Laying the Foundation for My Future in Japan
(Exchange student from the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Netherlands.)
Like any country in today’s globalized world, Japan faces its share of challenges, such as information availability gaps and cultural barriers. It’s therefore more important than ever for young and motivated individuals to come here with fresh perspectives to develop new solutions. Davey Tan, hailing from the School of International Business at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, is using his time at Aoyama Gakuin University to establish a strong base in Japan and strive towards becoming a vector of positive change, fostering stronger bonds between Japan and the West.
Curiosity in cars and tech ignited my interest in Japan
My family has Asian heritage, my mother being Malaysian and my father being second-generation born and raised in the Netherlands. We were fortunate to travel frequently when I was growing up, and often to Asia. So, I came to Japan first on family trips, then with classmates, with friends, and finally on my own. From a young age, I felt a special connection to Japan, and two aspects of the culture really drew me in. First, technology. I love learning about it, and particularly in the 2000s, Japan was on the forefront of cellular technology. I found it fascinating to see everyone on Japanese trains using their phones while the Netherlands was lagging by a few years.
The second aspect was cars. I am passionate about car culture and love learning about different cars. The unique thing about Japanese cars is the level to which owners will customize cars to their liking. Having that freedom to customize seemed awesome, especially since it is not allowed in the Netherlands. One of my favorite channels on YouTube is called Steve’s POV. Steve is an American living in Texas, but he uploads videos about amazing Japanese cars and about Japanese culture, all in fluent Japanese. In the future, I would love to be able to customize cars of my own and take them onto the track. I am looking into getting a Japanese driver’s license so I can try driving here myself.
I enjoy content from other popular YouTubers like Abroad in Japan and Paolo from Tokyo, because they always tell interesting stories about places in Japan, especially those off the beaten path. Many of my friends who want to visit Japan watch these videos and draw inspiration for their own itineraries. Personally, I like to ask my local or well-traveled friends for travel recommendations in Japan. During past trips, I was fortunate to check many of the major tourist spots off my list.
Aiming to become a bridge between the Netherlands and Japan
After I visited Japan a few times, I told my family that I wanted to live in Japan in the future. I wanted to become familiar with the working culture and business customs of the country, and experience student life here. If I live somewhere, I feel the need to contribute something positive to that place. Therefore, I would like to make a positive contribution towards the social and economic issues that Japan is facing. Back at my home university, the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, I study at the Faculty of Business and Economics, School of International Business and my major is International Finance and Control. In this field of study, we learn about becoming a bridge between different cultures and finding solutions that work for both sides. I would like to become that bridge between the Netherlands and Japan.
However, coming to Japan to visit and stay long-term are very different experiences. For the most up-to-date information about living here, I turned to online videos and asked my friends in Japan. I was able to make friends in Japan before by having random conversations and exchanging contact information during my travels. This was very helpful because when I came to live in Japan, I already had friends in Tokyo and Yokohama. Having both local Japanese friends and seasoned foreign-resident friends is valuable, as they will each have unique areas of knowledge when it comes to living here.
There is plenty of information about getting into Japan, but there’s a gap when it comes to making your life more comfortable here. Having to go through procedures at the City Hall can be daunting at first, and I went with a Japanese friend first. Procedures differ compared to Europe, but I think it just takes some time to get used to. When my friends arrived in Japan, I ended up going with them to help them through the processes. I actually have an idea with my friends to create a business that helps smooth out the whole process of moving to Japan.
My first time living in Japan was in late 2019, when I came to study at a dedicated Japanese language institute. It was my goal to build up my Japanese skills, attend a Japanese university, and build a life and businesses here. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I had to return to the Netherlands and postpone my plans. Since then, I remained keen on returning to Japan, and finally I had the opportunity to come to Aoyama Gakuin University (AGU).
Expanding my world view and network at AGU
Whenever I asked my friends in Japan about AGU, they all had nice things to say about it. It has a great reputation in Japan as one of the top private universities, a strong alumni network, and a location that is hard to beat. My friends told me the campus is nice, the staff are friendly and helpful, and it is a great place to build connections through its alumni network. I was considering another school which offers both courses in English and an international learning environment, but that school was in a rural area, far from a major city. On the other hand, AGU’s central-Tokyo location made it much more appealing to me in terms of business connections and opportunities. I have been pleased with how international AGU is, and it is great to be able to take various courses in English here.
My favorite class at AGU is Introduction to International Political Economy, taught by AGU part-time lecturer Yuko Suda. The course covers the origins of various trade agreements and international organizations, and the impacts of politics on the economy. Though the class is in English, my classmates are from many different countries and the lecture does a great job of eliciting different perspectives from each student. The class provides a great opportunity to develop critical thinking skills, and we condense our opinions into a short essay at the end of each class.
Since I am taking many classes, I try to complete as many of my homework assignments as possible during my free periods on campus. However, I’ve found that if you are actively participating in the classes, taking in the information, and planning out your long-term assignments based on their deadlines, you do not need to spend an unreasonable amount of time studying. Some of my classes are a bit more challenging than others, such as my Japanese classes where I have to learn many kanji characters, but all my classes have been manageable through consistent effort and asking for help when I need it.
