From the Trenches – Getting into Japan with AIESEC

From the Trenches – Getting into Japan with AIESEC

One way to come to Japan, especially for younger readers, is on a global placement program. There are a number of such programs, such as AFS, Rotary, or AIESEC - all of which aim to foster international understanding by helping students and/or young adults study and/or work overseas. The programs are easy to find on the web and do a good job of explaining their raison d'etre.

I thought it might be interesting this week to give a personal account of a reader who came to Japan with AIESEC. It highlights well the need to be tenacious and focus on your goals.

...before graduating in May, 2004 from the University of Michigan with a degree in mechanical engineering, I joined a work-abroad program called AIESEC. I was pursuing technical opportunities in several countries and was open to living just about anywhere outside the USA. Unfortunately, I found that there are limited technical opportunities available with AIESEC, which seems to promote more business and marketing opportunities, but nevertheless, I stuck at it.

My first opportunity was in Turkey, but after just missing out to someone else, I learned of an awesome opportunity to work in Japan with TOYO Tire & Rubber Co. The placement was for 9 months and some friends at Kobe University helped me fill out the paperwork and apply for a COE. At the same time, I also asked JETRO to sponsor my application (just to add credibility).

The bad news is that after waiting for 3 months on this risk-free, well-paid opportunity, the Japanese Immigration Bureau of Japan rejected me with the following reason: "It is not clear how the know-how gained will further the applicant's future." I was very surprised, and even tried to revise the application - but to no avail. I was, to say the least, extremely disappointed and couldn't help wondering how on earth the Immigration office in all its wisdom could decide for me what would be good for my career.

The good news is that around the same time, I was lucky enough to get another interview, on-campus, with Mitsubishi Electric. At the interview, I hit it off pretty well with the recruiter and she encouraged me to keep in touch, just in case I wasn't selected for the 2nd round. I took that opportunity to tell her about AIESEC and she seemed impressed with my interest and efforts to get to Japan.

Things went quiet for a while, so I got on the phone to the Mitsubishi recruiter and she let me know that I had been selected along with 13 other finalists for the 2nd round interviews with her company. I did a lot of preparation for that second interview and I was able to make a good impression on the panel. Again, I tried to emphasize how much I wanted to live and work in Japan, as well as show in a modest way my burgeoning knowledge of the culture and technology. I tried to stay focused on my technology skills, and didn't hide the fact that I don't speak Japanese. I guess the mix was just right, because they responded by asking more about my career and personal commitment.

All in all, the interview went well, and just recently I received notification in the post that I had been accepted. I am being offered a modest stipend for living expenses. It won't be enough to cover the costs of everything but they are matching dollar-for-dollar my costs, and thus my outlay will be modest. Oh, and they are providing a company-owned dormitory or apartment.

How did I get on to the AIESEC track? Well, I originally heard about the job through my college's on-line recruiting system. Apparently Mitsubishi Electric began their work in Japan program when the CEO decided to make the company more global back in the early nineties. Since then, Mitsubishi Electric have recruited technical graduates from top North American and European Universities, including Princeton, Stanford, Cornell, UCLA, Cornell, MIT, Michigan, Duke, UIUC, Pratt, Cal Tech, CMU, Georgia Tech, Duke, UC Berkeley, UCSD, Purdue, and USC. In the last 15 years, they have recruited 71 people from the USA, 27 from Europe, and 4 from China. I'm happy to be one of this year's intake of 5 people, and am looking forward to my time in Japan!

For more information on AIESEC, click on the URL provided: http://www.aiesecus.org/main/www.afs.org

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