Even though it has already been two years since I returned to Malaysia, I still find myself thinking of Japan all the time. It is not because Malaysia is not a great place to live in, because it is. But having spent seven years in Japan, Japan has become a place I called home.
Seven years is very long. When I first got into Osaka University, my good friend started her very first job, having already graduated with double degrees in Melbourne, Australia. And when I finished my bachelor degree, she was already leading a team, and earning big bucks. Needless to say, when I finally finished my masters program, she was already asked to lead a company. It makes one wonder if we can ever catch up. Honestly, I still can’t tell for sure now. But, what I know is, if not for my seven years in Japan, I would not be doing what I am doing now, and loving all the opportunities that have come my way because of that very long seven years in Japan.
The most obvious bonus I’ve earned out of those seven years is the language. As much as some of us might want to deny, people naturally go for mandarin as their second language nowadays. After all, it is language of the nation with the largest population in the world, and one of the big movers in today's global economy. However, precisely because of that, it has become quite common to find someone who can speak Mandarin. Whereas, it is twice, if not thrice as hard to find a person who can speak both English and Japanese (plus whatever mother tongue you already know!). And this plays a big role in differentiating you from others.
I chose quite a different route from my peers in Japan. Instead of working in Japan and hoping the company would one day send me back to my country as an expat or hoping the working experience in japan would help land me a better job when I decide one day to return to my country, I chose to head home straight after graduation. Some might question the necessity of knowing the language being outside of Japan, but because I was equipped with the language I was very quickly offered two jobs with non-freshie pay, after just a couple of phone interviews, and no interviews in person whatsoever. I know for a fact that my friends who graduated elsewhere did not have the same advantage. And the thing is, I do not even speak native-like Japanese!
Another thing that I picked up during those years in Japan is the eye for details. It is not something written in the books, but something practiced in life. The whole Japan is a package of detail in itself. Everywhere you go, you'd see everything is just the way it is supposed to be, neat, tidy, efficient and yet creatively done down to every single detail. Even when things are in a mess, it is always a beautiful mess. And this is why even being a foreigner, you would somehow tend to pick up the culture and eventually practice it yourself. You learn that little details count, and little details do count. When you put care and effort into what you do, it shines through your work in ways that you don't know. It could just be making sure the excel sheet is an easy read for the client, or a simple tweak in the system to enhance the info sharing among colleagues. These are things that most people find negligible but these are also the kind of things that puts you onto the fast track at the workplace.
If you ask me, I'd say that education is about the same everywhere and something you can obtain anywhere. But the experience you get from studying in Japan is something you can't get anywhere else but at Osaka University.