2024-05-24

Mastering Japanese: An Indonesian Engineer’s Journey to Tokyo

Summary

An aerospace engineering student from Indonesia navigates the challenges and opportunities of moving to Japan, motivated by a deep appreciation for Japanese punctuality and a desire for research and development work. With a fondness for Japanese and Indonesian cuisine, he finds comfort in the shared emphasis on rice and noodles. Despite the cultural and grammatical differences between the two countries, he embarks on learning Japanese, driven by the dream of working in Japan. This journey begins with the discovery of the FAST OFFER program through their university’s social media, leading to a challenging yet rewarding experience of mastering the language, including tackling the complex world of Kanji. His thesis, focusing on the application of computer vision and AI in aerospace engineering, aligns perfectly with their future role in R&D at a company specializing in blade manufacturing. Throughout his story, the importance of resilience, adaptability, and the support of friends and mentors shines through, culminating in a successful job hunt and an optimistic outlook on their future in Japan.

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Profile

Countries & Regions
Indonesia
University
Bandung Institute of Technology
Major
Aerospace Engineering
Education
Master
Company
Manufacture and sale of industrial machine knives, tools, machine tools and machine parts

Why an Indonesian Aerospace Engineer Chose Japan

The main reason I came to Japan revolved around two key factors. Firstly, I find the Japanese working culture quite appealing because of its emphasis on punctuality, which resonates with me. However, I prefer the punctuality valued in Japanese culture. 

The second reason is the different focus on industry development in Indonesia. As a master’s student interested in R&D work, I felt there were more opportunities in Japan to showcase my skills. While other developed nations also prioritize R&D, Japan stood out to me. Additionally, I have a fondness for Japanese cuisine, which includes rice and noodles, just like in Indonesia.
 

Cultural Bridges: Uncovering the Parallels Between Japan and Indonesia

When it comes to language and culture, I believe there are both similarities and differences between Japanese and Indonesian. One common aspect is the use of formal language (敬語) and the distinction between formal and informal expressions. This nuance exists in both countries. Indonesia is a vast country with diverse cultures in every province. I hail from West Java, where we embrace the Sundanese culture. Despite the cultural diversity, politeness is a shared trait between Sundanese and Japanese cultures. Interestingly, some foreigners find Japanese politeness overwhelming, which we don’t.  I find the shared emphasis on politeness in both cultures comforting. 

Another interesting point is, that Indonesian grammar has similarities with English, although it differs from Japanese. Learning Indonesian in school and communicating with locals can pose challenges due to the use of different words.  

Regarding food, both Japanese and Indonesian cuisines revolve around rice and noodles. This commonality makes enjoying food in either culture quite enjoyable. 

Another observation is that Japanese society leans towards individualism, whereas Indonesians tend to prioritize community and caring for others. While this can be seen as an advantage, sometimes it may lead to interference in others’ affairs. 

Mastering Japanese: An Indonesian Engineer’s Language Journey

My journey into learning Japanese began just a year ago when FAST OFFER brought their program to my university. It all started with a casual scroll through the university’s Instagram page, where I stumbled upon this exciting opportunity. Intrigued, but juggling my final year of master’s studies, I hesitated. Thankfully, a wise senior nudged me, saying, “Just go for it!” And with that push, I took the leap, and here I am now! 

At a science and engineering university like mine, language classes were nowhere to be found. So, diving into Japanese lessons was a fresh experience for me. My motivation? Well, I had my eye on working in Japan, and mastering the language seemed like a solid first step. I challenged myself by taking the JLPT exam for N3 in December 2023, although the results are pending. Achieving the N3 level in just one year is undeniably tough, but I put in my all. 

The classes were both enjoyable and challenging. Initially, I learned alongside Indonesian Sensei and fellow Indonesians, which was fun. However, the heavy focus on grammar posed challenges. Transitioning to learning with a Japanese sensei for three months proved pivotal. Speaking Japanese exclusively during these sessions accelerated my understanding and speaking skills significantly. Additionally, the diverse mix of participants from other countries made the classes even more enjoyable than before. During breakout sessions, we engaged in activities assigned by the sensei. These sessions often ended with discussions about our respective countries in Japanese, further enhancing our language skills. 

But let’s talk about Kanji. Kanji was the most challenging part because I believe grammar and speaking can be improved by watching a lot of Japanese media and practicing speaking with teachers and friends, but Kanji, you can’t just naturally implement it. I had to sit and memorize.  

