Taking Off Her First Year of Studies to Take Off to Canada for Her First Job
First-year undergraduate student, Humanities I, College of Arts and Sciences
Tomoko holding a Chinese language textbook. “Since I came back to Japan,” she says, “I’ve been becoming more interested in learning other languages besides English.”
Tomoko was one of the eleven participants of the Fresher's Leave Year (FLY) Program for its inaugural year. She left the University for a year to experience life in Canada while working there, and returned to UTokyo this spring. What was her reasoning behind temporarily leaving the University which she had worked so hard to enter? “I'm not really talented at anything in particular, so I didn't have the confidence to study at UTokyo with so many elite people surrounding me. I thought that if I was going to challenge myself by trying to do something that other people don't normally do, this program would be the only way to do it.”
“I'm not really talented at anything in particular, so I didn't have the confidence to study at UTokyo with so many elite people surrounding me. I thought that if I was going to challenge myself by trying to do something that other people don't normally do, this program would be the only way to do it.”
Tomoko's interest in English led her to originally consider joining a language-centered study abroad program, but she faced frustrating setbacks. She then heard about the Working Holiday Visa system, and thought that maybe there was another way besides studying abroad for her to learn real, “living” English. With this goal in mind, she decided to head to Toronto. Tomoko faced a major problem once there, however – even counting her time in Japan, she had zero experience doing actual part-time work. Searching for a job in a foreign country was no easy task.
Nametag from her time at the donut shop. The hard-earned result of her job-hunting attempts made without appointments.
“Over in Canada, it's normal for people to apply for jobs by just showing up unannounced to stores and handing them your resume. I was so nervous that I couldn't even enter any of the stores at first, and I would spend the whole day pacing back and forth in front of the same store countless times… Eventually, I mustered up the courage to hit 20 stores, and made it to the interview round at three of them. I finally got hired at a donut shop in a mall's food court. I celebrated afterwards by eating a blueberry cheesecake by myself at a café!”
However, Tomoko couldn't adapt to working in an environment where unfamiliar English was constantly being used. When her boss got angry with her for no good reason and she couldn't respond due to her limited English ability, Tomoko felt humiliated and suffered emotionally. She realized that she had reached her limit just shy of her third week working there. She took her pay – which was given to her at the provincial minimum wage of $10.25/hour – and quit. Being in despair would be understandable and completely natural after such a turn of events, but Tomoko says that this experience propelled her to keep pushing forward.
“The job I found afterwards at a children's daycare center was a perfect fit for me. It reaffirmed how much I enjoy working close to children. I think it may have given me some hints about what I want to do when I decide on my future career!”
After returning to campus, she's keeping busy by preparing for classes, turning in assignments, being a private tutor and participating in her badminton club. One of Tomoko's friends recently told her that she's “sparkling more than before.” The increase in the amount of clothes in her wardrobe since her time in Canada, where she had to keep re-wearing the same outfits, isn't the only reason.
What hurt your feelings the most at your part-time job?
“My boss yelling at me to ‘wake up!' even though I wasn't sleeping.”
What surprised you during your year abroad?
“That I gained 5kg due to cooking my own food for a year.”
What cheered you up while you were in Canada?
“My friends from the FLY Program visiting me while I was there.”
“I want to be both a corporate lawyer and raise children.”
What does “tough” mean to you?
“Being able to take the next step forward after failing at something.”
Tomoko before UTokyo
Taken on a school trip during her second year of high school.