Yukiko Ohkubo studied abroad in the UK

From International Cooperation to Business, Found the future path through study abroad

[:ja]山崎[:][:en]Tatsuo[:] [:ja]達夫[:][:en]Yamazaki[:]

by Tatsuo Yamazaki

We are introducing the real voices of who experienced an internship abroad or study abroad for those who want to experience long-term experience abroad while in college and are still considering between an internship abroad and study abroad.

In this article I’ll introduce the real voice of who experienced study abroad in the US. If you want to read other articles, click the following link.

Which is better, internship abroad or study abroad? Advantages and disadvantages talked by five experienced people

I think that there are many people who advanced to departments you are able to learn international cooperation with a dream of working at an international organization or NGO in the future. On the other hand, once you engaged in an international cooperation activity at an university club after entering the university, I think there are people who felt that “I feel something wrong, it does not fit me”.

Yukiko Ohkubo who are currently working at a foreign-capitalized advertisement agency in Japan, aimed to be UN staff when she was a high school student and learned international relationship and involved in international cooperation to deliver food to children in developing countries at a university. However, she felt a feeling of strangeness while continuing the international cooperation activity. She told us she couldn’t choose proceeding the way of international cooperation or starting to study business. Then she decided to use one year for study abroad in order to study both of development and business. What kind of experience did she get during studying development and business at University of Manchester in the UK? Which did she choose as her future path after study abroad? Let’s explore her study abroad experience.

In the last of this article, I describe her purpose of study abroad, the amount cost, self-grading of study abroad and so on. Please check it as well.

Study abroad was a strategic decision to find out own future path

Tatsuo: Why did you begin to want to study abroad?

Yukiko: I don’t have a specific trigger, I had thought that it was commonplace for me to study abroad before entering a university. Because, I had vaguely thought that I would like to work abroad mainly. That’s why I thought that an overseas experience was essential as well as learning English.

When you were a high schooler, what kind of job did you want to do abroad? Please let us know the trigger as well.

When I was a high schooler, I had thought that I would like to become a UN staff and visit around the world. Since I was a small kid, I tagged along my mother and went to foster homes and facilities for disabled person where my mother did volunteer many times. So I raised awareness of such discrimination and disparity in the field of “sociology” naturally. Beyond that, I had been watching such mother, so it seemed natural for myself to do something for those people, and I was even aware of the subconscious mind that I had to do it. Lol. So, when I was in elementary school, I used time of school extracurricular class to start a project to collect items such as paper packs and aluminum cans among the school for a while to help guide dogs. (Finally I could donate about 1,2000 USD in three months. It costs about 25,000 USD to train one guide dog so it was just a small donation. Lol.)

In such circumstances, why did it become a big story “Become a UN staff” when I was a high schooler, this was also the influence of my mother. When I was an elementary school student, I often watched a TV program, the announcer of the TV program visited many countries and presented quizzes about the country. One day I watched the TV program with my mother, I said “They are going abroad a lot and it looks fun”. My mother told me “Then, you become a freelance announcer in the future and become a person reporting abroad”. Therefore, she told me “If you want to become such a global person, you have to study English well, so go to Tokyo University of Foreign Studies first of all”. Lol. To me who was an elementary school student, I didn’t understand what she said though, I felt that seemed fun and said “Yes, I will!” From this point, the days aiming to go to Tokyo University of Foreign Studies in order to become “a global person” started. Lol.

However, as you can imagine, when I became a high school student and thought my future path seriously, I noticed that I was no longer interested in an announcer. Lol. To be “a global person” and to go to Tokyo University of Foreign Studies for the aim are okay, but when I thought “what is the purpose?”, “Become an announcer and…” it was completely disappeared. At that time what I looked back was my awareness of such discrimination and disparity. As a result of I turned it into “global”, my choice became international cooperation.

