Starting in about April of last year, I became totally exasperated with universities due to their unchanging, unbending and unyielding mindset. As part of my frustration, I advanced the notion of allowing students to take time off from their university studies for a quasi-sabbatical or gap year. If you search this site for “Let Us Take a Leave of Absence From School” you will see that ever since my talk at the Keio University Shonan Fujisawa Campus (SFC) on April 8th 2010 that I have strongly encouraged students to take such a break. You have probably seen many posts (Ref. 1) which talk about this subject since then.
It has been a little while since I posted my opinion in January that students should take a break from their studies and embark on travels overseas to get a taste of the world. I say this despite the fact that I realize private universities often require a large payment of tuition fees even during such “sabbaticals”.
A number of private universities have greatly reduced the fees for students during this break from studies. I really must express my appreciation to the university administrations. So while I do offer my heartfelt thanks, their actions are actually no more than what should be expected.
I have just recently received a very nice email from a Tatsuya Honjo (Ref. 1) who, after hearing my talk, went off to Ghana despite the fact that he was a senior and had to halt his postgraduation job search.
Dear Dr. Kurokawa,
I hope that you are doing well. I hope that you remember me, I am Tatsuya Honjo of Keio SFC. I have recently take a break from university and gone to Ghana.
After thoroughly thinking over all the things that I have experienced in Ghana, I have recently decided that I will accept a full-time position in a company. Thus, I will be working at Nissan Motors beginning next year.
Nissan truly has a diversified workforce at the highest levels including female employees and foreign employees who have entered mid-career.
I think that in today’s global society that we are in a situation where it is important to study the various philosophies and approaches as part of deciding how we will live our lives in a manner that conforms to our own values.
By leaving Japan and coming into contact with value systems which are not found in Japan, I was able to understand, with all my being, the importance of living based on my own internal measuring stick.
This was all the result of hearing about your recommendation to take time off from my school studies.
In the same vein, since I will be graduating in September of this year, and I have a whole six months before I have to start working in April of next year, I have decided to make the most of this time as a kind of “gap year.”
He seems like an entirely different person. I really get a sense of confidence coming through what he has written. I know that his parents were probably worried and anxious, but I really want to offer my congratulations. I suspect that his parents were quite displeased with me due to pushing their son into a non-conventional career path.
There are a number of companies that hire this type of youth who have finally opened their eyes to their surroundings and the rest of the world. Students should not focus all their energies and attention on just trying to secure employment, but also give some thought to the possibility of taking a leave of absence through organizations such as AIESEC.
We should spread the word about the existence of companies that view these activities as a matter of course in their potential employees. These companies have a value system which should be respected and are actually nothing out of the ordinary in the global world.
Companies also need to think about approaches other than simply interviewing and hiring university juniors and seniors en masse. Society at large looks at corporation evaluations including actions such as rescinding of job offers. This is one of the important points of CSR. An impact is slowly being felt on evaluations.
Work opportunities for the youth of today are not limited to Japan. Thus, everyone should at least consider taking a leave of absence and taking on the challenges of going overseas, if even for a short period of time.