But after finishing classes with the Japanese sensei, I felt ready to take on Japan

Innovating in Aerospace: An Indonesian’s R&D Dream Comes True in Japan

My major is aerospace engineering, and my thesis focuses on computer vision and AI applications for aerospace engineering challenges. At my future company, I’ll be working in research and development (R&D), specifically in research engineering. They’ve briefed me on the various problems they’re tackling, and I believe my expertise aligns well with their needs. 

In my thesis, my primary focus is on machine learning-based methods for computer vision, particularly in solving physical problems. One notable example is the development of a method to detect defects on metal surfaces. This method was compared with existing approaches to enhance accuracy and increase reliability. 

Imagine using a drone for aircraft inspection. My system can identify these defects, but I took it a step further. I aimed to pinpoint the exact location of the cracks. Having a system that detects defects is helpful, but it’s not sufficient. My goal was to create a model that not only identifies cracks but also indicates their precise location within an image. 

I’m hopeful that my expertise will align well with the needs of the company. Given that the company specializes in blade manufacturing, this resonated with the focus of my thesis. I’m eager to contribute my knowledge and skills to this project, as it closely aligns with the research I’ve conducted. 

Sealing the Deal: An Indonesian Engineer’s Job Hunt Success in Japan

Actually, I did explore opportunities in Japan while still in Indonesia, considering the possibility of starting there in October or April 2025. In Indonesia, it’s customary to begin with a one or two-year contract before securing full employment, so I contemplated taking this route before venturing to Japan. However, I ultimately dedicated my efforts to job hunting through FAST OFFER. 

I chose to focus on opportunities abroad because I believe I’m better suited for it. Considering my research focus and the emphasis on research culture within companies, I concluded that following in the footsteps of my senior’s experience abroad was the most promising path for me. 

The interview took place in Japan in December 2023. While I had participated in a student exchange program to Osaka during middle school, it was my first time visiting Tokyo in December. During the exchange program, I spent three weeks in Osaka, so Tokyo still feels somewhat new to me. 

During my time in Tokyo, I had ample opportunities to explore the city, and I’m particularly grateful that FAST OFFER provided accommodation near Ueno Park. Being within walking distance of Ueno Park allowed me to spend a lot of time there, soaking in its beauty and tranquility. 

Additionally, I had the chance to reconnect with friends who were pursuing their master’s degrees in Japan. These friends were close to me during high school, so meeting up with them was a cherished experience. We met in Roppongi, enjoying each other’s company and catching up on old times. Furthermore, I had the pleasure of exploring Tokyo with friends from Malaysia and other countries who were also part of the FAST OFFER program. Together, we embarked on leisurely strolls around the city, immersing ourselves in its vibrant atmosphere and creating unforgettable memories. 

 

Keys to Success: Navigating Japan’s Career Landscape as an International Student

Here are some practical tips for those considering a similar journey.  

Firstly, having a friend join you can really enhance the experience. My own journey was made better by teaming up with another participant. Together, we formed a supportive duo, cheering each other on through the ups and downs of the program. As time went on, we saw the group size shrink from 60 to just 10, which felt like a plot twist straight out of a reality show.

Secondly, adopting a “just go for it” attitude can make a big difference. There are times when motivation falters and doubts creep in, but even on those days, just showing up to class can be a game-changer. Even if you’re not feeling it, being there can reignite your enthusiasm and drive. I remember hitting a rough patch halfway through the program, but with my friend’s encouragement to keep going, I found myself on the brink of landing an interview—something I hadn’t expected.

So, here’s how it went for me: I wrapped up my classes with the Indonesian sensei. Then came the interviews. During that interview, I realized I still had more to learn, while some of my friends had already progressed to the next stage. I felt a bit insecure, but I kept pushing forward.

I was quite anxious because my friends who had interviews in Japan in December had already gone through several online interviews. In contrast, I had no prior experience with them, which added to my concerns. Thankfully, I managed to secure the interview. To prepare, I focused heavily on practicing vocabulary, dedicating considerable time to it.

Ultimately, it’s all about staying resilient and determined. By consistently showing up and pushing through challenges, you’ll find that the rewards outweigh any initial struggles.

Yes, I’m extremely excited, I must say. Since childhood, I’ve always known that I would eventually work abroad, though I wasn’t sure exactly. So, embarking on this new chapter in my life fills me with anticipation. However, there’s also a hint of worry lingering within me. Nonetheless, I believe, and I hope, that everything will turn out fine. I intend to stay in Japan for an extended period, so let’s see how it unfolds. 

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