"Is study abroad worth it?"
"Will I find a good job if I spend my time learning Japanese and studying in Japan?"
Well, if you're like Eliot and you focus on learning Japanese AND another career skill, then yes, absolutely. Eliot, a New York native, started studying Japanese when he was much younger, but also never gave up his dream of being involved in technical side of video game development.
He now works at Playstation (Sony Interactive) in San Mateo California after studying abroad at Waseda University in Tokyo. See his website here to learn more about his projects: eliotcowley.com
This week we spoke with him to learn about his journey from beginning learning Japanese to working at one of the most well-known Japanese companies in the world, doing what he loves.
How does Japanese study set you apart?
There are countless examples of foreigners learning Japanese to a "business-fluent" level, but have no other skills to back it up. At best, you'll find yourself competing with a nation of native-level Japanese speakers who DO have other skill sets, so you need to decide on your niche.
Maybe it's bridging cultures – that's a totally legitimate skill set and requires practice. You don't get to just jump into a good career at a Japanese company because you speak Japanese and you are from a foreign country. It helps to have documented expertise or experience – start a blog, make videos, write papers... Just do something.
Eliot's approach to building on his Japanese language foundation
If you're keen on an in-demand career path, take a page from Eliot's book and continuously focus on building real world skills AND Japanese language skills at the same time.
Even as he works at Playstation, he continues to upgrade his development skills.
Speaking Japanese with his coworkers also keeps him in line for a potential transfer to the Japanese HQ in the future, if that's an option he wants to explore.
Turn your study abroad experience into a strength
If you're interested in studying abroad in Japan – whether at a Japanese language school, or further into post-secondary experience at a university – we advise you also niche down into something you love.
When you walk into an interview as the foreigner who speaks Japanese, PLUS has an in-demand or well-documented skill set in something (IT, communications, HR, research, education, etc.) you immediately have an advantage over all of your competition.
Having interviewed hundreds of applicants during my tenure in HR at Hitachi, the thing that always stood out the most when applicants from abroad had great language skills and a passion for something outside of language study.
Study abroad in Japan is a huge benefit and opportunity for growth as a person. Pair it with a hard skill, and you become unstoppable.