I talked too much so I’ll answer the question “Why I wanted to become a UN staff?” briefly. It was that the axis of the first half “volunteer consciousness” and the second half “global person” was successfully multiplied.

Although you were influenced by your mother, you were aiming for “global person” from the time you were just an elementary student. I thought it was brilliant that you entered a university as your goal from elementary school! What were you mainly studying at the university?

During the first and second year, I took classes about international cooperation. There was a professor who worked at UN so I took their classes and classes about international development. I majored in German, even though I studied, I was not interested in German at all, so I switched to sociology that was originally the field of interest. There were some classes in the field of social welfare or calling external experts as lecturers, I learned the homeless issue and heard the experience of who involving in rare disabled discrimination problems.

I heard you studied sociology and business during study abroad, why did you study business as well as sociology?

Volunteering at Table for Two

At a university, I involved in a project called “Table For Two*” for about two years, I was not able to feel that the problem improved at that time. I didn’t think that I could accomplish something even if I would continue the activity. When I had lost my way, I talked with the senior who were studying development at a master course. At that time, she told me that “To be honestly, volunteer can’t make a drastic change”. Her word pierced my heart so much.

I had tried several things on the path so far, that didn’t let anything change anything dramatically. I think it affects that I supported African children though,
Beneficiaries were African children and far away and it was hard to see what happened there through my activity. I couldn’t feel the response of my activity. I couldn’t keep my motivation in such situation.

There is a limit what I can change through volunteer by myself. Through politics and economics (business), a top-down and structurally changing approach is essential. I began to think that when we can’t take such approach, volunteer would become useful. At that time, I was not able to withstand the frustration and I got away from the volunteer a little.

I still think Table For Two is very good activity. I always order Table For Two menu, if there is. The great point of this activity is the system of making “Support Action” not a single action but continued action. Therefore, supporters gain benefits from their actions. Moreover, the mechanism is simple and easy to understand. Mr. Kogure worked at McKinsey founded Table For Two, I remember that I was so impressed when I knew the activity first.
I began to want to practise to see the world from the perspective of macro and study the money flow and the mechanism. That’s why I decided to study both of development and business at University of Manchester well-known as the place to study business.

At Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, I could study widely, not only language but also philosophy, politics, and sociology. However, there were few classes about business so I wanted to study beginners of business at University of Manchester. There was also an option of going to the class of the faculty of commerce of Hitotsubashi University which is affiliated with my university instead of study abroad. If I took classes of Hitotsubashi University, I would graduate the university in 4 years including that. Then the job hunting would started soon so this option didn’t attract me. On the other hand, I didn’t want to go to the university for 5 years without study abroad, so I chose study abroad and decided to study for 5 years.

*Table For Two is the system that when you buy targeted meals, 20 JPY becomes donation per meal and it becomes a school lunch for children in developing countries. Targeted meals are healthy basically less than 730 Kcal and this activity is engaging in solving the lifestyle sickness in developed countries. TFT is the system of taking a balance between overdose in developed countries and lack in developing countries.

You chose study abroad as the strategic moratorium period to find out your future path. Did you have any anxiety or difficulty before study abroad?

My study abroad was not at language school but at a local university so I was worried whether I could acquire academic ability as well as language skills. So I participated in summer school for one month and a half before the university class started. It was a language school attached to university and I learned what I would learn at the university in advance so I could prepare my mind though the anxiety whether I could follow classes was not disappeared.

Interest in marketing came out while studying in the UK

Study abroad in UK

What was the difficult points when class was actually started?

At the British university I studied, when I took a class there were generally two type of sessions, group work style and lecture style. For the lecture style class, the lecturer talked all the time. British accent was terribly strong and I couldn’t understand what the lecturer talked. It was difficult to get used to. And lecturers gave us a lot of homework every time, it was so hard only to read assigned reading books because the books were thick and there were many academic terminology.

