Are you interested in study abroad programs or working in Japan? After studying Japanese a few semesters, many students find their way to study / work in Japan. What are the study abroad programs like? How do you find the internship opportunities in Japan? Is it possible to get a full-time job in Japan after graduation? Here are references from the alumni.
Isha Henry, Class of 2021
Major: Mechanical Engineering; Minor: Japanese
Participated program: Japan Summer Program in Sustainable Development 2018
I found out about the Japan Summer Program in Sustainable Development through the Study Abroad Fair held by OIE during my first year. To apply for the program, I just had to write a brief essay explaining why I wanted to participate in the program and how it would benefit me. I had a very good experience! I was able to visit many cultural heritage locations in Japan such as Hiroshima and Kyoto along with many others. I started out in the program not knowing anyone - not the professors, the Tokyo Tech students, or even the other Georgia Tech students - but I have since made many new friends and connections. I went on this study abroad during the summer after my second year and at that point I had taken through the JAPN 2001 course level. Knowing Japanese was not required for the program, but outside of the coursework it made it easier to explore Japanese cities and communicate with locals. It was also fun to try and improve my Japanese while immersing myself in the culture. In the future, I am considering coming back to Japan to do a year-long exchange at Tokyo Tech since this summer was such a good experience. My time here has also been very encouraging to my dream of ultimately working for a Japanese company.
Christian Brice, Class of 2019
Major: Computer Engineering, Minor: Japanese
Participated program: Suzumori-Endo Lab @ Tokyo Institute of Technology (Academic Year)
I found out about this program with the goal of completing my 26 weeks abroad required for the International Plan designation. I really wanted to throw myself into a vastly different culture and learn first-hand about Japanese culture and its people. The application process was relatively simple: 1) apply through GA Tech, then apply directly to Tokyo Tech; 2) once Tokyo Tech replies, find a professor in the provided list that you would like to do research under -- Skype call or correspond with the professor through email; 3) use Tokyo Tech's international student dorm housing or find your own.
I opted to find my own housing closer to Tokyo Tech, and decided upon a mixed Japanese/foreigners share house. I also involved myself in a local Church's youth group and the Tokyo Tech photography club. All of these groups and activities, as well as meeting and befriending people outside of these, really put my two and a half years of Japanese at GA Tech to the test. My conversational skills increased exponentially by listening to my friends speak, as well as asking them whenever I was confused about something new.
I had a great time at the Suzumori-Endo Robotics Lab. My host professor was Dr. Gen Endo himself, who spoke great English and was very nice and understanding. He, along with the other lab members, always helped me if I had questions about my project (a Long-Reaching Arm for mounting on a Fukushima Daiichi-bound robot) or how to use the plethora of machines in the lab. I had an amazing time, and would definitely recommend the experience to others.
Ellie Tsuchiya, Class of 2019
Dual Major: Economics and Japanese
Participated program: Waseda Exchange Program
I found the Waseda Exchange Program through the OIE website and by contacting the appropriate study abroad advisor for details. The application process for the program required a recommendation letter and short essay responses regarding my intentions on going to Waseda. Overall, the application process was comparable to applying for universities as a high school student.
At Waseda, I was a student of the School of International Liberal Studies which offers a variety of Liberal Arts courses in English. The courses I took ranged from politics classes, Japanese culture classes, economics classes, and global business classes. Supplemental to these courses I took 6 credit hours of Japanese language courses each semester. The elementary, intermediate, and advanced Japanese classes I took at Tech provided me with a strong comprehensive Japanese foundation. From this foundation, I was prepared to focus on specific skills I had weaknesses in by taking themed Japanese courses at Waseda. After intensively studying Japanese for a year, I plan on looking for a job in Japan after graduation and continuing to improve my language skills.
Internship or Work Abroad
Lilly Rizvi, Class of 2020
Major: Computer Science with IP in Japanese, Minor: Japanese
Coming to Tech, one of my main goals was to go abroad. Even so, I never knew that my first job experience ever would be so, let alone in Japan! I had been eyeing the NTT internship ever since I heard about the program before coming here and decided to apply as a sophomore (with annoying and persistent encouragement from my mom). A month later, I was asked for a phone interview, and a month after that I was accepted! Then began the process of signing contracts, visa requirements, and (reimbursed!) plane tickets.
My experience was definitely memorable, and after it all a younger version of me had fulfilled a few lifelong dreams. I was mainly working on a UI/UX solo project, and giving presentations on progress and ideas to my coworkers. While Japanese wasn’t explicitly required, my knowledge was essential to communicate with my coworkers and understand each other. It was awkward at times, but I really got a chance to be with Japanese speaking people and improve my speaking and workplace skills. I could also say that the experience changed my understanding of the Japanese workplace. While there is respect and a very hard work ethic, they were also accepting of me. They loved my blue hair dye, and even were very accepting of me being a transgender woman when I came out halfway through the internship and began transitioning. On the weekends, I thoroughly shopped and ate through Tokyo, hiked in Kamakura and Chiba, and took photos among the factories of Kawasaki. I have made thousands of memories and would do it again; I have the experience to do that now. My immediate plans are to keep maintaining my Japanese through classes, JSA, and/or staying acclimated to hearing it with anime. I plan on expanding my work-abroad potential with an opportunity in China (I have become obsessed with Kanji), but I am aiming for a career either in Japan or working with Japanese clients after graduation.
