Student Stories

Scott Hirsch

Computer Science and Business Administration
Simon Fraser University
Fukui Byora Co. Ltd. from June 2011 – June 2012

A land where cherry blossoms gently descend like snow over sardine packed streets and fundamentally traditional temples are nestled next to ultramodern electrified high rises, the romanticized vision of Japan did not fail to impress. However for the one spectacular year I spent, to me, Japan became more than sumo, samurai and sushi. It became home.

With a year’s worth of my life packed into a couple suitcases, I began a new job and existence in Japan. It was challenging at first, mainly due to the language but being completely immersed in it both inside and outside work necessitated its prompt development. I had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects which gave me extremely valuable experience that is directly related to what I am studying. Being paid to learn things related to and earn credits towards my degree was the best part. My coworkers were all very kind and eager to show me new things both inside and outside the workplace; things like how to code faster, the sunrise from the summit of Mt Fuji and what real shabu shabu tastes like. It all made Japan a really comfortable place to live.

I kept busy travelling every free weekend. I got to see the Gion Matsuri in Kyoto, the Tokyo Motor Show, the Sapporo Snow Festival among a myriad of other places and things. I played soccer twice a week after work, went skiing every free moment I had in the winter, and volunteered at a not-for-profit helping with their English conversation classes. This all made making friends really easy. Everyday had something to look forward to.

I know that my experience programming everything from iPhone apps to warehouse management systems will be an asset in the future; I know that my travel experiences will transform into precious memories and I know that making myself a bento everyday for lunch saved me more than $500 over the year. The past year has been the most professionally and personally valuable year of my life thus far. I was young when I first arrived only 19 (not even the legal age in Japan) but I feel that in more ways than the single chronological year that sailed by, I grew.

Philippe Malo-Couture

Chemical Engineering
École Polytechnique de Montréal
Sumitomo Chemical Co. Ltd. from July – December 2011

I attended the Canada-Japan Co-op Program shortly after the accession of my school to it, so it was something new for me as well as for the school supervising members. This new opportunity motivated me to participate, but I was also worried when I realize there was no former CJCP intern in my school to whom I could ask my questions. I still manage to easily obtain good answers to my questions from the CJCP team. The stress from the preparation and the perspective of changing my living habit to a completely new one has been greatly rewarded by memories, experience and knowledge from the internship.

The process control research conduct during this internship has allowed me to deepen a chemical engineering field that I was not really familiar with. I was supervised in those researches by a great, dynamic and helpful team which contributed a lot in making this experience unforgettable.
The biggest challenge I faced was language, since my mother tongue is French and although I’m comfortable in English it stays a second language. But I realize that with motivation, patience and a smile it is almost always possible to understand and to be understood.

On top of that, I had the chance during weekends and holidays to visit over 10 cities on 3 of the 4 Japanese main islands. I definitely recommend this program to anyone who wish to live something new, either in the way of thinking, eating, sleeping, working, interacting and much more.

Brian Law

Mechanical Engineering
The University of Alberta
Hitachi Nuclear Energy Ltd. from January – April 2011

If you are reading this, you are most likely a curious, prospective undergraduate student that is wondering if this program is right for you. Like you, I was also worried about the language barrier, the culture shock and being far, far away from my friends and family back home. However, if you have any interest in travelling abroad, experiencing a fascinating new culture, and gaining an invaluable work experience, I highly encourage undergraduate students, who are even slightly interested, to take advantage of this opportunity and apply for the Canada-Japan Co-op Program.

I came to Japan with only one suitcase. I only knew a handful of Japanese phrases, and struggled to use those pesky chopsticks. But when I got off that plane I grabbed my suitcase to begin my adventure. When I met my co-workers for the first time I was surprised at their extreme willingness to answer any of my questions. Also, they were kind enough to show me around Japan! They spoke English quite well and helped me improve my Japanese language skills. Each weekend offered something to experience with my coworkers such as Japanese hot tubs, trying unique Japanese food, and touring around castles, temples, and many more! Travelling around Japan was made easy with their amazing bullet trains. Every weekend was an adventure and over time I started to learn about the Japanese culture and language (and mastering using those chopsticks!)

I highly recommend anyone who wants to come to Japan and experience the culture to apply for the Canada-Japan Co-op Program. There is an amazing amount of support from the employers and the program and they are always there to help answer any of your questions. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and I am thankful for this amazing opportunity.

Kyle Sama

Software Engineering
Concordia University
Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) from May 2010 – April 2011

For the longest time, I’ve wanted to go to Japan. I started getting into Japanese culture when I was in high-school and the more I learned about it, the more I wanted to experience it firsthand! However, that was always just a dream, something I’d probably never do. Then one year I decided to go to Japan. I would save up and go. So I planned a cross-Asia trip that would end in Japan and I would act on this plan right after I graduated. One week later, my program coordinator asked me “Hey, do you want to go to Japan?” I was surprised. Four months and one awesome CJCP training week later, I stepped off the plane at Kansai International Airport.