Languages are an important part of international business, and I grew up speaking several. In the Netherlands, I grew up speaking Dutch and English, and learned French and German in high school. Being able to speak Japanese will also unlock many business opportunities for me in Asia. Before coming to Japan to study in 2019, my experience with the language was limited. I studied some phrases and expressions in the weeks leading up to my arrival, and could develop basic conversation skills while attending the language institute. When I had to return to the Netherlands during the pandemic, I reverted to self-study, mostly using textbooks like Minna no Nihongo. Unfortunately, because I couldn’t practice speaking much, my speaking fell behind my comprehension.
From my experience, the best way to improve is by diving into the deep end with Japanese, putting myself in situations where I must socialize or interact with Japanese speakers. That may mean helping friends visiting the hospital, or a casual conversation with a stranger at a park or in a bar. Here on campus at AGU, too, I try to talk to many people and tell my friends they can talk with me about anything, so there are many opportunities to speak. Thanks to the speaking practice and my studies at AGU, Japanese conversation is becoming much easier. Even if I run into a difficult situation, I can generally communicate, or the other person adjusts their Japanese level to help me.
Settling into a rhythm and carving out my own path here
In my day-to-day life, I like to be efficient with my time and keep a steady routine. During free time on campus, I may sit on the terrace or at tables near the International Center to study or get some work done. I also like to catch up with my friends, go to the gym regularly, and recently I have been teaching a friend of mine the basics of investing each week. I have been doing investments myself since I was about 16 years old, and have continued throughout my time in university. In the evenings after I get home, I usually do my own work, which is investments, research, and watching the US markets, staying up until about 2 AM most weekdays. I experimented with different investment positions to find a balance that works with my student life, and my course load has been manageable.
On the weekends, I like to clean my apartment, do other chores, and prepare for the week ahead. I try to get some work done in the day and have fun in the evening, like meeting up with my friends and going somewhere exciting in Shibuya. Sundays are more of a relaxing day for me, and there are plenty of great choices around when it comes to restaurants and cafés. I did a lot of traveling around Japan on previous trips here, so now I am more focused on staying in Tokyo and building out my connections here.
Coming to Japan to study at a language school was almost like a holiday period for me, but studying at AGU, I have more deadlines and responsibilities to take care of, and I see this as good preparation. My favorite word in Japanese is kaizen, which refers to the concept of continuous improvement. I learned about kaizen back in the Netherlands in a course called Introduction to Management, but I try to apply the concept more broadly to my personal life as well. We can always seek solutions and cut inefficiencies to strive towards improvement.
It is inexplicable, but whenever I am in Japan, it feels like home to me. I was not born here, I did not grow up speaking the language, but it feels like where I should be. When I go back to the Netherlands, it feels more like a pit stop, since I am often moving all throughout Europe. In the two times I have lived in Japan for an extended period, I have grown accustomed to the way of life and the convenience it has to offer. It is a big commitment to say that I would like to live in Japan long-term, but I feel strongly compelled to stay here and make a positive contribution to Japanese society.
During my semester at AGU, I have been able to meet up with old friends, make new friends, and continue networking and building connections that I see as an important part of the bridge-building I wish to accomplish. Next, I plan to do an internship here in Japan, and after graduation I plan to pursue opportunities to work in Japan for the long-term. While I am not certain what I will do yet, I would like to stay here for five years, or maybe even longer.
|MON||2 11:00 a.m〜12:30 p.m||History of Japanese Culture Ⅰ[in English]|
|3 1:20 p.m〜2:50 p.m||Japanese (Ⅱ S) A|
|4 3:05 p.m〜4:35 p.m||Introduction to Japanese Studies[in English]|
|TUE||1 9:00 a.m〜10:30 a.m||Japanese (Ⅱ S)Ｂ|
|4 3:05 p.m〜4:35 p.m||Organizational Management A[in English]|
|5 4:50 p.m〜6:20 p.m||Multinational Business ManagementⅠ[in English]|
|WED||2 11:00 a.m〜12:30 p.m||Introduction to International Political Economy[in English]|
|4 3:05 p.m〜4:35 p.m||Business Communication Ⅰ[in English]|
|THU||2 11:00 a.m〜12:30 p.m||International Security Ⅰ[in English]|
|3 1:20 a.m〜2:50 p.m||Preceptorial Seminar[in English]|
|4 3:05 p.m〜4:35 p.m||Japanese (Ⅱ S) C|
|FRI||1 9:00 a.m〜10:30 a.m||Media Communication[in English]|
|2 11:00 a.m〜12:30 p.m||Introduction to International Organizations[in English]|
|3 1:20 p.m〜2:50 p.m||Japanese (Ⅱ S) D|
|4 3:05 p.m〜4:35 p.m||Japanese Culture and Society ⅡS|
|5 4:50 p.m〜6:20 p.m||Introduction to International Economic Policy[in English]|
Aoyama Gakuin International Center
The role of the International Center (IC) at Aoyama Gakuin University is to provide educational support related to the internationalization of the university as well as to support the development of students to become global citizens. The main work of the IC consists of assisting both students going overseas and international students from overseas partner schools and approved institutions; as well as planning and operating intensive language training along with other programs and special events. The worldwide trend of globalization affects not only corporate activities and international relations, but should also impact the structure of university education and curricular content. With that in mind, the IC strives to strengthen and expand collaboration between overseas universities and Aoyama Gakuin University while respecting the diverse cultures and traditions of each country as well as the customs and values of our students.