For the group work style class, international students make a group with local students, you know, local students don’t want to make a group with international students. For local students, it is commonplace to be able to communicate perfectly in English, and it is becoming closer to communicate with each other by making a joke. So international students who have language barriers would be completely out of strength for the group. University is not the place to study English. Lol.

I feel that was very difficult. I guess you felt stress, how did you handle the problem?

After I noticed it was really bad, I cooperated with international students from Japan. For the lecture style class, although it took a lot of time to read books, I could do somehow. So I went to a library with international students from Japan and helped each other.

For the group work style class, finally I became friends with the local students in the group. I had to gather outside the class hours to complete tasks, I willingly undertook arrangements such as meeting place and time. I communicated with them usually in a facebook group, I tried to take steady work like replying and commenting first. Through these efforts, they got to get along with me little by little. And I practiced my own part of the presentation and memorized it perfectly, so they gave me a lot of appreciation for that place. As a result, the evaluation of my team was also good, we got the top score in the class.

Start what I can do and gain trust from classmates

You did your best in the point where you could put out your performance first of all to create your path there. How did you proceed the job hunting after study abroad?

In my job hunting, I applied for foreign-capitalized companies which I wanted to join. I thought that rather than going abroad, it was enough if I would be able to use English at work and if the work environment would be not formal. In the point of job category, I was interested in marketing.

Did you have some experience made you interested in marketing during study abroad?

During study abroad, the group work as I told right now was about marketing. The theme was the branding of fast fashion. I thought issues and solutions by investigating and analyzing a specific brand like how to produce new products, how to set the price, or how to decide the shop location. It was really interesting so I became to want to get such a job.

Failed all recruitments of marketing jobs, Found a new option by actually working

I heard Yukiko joined the company where you worked as a part-time staff after graduation. Why did you decide to work as a part-time staff at the company?

My acquaintance had worked there. At that time, he was looking for a part-time staff who could speak English, so he asked me. It was shortly after I returned Japan so the timing was very good.

During the part-time job, I did everything I was asked. I worked at a PR company so my main role was called clipping, gathering news about the company in charge from the internet, newspaper, magazine, TV and so on. For companies, it’s important to know how people think about the company itself, products, and the brand. My role was gathering pieces to know that. Besides that, I contacted the media, asked for trend information, helped with the investigation of competing brands, translated, and carried out miscellaneous work in the office. I think that I had been doing a job that fresh recruits are in charge.

Why did you chose the company as your first career after graduation?

I wanted to get a job at foreign-capitalized company though, I failed all recruitments. Its were not marketing jobs, but I got job offers from some Japanese and foreign-capitalized companies. So I thought of joining any one. But I couldn’t choose the one, at that timing my boss I worked together before offered me to work as a full-time staff. It was like that if I could stay this company, I would stay. It was fun while I worked as a part-time staff actually, I found that PR job was not far from what I wanted to do. Moreover, I was familiar with the company well and you know, I could expect what I would do here. In that sense too, I decided to think that I would not be bothered by the gap after joining the company so much.

Does your experience of study abroad help your current work?

Benefits of study abroad at work

Yeah, the title Studied abroad in the UK was quite useful. Because this title made people think that “She is the person who can speak English”. Rather than the score of TOEIC. I think if I didn’t have the title “return from study abroad”, I couldn’t get the opportunity to work there as a part-time staff. After joining as a full-time staff, I was assigned to jobs required English skills as well. Currently I changed jobs and am working at a second company, the current company also doesn’t recruit people if they can’t use English. I think that it was good to have studied abroad after thinking that I got job offers from such companies and am working in the environment where English is used while working. To be specific about when I use English, emails and documents are mostly written in English, communication in the company is usually Japanese, but when I have meeting with clients the meeting is conducted in English. I do presentation in English as well.

One more thing, it is rare to actually use concepts, business words, frameworks and so on that I learned when I studied business in the UK. However, these things are used during the discussion, so I think it was good to have studied that even it was just ABC.

