My first real impressions of Japan were formed when I was in middle school and encountered a TV rerun of an old Hindi-language film titled “Love in Tokyo.” A movie about falling in love while roaming the streets of Tokyo naturally implanted in my young and impressionable mind vivid images of a country steeped in history and tradition where one can find the ultimate love and, in the process, find oneself.
Fast forward 20 years (and 55 years since the making of that 1966 movie) and here I am, a Hitotsubashi ICS MBA degree-holder two months into my career in Japan. I spent the last two years in pursuit of that goal of self-discovery and, in fact, the ICS environment has brought out qualities in me that I never knew I had.
Preparing for Japan
It all began in early 2016. I had been going through a difficult phase in my career, as my work stress boiled over into my daily life and drained away my ability to maintain personal relationships and to develop healthy habits and hobbies. I decided that I needed to engage in an activity that was both fun and intellectually challenging so that I could spend hours at a time focusing on something other than work. And so, on a whim, I enrolled in a Japanese language school in my hometown and started the long and arduous journey towards fluency in a new language, something I am still endeavoring to attain. Looking back
, that was one of the best decisions I ever made because I never thought I would end up having that much fun learning Japanese!
I spent the next few years juggling my job as a data analyst on weekdays and being involved in the Japanese language-learning community on weekends. While my day job had its ups and downs (involving many late nights, an ill-tempered resignation, and unmet career expectations), my foray into learning about Japan and the Japanese language was tremendously enjoyable and fulfilling. I successfully attempted the JLPT exams, volunteered as a teacher for beginner Japanese learners, took an active part in local events organized by the Japanese community in India, and even had the opportunity to visit Japan on a two-week cultural exchange program called JENESYS in 2017.
One of my favorite experiences from that time was a homestay with a Japanese family in Hokkaido. It was only a three-day stay, but I grew close with my host family and stayed in touch with them, so much so that I was able to visit them again when I moved to Japan for my MBA.
Preparing for the MBA
I looked up MBA programs in Japan almost as soon as I landed back home from the trip. After many months spent carefully researching different programs, scholarship options, job opportunities and cost-of-living in different cities, I narrowed my choices down to three programs including ICS. What put ICS on top for me was its close-knit community of students and alumni, its accomplished faculty body, and financial and location considerations.
I spent months brushing up my skills in both math and English for the GMAT. I borrowed second-hand Manhattan and GMAT study books, subscribed to and followed Magoosh’s online three-month GMAT study schedule, and took many mock exams. The effort paid off, as I got a 50-point increase from my initial score.
To prepare for my Round 1 application to ICS, I wrote and rewrote countless essay drafts and took the feedback of my peers and seniors to fine-tune them. In my interview, I expressed the desire to earn a scholarship to study in Japan, and confirmed that I would enroll even if I wasn’t awarded a scholarship. I met an ICS student who happened to be pursuing a double degree at a university in my hometown and listened to his recommendations on how best to spend two years at ICS.
When the ICS pre-matriculation courses were released, I gave myself a month to prepare thoroughly for them. Coming from a non-finance background, I needed all the practice I could get in subjects like Accounting and Corporate Finance. Taking detailed notes not only helped me clear the pre-matriculation course requirements but also proved to be useful reference material during my time at ICS.
Conclusion and takeaways from the ICS experience
The past two years at ICS have taught me to be more accepting of cultural differences and to get out of my comfort zone and explore new environments. I have picked up important skills and built a solid network in Japan. More than anything else, I have learnt that careful planning and a conscious effort to bridge one’s gaps in advance of a big move is the best way to achieve one’s goals.
Towards the end of my second year, I was able to secure a full-time position at AIG based in Tokyo. As I open a new chapter in my life, I recall the Japanese proverb 七転び八起き (“Fall down seven times, stand up eight”), which I believe is the perfect analogy for my Japan experience.
I wish everyone interested in joining Hitotsubashi ICS all the best for their future endeavors. As we say at ICS, “Challenge by Choice”!
Sairam Subramani | ICS MBA Class of 2019
Sai is a 2-year MBA student in the Hitotsubashi ICS Class of 2019 under the MEXT scholarship program. He is currently working in the data analytics function at AIG Japan Holdings KK. in Tokyo. He is a cinema and sports aficionado and spends his free time listening to podcasts and learning foreign languages.