Obsessed with Japanese anime since 9 years old
At 7 years old, my brothers got me hooked on Japanese rock music, but my obsession with Japanese culture began two years later when they introduced me to the world of Anime. I became curious beyond the stories and deep-dived into Japanese culture and language. I went beyond just reading the subtitles and started memorizing Japanese words. My first Japanese word was “to talk” ( 話す, hanasu).
Lucky for me, in middle school, a new teacher came to our school and started a new class for those who wanted to learn the Japanese language. The lessons were to be scheduled after school hours, so the teacher had to filter out the students who couldn’t commit to the extra work through a 1.5-hour entrance exam on Hiragana characters. I passed and was one of the first students in my school to take the class.
The class helped me so much. Anime had taught me a lot of Japanese words but I knew nothing about the writing system. The class taught me about kanji, word nuances, intonations, and other complexities of the language.
After that first year, the school made Japanese language classes a regular subject folded into school hours. They even allowed students to choose it as one of the subjects for the two major national exams for high school students in Malaysia, PT3 and SPM. Of course, I opted for the Japanese language for my exams.
However, the class was only focused on grammar from textbooks, which meant I didn’t know how to converse in Japanese. In my experience, you cannot solely rely on textbooks to study a language. You needed to immerse yourself daily in various audio and video resources to familiarize yourself with the language. I took matters into my own hands. While attending classes for five years, the Internet supplemented my studies. I watched videos of manga clips and popular Japanese YouTubers and listened to Utaite (歌い手) on Niconico Douga, allowing me to mimic how natives spoke.
Dreaming of working in Japan
I was always intent on learning the Japanese language because I always dreamed of working in Japan. Having grown up in a family that wasn’t wealthy, I knew that the opportunities in Japan could help me to support them in the future.
Aside from my love for my family driving my dream, my love for Japan motivates me too. As someone interested in technology and machinery, Japan is the place to be with its renowned technological advancements. I’m also enchanted by their well-preserved and protected culture. There’s so much to learn from Japan: from the futuristic innovations to the deep-rooted traditions. This is perfect for a person like me who thrives in an environment of continuous learning.
Nerve-wracking interview experience
Luckily, a friend told me about the FAST OFFER International program during the final year of my degree. It was a busy year. I had to juggle attending classes, finishing my final project, and going through the program’s application process. Even though the process itself was very easy, it was time-consuming because I had to learn so much new information and formats. Still, I pushed myself, determined not to waste the precious opportunity.
Eventually, I had an online interview with a company. It was quite nerve-wracking as a first-timer and I had to talk with so many new faces, including high-ranking people from the company. I did my best not to panic and somehow managed to handle it well. The interviewers seemed comfortable with me and even asked how I stayed calm while talking to them. Turns out my habit of smiling when nervous worked in my favor. I learned that it’s okay to be nervous as long as you can manage your facial expressions.
In the first interview, I didn’t face a lot of problems as the questions were about my personality. However, in the second interview with the managers, I was asked technical questions that required engineering vocabulary I was not familiar with. It was difficult to express myself fluently and I felt the urge to speak in my native language. Still, I managed to navigate through the interview and gave satisfying responses.
I felt relieved when I got accepted by the company but I also know there is still a long way ahead of me. I need to be ready for the challenges that will come my way.
I will start my job in April 2025, about a year and a half from when I wrote this. I’ll use this time wisely, sharpening my Japanese skills even more. I’ll hit the ground running when I get there, set to seek a higher position.
Failing is not an end: you have the power to write your story
My journey was wrought with many challenges, but each time I found people who wanted to help, and also figured out ways I could help myself. This is only the beginning but through the people behind me, and my hard work, I’m confident and determined I’ll see my dream through.
For everyone on a similar journey to mine, I want to remind you that failing is not the end; it’s just one of the many steps toward progress. Mistakes and setbacks can’t stop you if you turn them into opportunities for learning and growth. Keep moving forward with what you’ve gained, and when you feel weary, take a moment to recharge!