So you are able to leverage your language skills gained through study abroad. Several years have passed since you studied abroad, so I think you can evaluate your experience of study abroad in perspective of self-investment. If you look back your study abroad in perspective of self-investment based on the current state, what would you rate out of 100?

Actually, I have a new interest now. Lol. If I include that, my current state is 10 to 20 of 100. Of course it is built on my background so if I exclude the new interest, it is 100, perfect. It was hard to study in a foreign country though, if I consider the university life is 4 years, I was given 25% more than other students within the status of student like permitted whatever I do. To that extent, it is very big that I could get enough time to face myself. I was given a lot of opportunities and experiences to consider my future path, I could think various things by myself, and I could do trial and error until I would be satisfied. As the result, I am able to work in the environment suiting me. If I hadn’t studied abroad at that time, I wouldn’t be who I am now.

What are you interested in now?

I am interested in space design now. I have worked in PR or advertisement so far but I am not in the position I can design on my hand. I am not a designer so even if I was assigned to create posters and websites I can’t do that. I can’t design events and exhibition booths as well.
After all I started wanting to be a person who can make something with my own hands. In the meantime, I also liked interior designs, and now I am going to a vocational school of space design aiming to be able to design commercial buildings and shops, event booths.

I think there is a risk to change your path, why did you decide to proceed the new path?

I think it is not good for health that I don’t challenge it but accept things as they are even when I want to do something. I got used to the company and jobs and it became lack of inspiration. This is one of the reasons why I changed jobs at a company I entered after graduation. If I want to do it, try it and stop it if it doesn’t fit me. Because if I don’t do it, I can’t achieve an emotional closure of sorts, and things will be done halfway.

I see. What is your future goal based on that?

First of all, I want to learn properly in my current environment and become independent. Because I got and chose this position by myself. Until then, there was a path made by influences of surroundings and parents and I just followed the path. Through study abroad, I got what “I” wanted to do more and I got to understand what I thought was good. Although it is a bit late, I think that I am still powerless though, I was able to start painting my future path by myself through I studied abroad. Now, while making efforts in current position, if there is a field where I am interested in, I would like to challenge more and more in order to make my path thicker and thicker.


Yukiko followed the path made by influences of parents and surroundings since she was a small kid. She started working on volunteers, studying abroad and learning the business at university. She said that she began to embark on what she was interested in because she became free when she entered a university. And she now embarks on the way of the space design which new interests have emerged.

“If I want to do it, try it and stop it if it doesn’t fit me.”

Why don’t you embark on what you are interested in like Yukiko?

Yukiko’s self-grading of study abroad

Comprehensive evaluation 10 – 20 points if including my new interest, space design
If excluding it, 100 points. I can do what I wanted to do at the time of study abroad in the environment suits me.
The destination, term and purpose of study abroad At the department of sociology and business school at University of Manchester in the UK
From the summer of third year (September 2012 – June 2013), foreign exchange
To get a time to find out own future way after graduation
Cost Amount: about 20,000 USD
– Tuition fee: 6,000 USD (It is amount of tuition fee for TUFS and Summer School)
– Food expences: 2,000 USD
– Residential expenses: 6,200 USD
– Travel cost: 2,400 USD
– Visa fee: 900 USD
– Others: 3,000 USD
Security and life There was no problem
Language and Communication 1. Accent correction
2. Decline in resistance to speaking
3. Wiping out consciousness not to be good at discussion
4. Improve TOEIC Score 100 points after study abroad
Impact for job hunting 1. Became interested in marketing through the class during study abroad
2. When I worked as a part-time staff at a PR company, I got feel PR jobs was not far from marketing
3. Because of my study abroad experience, I got an opportunity to work as a part-time staff and entered the company as a full-time staff after graduation
Impact for current job 1. I am able to be assigned to the jobs required English because of my study abroad experience
Insights and Learnings 1. Understanding the difference of the way of communication in Europe and Japan

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