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Beloit alum draws on language skills and abroad experience for international job

Ed Stern’19 shares how his experiences at Beloit, including a Center for Language Studies summer block course, and studying abroad in Japan, have prepared him for his current job as a sales representative for a Japanese company.

Could you briefly explain your study abroad experience?

I studied abroad for one year in Japan from the fall of 2017 to summer 2018. I was set up in a relatively rural part of Japan called Akita Prefecture. There I tried to be active in clubs: basketball, baseball, and rugby. I also traveled quite a bit during my vacations to Hokkaido, Tokyo and Osaka. I would say that I spent more time trying to be social rather than studying, but I did make an effort to study and take the Japanese Proficiency test.

How has your education at Beloit prepared you for study abroad?

Literally my entire Japanese language ability is due to my classes at Beloit. The Center for Language Studies class that I took over the summer at Beloit gave me confidence in speaking that I never would have achieved in a more hands off environment. American colleges are uniquely rigorous in comparison to other colleges and, in comparison, being used to the rigors of Beloit made classes abroad seem easier.

In terms of preparing you for the culture and environment, no matter how much you prepare it is never fully enough. The only thing you can really do is jump into the deep end and learn how to swim. Interacting with strangers in a new environment and trying to make the most of what you have is difficult even in the best of circumstances. Beloit tries its best, but rather than preparing you for study abroad, the main focus seemed to be getting there and figuring it all out afterwards through self-reflection.

What opportunities have you been engaging in since graduation? How have you applied what you learned at Beloit and abroad to your work thus far?

Right now I am working at a defacto Japanese company called True World Foods. I speak Japanese to coworkers and clients on a day to day basis which I could not have done without my education at Beloit. Otherwise my sales job requires me to be more flexible with my knowledge base and tests my ability to craft arguments both of which were skills that I learned at Beloit.

Was studying abroad helpful for your career goal? If so, how?

I always wanted my job to be somewhat internationally connected and study abroad helped me get the confidence in speaking Japanese and operating in a place where I did not fully understand the culture or the correct way to blend in but still make a mark. I still am not fully sure of what my career end goal is going to be. However, I know for a fact that I want to continue exploring the relationship between the United States and Japan and find a job that allows me to explore it.

Is there anything you wish you did while at Beloit or through studying abroad to help prepare you for life after graduation?

I wish I worked more to be honest. I spent much of my time traveling or studying, which in themselves were valuable experiences, but navigating a work culture so different from normal life has been intensely challenging. I had the opportunity to take on a part time job but decided not to, in order to focus on making the most of my experience, or so I thought. Post graduation, working at a company with a Japanese work culture, I have been struggling with even the smallest of interactions. Asking my boss for time off, or figuring out when it is acceptable to leave, or even understanding the chain of command when my direct supervisor is absent have been relatively minor issues that I have struggled to deal with.

Hannah Fisher’20
April 07, 2020

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