“I was very reclusive in my first year in Japan. I didn’t have many friends and didn’t go out much. I only focused on studying. I also kept coming up with reasons not to interact with people so I could stay in my personal space. I remember thinking it was OK because people have different lifestyles and I’m an introvert. Sometimes I would feel sad and lonely, but it’s not like depression, so I thought it was totally fine. I just wanted to mind my own business and not hang out with anyone. But then I started to feel the impact during my sophomore year. It hit me hard–I’d cry alone in my apartment and I couldn’t explain why. Maybe everything was piling up. I spent a lot of time on social media, seeing my friends doing things, being happy and successful. It seemed like they had good lives and had it together. I saw some of my decisions in high school flash back to me and I felt regret for some of those choices. At this point, I knew I had to do something about my life. I reconnected with friends from high school and started talking to people at my university. Then I found an extra-curricular club activity which changed my life. It really helped me get my act together and break free from that dark period. Now I’m more talkative, more comfortable sharing my opinions and ideas with others. If you’re like me, I encourage you to go out of your comfort zone because in the long run, it will take a toll on your health. I can say becoming part of my school club activity, MUN (Model United Nations), was the best decision I ever made.”
“I’m from Bangladesh. I quit working for my family business to come to Japan. I knew I could do so much more than just sell shoes. Someone once said, ‘You are the captain of your ship and master of your fate.’ That really struck a chord with me. So when I got a scholarship from a Japanese university, I left my stable life in Bangladesh, even though my parents were a bit disappointed. They said, ‘Why Japan? No one speaks English there.’ But I was determined to come here. If I was going to study abroad, it was going to be Japan. Our shoe factories would get a lot of orders from Japanese customers, so I’ve seen their discipline, the quality and their philosophy towards work, which motivated me.
“When I got to Japan, I wanted to do so many things. I wanted to be in the shoes and bags business. I wanted to be a filmmaker. Unfortunately, things didn’t pan out. Finally, I came up with an idea to develop an app that would connect people based on major interests. So someone interested in AI would find another person who’s into the same thing. Of course there were many hurdles to overcome. Finding people and money was the hardest part, especially since I was just a student and didn’t have enough money. But after much hustling and failing, pitching at business contests and launching crowdfunding campaigns, I was able to find an investor and engineers who helped make my ‘social consulting network’ app a reality.
I think if you try something hard, eventually you get some kind of push or support from around you. That’s why I’m grateful to many Japanese people who’ve had my back. I probably couldn’t have done this back home, where imagination is limited.”