Written by Saki Arimoto
Edited by Theo T. Fok
Translated by Kotoko F.
As an international student, one can experience unforeseen difficulties. But at the same time, one can also have new discoveries about the culture and traditions, as well as about oneself. I interviewed a friend, Tracy, or Minh Tam by birth, who shared her ongoing journey to self-actualization in Japan.
Tracy is a junior majoring in Business Economics. Interestingly, people call her different names depending on how they met her. Among her friends in school she goes by Tracy, while she uses Min at work. She is fond of the color pink as she believes it symbolizes her personality – bright and positive. She had had quite a number of experiences outside the university that molded her to how she is as a person now.
Tracy: I have done a lot of part-time jobs. The first one was factory work during my first year in the university. I had to pack the food by putting it into a plastic bag. I was introduced to this job by a friend, but to be honest, I didn’t really like the place since I was not allowed to speak with my coworkers. After nearly a year, I quit the job, and looked for a job that allowed communication in Japanese. I found a job at a sushi restaurant. I have been working there for around two years already and I stay there until now because I really enjoy working there. Not only do I get to know more about Japanese traditional food, but I am actually able to use my Japanese, and I can tell I have improved since then. I actually dream of opening a sushi restaurant of my own in my home country, Vietnam.
Aside from the sushi restaurant job, Tracy also works at a family restaurant.
Tracy: I recently got another job at a family restaurant and the more interesting thing about the job is I am able to talk directly to customers in Japanese, unlike at the sushi restaurant where I only speak to my fellow coworkers in the kitchen. I realize how much I enjoy speaking Japanese whenever I speak to Japanese customers who are, most of the time, nice and welcoming. On top of this, my boss is also very nice and laid back so I think it is a very different experience, and I enjoy it the same.
She also adds that she works as an English part-time teacher.
Tracy: My favorite job among all the ones I have been doing is teaching English to kids. I found this job using a platform where they connect teachers and students. Fortunately, someone hired me to be their teacher. I have been teaching for more than two years and I have gotten really close to my students. And before the class starts, I usually feel very tired but as soon as I meet the students and see how they have improved in English, I feel a sense of happiness and in a way, I get my energy from them.
Needless to say, Tracy is a hard-worker. And so I wondered what she does during her free time if she had any.
Tracy: I love traveling. Actually, when I arrived in Japan, I got the impression that the sky was so blue and beautiful, and realized I have to see more beautiful places. I put a portion of my salary aside for traveling so that when either the summer or winter break comes, I can go on a trip somewhere with some friends.
Up until now, she has been to Osaka, Niigata, Kusatsu, Nikko, Nagano, Enoshima, and Yokohama, among others.
Tracy: I record all my travels on my Instagram account using the highlight feature. So whenever I go to a new place, I make a new highlight and it gives me a sense of achievement. Also, when I want to travel but do not really have the luxury to do so, I go to the station and ride the train until the last stop then take the train back to the station. This might be a bit weird but I enjoy seeing new things.
Another thing Tracy loves to do is photography in which she found passion within her stay in Japan.
Tracy: I used to love photography back in Vietnam but I was not able to do much photography until I could afford decent cameras. Thanks to my part-time jobs, I was able to purchase an Instax camera and a DSLR one which led me back to my passion. I am mostly into taking landscape photos and some portrait photos of my really good friends. I have a separate account for my photography and not only do I post photos there, but I also include some short stories or messages mostly about my time here in Japan.
Tracy used to only focus on academics when she was a high school student in Vietnam, but after coming to Japan, she realized that there is much more than that to life. “Working in different places is a way for me to experience the Japanese culture and make friends,” she emphasized. Of course, as an international student – and especially for Tracy – there are times that one can feel homesick. She keeps herself occupied so she can stay positive; she believes that having such a lifestyle is important to overcome hardships. Furthermore, she advises her fellow international students to “keep smiling, spread positive energy, and take on an adventure!”
You can see more of her beautifully-taken photos on her Instagram @takenby.tracy