Wesley Ogata, Class of 2019
Major: Computer Science, Minor: Japanese
Participated program: Summer Internship at Goldman Sachs Japan
I really enjoyed my internship last summer. I learned a lot about computer science as well as was able to explore a lot of Tokyo from this internship. I was located in Roppongi but was able to travel around Tokyo on the weekends and sometimes during the week for fun. I found the position by going to the Boston Career Forum. I had to submit my resume and went through a series of interviews to get this position. I have not figured out what I will do in the future as I am unsure where I want to live. I feel that taking Japanese classes really helped me when I was there since you have to talk in Japanese there. My work required only English but I know that some companies at BCF require Japanese which would help people wanting to work in Japan.
Graham McAllister / Class of 2018
Major: Computer Science
Participated program: Internship at Rakuten (Summer 2017), and Amazon Japan (Fall 2017)
I found both of my positions at the Boston Career Forum, held annually in November. The career forum has free entry, and you can even apply for travel reimbursement. There are hundreds of companies represented, recruiting for both positions in the US and Japan. Not being business fluent in both languages is fine, but it will certainly limit your options (software engineering probably has the most opportunities for non business proficient Japanese speakers). Applying to positions before going is a must because onsite interviews at the career forum are the primary focus, although some companies do accept walk-ups and will do short in-person screenings to fill up remaining interview slots. Depending on if the positions is internship or full-time, you may have multiple rounds of onsite interviews. Both of the software engineer positions I applied for had an online programming test and resume screening before the onsite interviews were scheduled.
Both internships were very worthwhile experiences. It was a lot of fun living in Tokyo, meeting coworkers from around the world, and gaining software development skills. It was especially interesting to compare the two work cultures between a Japanese and an American company. I enjoyed my time in Tokyo so much that I decided to accept a full time offer. I spoke English in both of my workplaces, so my Japanese did not improve as much as I had hoped. But it did slowly improve by making the effort to meet new friends that only spoke Japanese. Taking Japanese definitely gave me a foundation to build off of, and it helped adjusting quicker to ordering and interacting with store employees in Japanese. However, there is a big gap between being able to do that and being conversational in Japanese. I definitely wish I participated in the Japanese LBAT before working in Japan. Having a summer to focus singularly on learning Japanese (especially speaking) in Japan would have helped get me closer to conversational level and made my social experience in Tokyo a lot more rewarding.
Yuanhan Pan, Class of 2019
Major: Computer Science, Minor: Japanese
Full time position at Rakuten Edy
I applied for Rakuten through an online application in my final year at Georgia Tech. I knew I wanted to work in Japan so I searched for Japanese companies seeking software engineers. I was especially interested in Rakuten since English is the official business language used even though their headquarters are in Tokyo.
The application process began with the standard process of submitting a resume and providing work experience. Afterwards, I was given an online coding challenge similar to the ones given by American tech companies as a preliminary interview. After passing the coding challenge, I was giving a video interview where I had to record my responses to prerecorded interview questions. After passing that interview, I was given a total of four interviews before I received the offer. The interviews were conducted mostly in English. The first interview was with engineers from the department I was applying to and consisted of basic behavioral and technical questions. Each successive interview was with a higher manager in the department. According to Rakuten, this is to allow the hiring managers to understand how a new candidate will fit into the organization when hired. The second interview was with team managers. The third was with division managers, and the final interview was with the department manager. The later interviews consisted mostly of behavioral questions and dealt with my motivations for wanting to work at Rakuten and my past experiences. Between the third and fourth interview, I was sent a copy of Hiroshi Mikitani's book and told to write a commentary about my thoughts on the book. Both the book and the report was in English.
It has been around a month since I started and I have enjoyed my time so far at Rakuten. I work as a software engineer on the Rakuten Edy team and it has been very interesting developing an E-money product in Japan where cash is very predominant for payments. In recent years, Rakuten adopted English as the official business language and hired a large number of foreign employees. As a result, the company culture is an interesting multinational blend of Western tech companies and Japanese companies. This is especially evident during lunchtime where many different languages can be heard in the cafeteria (which offers free breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Rakuten isn't the "traditional" Japanese company that stresses long work hours but it's also not quite the Silicon Valley startup. It's something in between where the drive for innovation is backed by Japanese values such as teamwork and harmony. Rakuten has a large number of foreigners, but my department is mostly made up of Japanese natives. Fortunately, my team is made up of mostly foreigners and I'm able to use English on a day to day basis. However, communication with other teams and team managers are done mostly in Japanese. So far, I've enjoyed my work and being with my team. However, the experience will differ between teams and departments.
