For most of 2021 and early 2022, under strict border controls, Japan stopped new entries of foreigners into Japan, including foreign students. However, MEXT scholars were given exceptions to enter, for which MSA is thankful. However, this came with the stipulation that new scholars had to pay for the full amount of quarantine expenses. These fees ranged from an average of around ¥150,000 to more than ¥500,000 in some cases.
This amount was an extremely heavy burden for many, considering that many students come from developing countries, left their jobs with the expectation of coming to Japan on time and had zero income due to not able to receive the scholarship while being overseas. Seeing this, MSA launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds and help reduce the financial burden on new students. For more information about the crowdfunding campaign, please see this link.
We received much support from students, alumni and partner organizations and would like to give recognition to our largest supporters by letting them show why they supported our efforts.
Sociarise, sharing the same vision as MSA, demonstrated their support for MEXT scholars by kindly providing us with a donation of ¥50,000. We interviewed the founder of Sociarise, Takumi Nakamura, to better understand the relationship between the company and international students in Japan.
Firstly, please tell us about what Sociarise does?
We at Sociarise mainly provide consultation services to Japanese companies that wish to employ foreigners. We have a very close connection to international students, since we also collaborate daily with universities, vocational schools and language schools to help students there in their search for a job. Our support includes lessons about the job-hunting process and individual career counseling.
We understand foreigners in Japan are a diverse group, and as such they need adapted and specialized assistance. That is why we at Sociarise have thorough training to communicate clearly in English.
Also, we make sure that everyone shares their experience inside the company. The amount of people one can advise in a year is 1,000 at most. However, by listening to many other counseling experiences, we can increase that number to thousands or even tens of thousands of international students and have all that knowledge stored.
What are some important things when linking companies to foreign talent?
When helping a student, the first thing we ask them to consider is: “how will I really benefit from working in Japan?” Many people end up assuming that working in Japan will be as good of an experience as studying here. But the truth is, in Japan there is a wide gap between student and professional lives. Unpleasant things, such as being ignored or even reproached for not speaking Japanese, do happen and that should be considered when planning your career.
On the other hand, when talking to Japanese companies, we really stress the importance of not just failing foreign candidates at the document screening phase. Having the JLPT “N1” or “N2” certificate in Japanese alone does not show competency as well as having an interview would. A company should not be recruiting foreign candidates if they do not understand that. The best attitude here would be to assign them a job after understanding individual circumstances so employee and business can grow together. Language issues can always be solved, so I always tell companies to first meet and evaluate the candidate’s attributes.
Has there been any change in the way companies recruit foreigners after COVID-19?
For the companies’ side, I would say there have been both positive and negative changes.
First, speaking from the companies I know that have employed MEXT scholars, the good change is that gradually more companies are realizing how excellent foreign students are and increasing how many international candidates they recruit. This means many of them are lowering their language requirements from, for example, JLPT N1 or N2 to N3 and becoming more flexible in that area.
Unfortunately, the negative change I have noticed is that some businesses choose to not recruit global talent, simply because it is easier now to find Japanese candidates after Covid, and they prefer them over foreigners. That, added to the fact that many international students in Japan have a hard time finding a job even though they speak Japanese, makes it even more common for companies to end up thinking that way.
About recent tendencies for international students, I would say that students in STEM stubjects have not had much trouble finding jobs when compared to before Corona. However, for students in the arts and humanities studying subjects such as Japanese language, economics or law, the employment rate has gotten lower. For these students, if you have even the slightest possibility of working in Japan after graduation, I would strongly advise searching for information on jobs and networking opportunities as soon as possible. Even if you change your mind afterwards, it will still be useful knowledge. On the other hand, if you instead start to want to work here, not preparing beforehand would make being recruited a lot more difficult.
What was the motivation behind Sociarise’s donation?
The reason I started Sociarise was because many foreign friends of mine could not find jobs in Japan. Both Sociarise and I value foreigners who come to Japan, as they help Japanese people grow as individuals and Japanese society further mature.
With regards to crowdfunding, we felt that even one single student giving up on pursuing their studies here due to the burden of the quarantine fees is a great loss. We decided to donate so Sociarise could contribute to reducing the financial burden on these scholars.
What message or advice would you give to MEXT scholars?
I think MEXT scholars are, in a positive way, people who can criticize Japan. Most of them know about Japanese language and society and can show us what this country has and but also lacks, from a unique point of view. I hope MEXT scholars continue to do that, since Japan cannot grow without the points of view of people who came from abroad.
I would say that when studying in Japan, something to bear in mind is how important it is to ask for help. Japanese people usually are not that good at actively offering support, so seeking help when you have any kind of problem is essential to have a fulfilling experience here.
Mr. Nakamura offers advice free of charge on all of his and Sociarise’s social media accounts. Please feel free to ask anything about studies, job-hunting or general life in Japan. Both English and Japanese are available.
Twitter : @NakamraTakumi
Facebook : takumi.nakam
LinkedIn : takumi-nakamura-973710b7