student. My counselor was very kind to me and was like a parent away from home. There was a monthly meeting at the beginning of each month. We sang the national anthem and ate a Japanese box lunch consisting of rice and a variety of side dishes. I remember feeling culture shock at the time because the people around me ate so quickly! (laughs) Today, I am Chairman of the Yoneyama Alumni Association (Chiba). As chairman, I take part in volunteer activities as much as my time will allow. For example, this (2003) August, the alumni association hosted the first "Essay Contest for Foreign Students," and the "1st Yoneyama Alumni Association Seminar." As Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee, I was in charge of judging the submitted essays, and I read through about 280 of them. In the end, I had to select 10 essays as the prize-winning essays, and it was a rather difficult task. However, the foreign students' essays presented viewpoints that differed from those of Japanese people, and so they were very interesting to read. There were some very good things written, and I found it very stimulating. I learned the spirit of volunteerism through the Yoneyama Scholarship. It was thanks to the Rotarians, who provide great amounts every year as scholarships to foreign students whom they had never met, that I was able to devote my time to studies without any inconvenience. I truly appreciate this. I want to continue harboring this feeling of appreciation, and that is why I want to continue repaying my gratitude to Rotarians as well as Japanese society through my volunteer activities.

Please tell us about your current work.

At one of Japan's leading think tanks, I work as a consultant for Japanese companies and the government and act primarily as a bridge between Japan and Asian companies and governments. It was a rather groundbreaking thing for the think tank where I work now to have hired me. They had never hired a non-Japanese graduate fresh out of school before then. I hope that the domestically-oriented corporate culture at my company changes as a result of my presence. I also hope to show my gratitude to Japan, a country that I love, and repay the kindness that Japan has shown me, through this work. As a consultant for Japanese companies and the government, I can help people of other countries better understand the Japanese way of thinking. At the same time, I can help Japanese people understand the local way of thinking in other countries. By this means I want to continue my efforts to help fill the gap between them. I intend to continually pursue, in my work, how I can best be a true bridge between nations

Do you have any advice for prospective students?

Everything is up to you at a Japanese university. If you want to spend your time playing, you can play as much as you want. On the other hand, if you want to study, you can study as much as you would like. If you choose not to be swept along by others and study seriously, you will find that more and more people around you appreciate what you are doing, and they will help you. That is why I think the most important thing is the attitude of the foreign student himself/herself towards his/her studies.

Uploaded on 16th January 2004