As of now, I am happy with my position and I plan to stay with Rakuten for the future. The Japanese classes I took not only made it easier for me to communicate with my Japanese coworkers but also taught me some important cultural lessons such as how to properly introduce yourself or the correct way to accept a business card. I've also continued my study of Japanese through taking free classes offered by my community center. It's very easy to apply for these classes and most cities in Japan will offer free lessons staffed by volunteers.
Shantanu Mantri, Class of 2018
Participated program: AISEC Internship Program (Company: Team OZ)
Georgia Tech's AIESEC Organization provides a great opportunity for students to work abroad in Japan. I found the position by going on their website and applying. AIESEC is a global organization, so you have support from members in both Atlanta and Japan. The application process included 3 main steps: An initial pre-screening interview with an AIESEC member in Japan, an interview with the company itself, and then the acceptance process highlighted by signing the contract. This program was amazing because the AIESEC member in Japan provided full support for any logistical issues I had. They helped me find housing, picked me up and dropped me off at the airport, and even traveled around Japan with me during my days off work!
My job was to help create an online cram school website with the goal of providing cheaper and better education to Japanese students. I got first-hand experience in working with my company's CEO to solve educational issues in Japan, and I learned more about Japan's education system than I thought possible. From a cultural standpoint, I was able to observe Japanese business culture and applied what I had learned in my Japanese classes. I ended up using almost everything I had learned in Business & Technical Japanese during everyday conversation, and I was very glad I had taken various Japanese courses before working in Japan. I also had many weekends off, and traveled around cities like Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and more! I would recommend current students to start/continue their pursuit of Japanese and try to find time to go abroad to Japan!
Matthew Schauer, Class of 2016
Dual major: Computer Science and ALIS (Japanese)
Participated programs: LBAT Japan 2013; NTT August–November 2013 and June–November 2015
When I started college, I decided that I wanted to spend some time abroad. I realized that if I wanted to find out what it was like to work in a foreign country without making a long-term commitment, I might never have had a good chance again after graduating. So, I checked out the Department of Professional Practice's global internship database and eventually found a position at NTT that met my criteria. The application process was fairly painless: I submitted a résumé and some supporting documentation, did a phone interview with my prospective mentor, and off I went.
When I look back on my time in college, my time spent in Japan shines through as by far the most enjoyable and interesting period. With no homework, few responsibilities, and totally free evenings and weekends, I like to refer to my internship as my "four-month all-expenses-paid Japanese vacation", but it was so much more than even that. I made friendships that have endured to this day, connected with people whom I know will be able to help me when I decide to return to Japan, learned much about the Japanese language and even more about the Japanese culture, learned how to function effectively in a culture very different from my own, and gained important experience in my major that I know helped me get full-time offers from companies later on. My initial internship lasted for four months in the fall of 2013, and I was later invited back for the latter six months of 2015 and accepted. If college had gone on longer, I would have returned again without hesitation.
I am currently working for IBM in Atlanta, but I would like to spend some more time working in Japan some day. Thanks to my internships, I know where to look when I decide to go. I am continuing my Japanese studies informally in preparation for this time, and also as a way to meet people who share my interests. My time abroad, born out of a simple desire to try working in another country for a short time, ended up really changing the prospects available to me for the rest of my life. The Japanese courses at Georgia Tech supplied me the necessary preparation for this to occur, while also providing a welcome break from computer science classes. To anyone interested in Japan, I strongly recommend working or studying there before graduating.
R. Chase Adams, Class of 2016
Dual Major: Computer Engineering and ALIS (Japanese)
Participated programs: LBAT Japan & NTT internship
I found the internship through Georgia Tech's Office of International Education and their work abroad program. The application consisted of submitting an essay for the position and a phone interview with my would-be supervisor. The experience was amazing being able to work for a Japanese company in my engineering field of interest. The work was directly relevant to my career goals, and my Japanese classes helped prepare me for living and working in Japan. Not only did my classes help me speak the native language on a daily basis, they taught me the cultural expectations and societal graces needed to be successful in a foreign country. I would not have been able to have the life-forming experience had I not taken Japanese classes, and eventually getting a language major.
Gavin McGuire, Class of 2020
Major: Mechanical Engineering, Minor: Japanese
Participated program: Nakatani RIES Fellowship at Kyoto University - Summer 2018
I found out about the Nakatani Fellowship from Nakanishi-Sensei in the Facebook Group, and it seemed like too incredible of an opportunity to pass up! I wrote a few brief essays over winter break, and in February I was offered a Skype interview. According to the team conducting the interview, my prior experience with Japanese was very unique among their applicant pool, and they specifically referred to Georgia Tech's Technical Japanese classes.
The 13-week program features a variety of unique cultural experiences in Japan, such as live viewing of Sumo, seminars from some of the nation's best scientific minds, and trips to such beautiful places as Mount Fuji itself! In addition, I worked alongside Dr. Kageyama at Kyoto University on a project that was essentially tailored to my research interests! I would love to come back for further research opportunities and personal expeditions into the wonderful cultural and natural heritage of Japan.