Language Society

Why Study Japanese? Graduates, Professionals, and Other Grownups (Part 1)

If you read my last article, I focused mostly on the reasons why college students should major in a foreign language and/or study abroad during their university years. What you may not know is that I am writing to that demographic from an outsider’s perspective. I worked for 8 years after dropping out of college long ago, to return to university life at a different stage in my own life. I am 31 years old at the time of this writing, so the sorts of issues I had to consider when I made the choice to dive into foreign language study, might be more similar to those of working adults, than “traditional” university students.

Before I came to Japan

When I came to Japan, I moved out of my rental room, sold my car, and kissed my security goodbye. My union job and state employee health insurance benefits were cancelled. I was lucky enough to have found scholarship monies which would fund my term of study in Japan, but would not provide me with anything to start my American life up again when I returned home.

For me, this was A-ok. My life before then was mostly about working low-wage jobs to survive. After working for years in call centers – “thank you for calling Spr*nt Customer Care, how can I assist you today?” – in gas stations, on the graveyard shift (On the plus side, we got unlimited free coffee) – and paint supply stores; I was more than ready for a change. The first big change was going back to school in the first place. The second, abandoning my former life and job(s) to pursue the things I was passionate about.

Although I had grown accustomed to quality health insurance and union-protected job security at my most recent job, I was lucky not to be working the sort of job that would be insurmountably terrifying to leave. For me, flying to the other side of the world to learn Japanese was representative of leaving that old life behind.

Maybe you are like me, ready to make a massive change in your life situation. Maybe, like me, you feel there is something for you to accomplish that is greater than the occupation that has kept you busy up to this point. Maybe you’re dissatisfied with your pay, or your working conditions, or maybe you just want to see what other opportunities are out there. If you’re ready for a change, allow me to explain how foreign language study can be the gateway for the change you’re craving.

This article is split into three parts, so be sure to check out part 2 & part 3 as well!

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