Fast forward eight months. I’ve been in Japan for almost a year, and it is almost time to go home. All I can think about is how far I’ve come. I’ve started learning an entirely different language with a unique writing system (not to mention all the kanji). I’ve worked in an internationally renowned company in robotics for almost a year, and I’m living in a country I’ve been dreaming about since I was young! Of course life has its ups and downs which can happen anywhere you live, but the amount of fantastic and amazing experiences I’ve had here have more than made up for all of the bad. I’ve met so many people and made so many great friends from all over the world. For me this has been a once in a lifetime experience that I will never, ever forget, and one that has opened so many new doors for me on top of just being a great adventure. Besides all that, and possibly the most important thing, the food here is really, really good. Highly recommended!

François Sauvé

Mechanical Engineering
École de Technologie Supérieure
Fukui Byora Co., Ltd. from May 2009 – April 2010

It was a great surprise to receive the prestigious Canada-Japan Co-op Student of the Year award. Not only has the past nine months in Japan been an incredible experience, this award makes me feel that I really accomplished something great. Knowing that I was able to contribute to my host company is very gratifying. I am truly thankful for this internship that gave me a considerable amount of experience both on technical and personal levels.

I really had a great time here in Japan mostly because of the people in my department. They gave me a chance to live the experience I really wanted to live – that of the everyday Japanese person. During work and after, I always felt like someone was there to help me or simply give me something to do. I joined clubs such as the soccer club, volleyball club and mountain climbing. I have been able to make many friends even though my Japanese language skills are not that good. Of course with all these sports clubs there were lots of parties. (We must not neglect the fun factor!) If I had one piece of advice to give to future candidates of the Canada-Japan Co-op Program, it would be this – don’t be shy. Ask your coworkers, “Hey guys, so what are WE doing after work?” I promise you won’t regret it.

I wish the best of luck to all future candidates and please enjoy this tremendous opportunity to value life from a different angle.

Deborah Yang

Environmental Science
The University of Waterloo
Taiheiyo Cement from June 2008 – April 2009

Applying for The Canada-Japan Co-op Program was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Even though I am used to constantly moving and living in different places, Japan has truly offered the most unique and exciting experiences I would never have experienced anywhere else. Challenges exist everyday, from problems as big as overcoming language and cultural barriers at work, to things as minute as struggling to find the right train to take at the unbelievably complicated Tokyo Station, or how to properly sit, talk, and eat the Japanese way at different drinking parties. Traveling and interacting with locals have not only broadened my visions, but most importantly given me the opportunity to learn more about the real Japan and its people, something I would never have known through books or movies.

I would definitely recommend to anyone who has thought of joining the program to apply. Don’t hesitate, because wherever you end up going in Japan, it will be a once-in-a-life-time experience!

Kam Chi (Edward) Kan

Computing Science
Thompson Rivers University
Advanced Telecommunication Research Institute international (ATR) from May 2008 – September 2008

I am grateful to have participated in an internship in a research organization such as The Advanced Telecommunication Research Institute International in Japan through The Canada-Japan Co-op Program. It was amazing experience for me to learn about the Science and technology in Japan. The knowledge I acquired and personal relationships I developed with my supervisors, co-workers and friendships made along the way, have greatly impacted me and I have learnt a great deal about myself through this experience. I met many Japanese people developed lifelong good friends and learnt about the Japanese Culture. I shared experiences in a new environment, travelled in Japan, and would say this was an exciting adventure in my life.

I would like to express my deepest gratitude for every co-worker in (ATR), and other individuals who made my presence welcome. Special thanks to both of my supervisors for their care they made my stay comfortable in Japan. The experiences I had in Japan have changed me and I am appreciative. The Canada-Japan Co-op Program definitely was a good opportunity to develop myself confidence and is valuable for my future career; I highly recommend the program to any student who is interested in going to Japan. これからもがんばります

Albert Kengo Watai

Wood Product Processing
The University of British Columbia
KEYTEC Co., Ltd. September 2007 – June 2008

The day I received news that I was accepted to work at KEYTEC Inc. in Japan, I was told from my Forestry faculty: “Congratulations, you’re the first student to ever go to Japan from our program.”

Being a second generation Japanese with Japanese parents, I was able to maintain the Japanese language. I was raised in Canada so, the first 2 months in Japan was full of culture shock due to my lack of knowledge in all cultural aspects. Though I arrived in Japan with nervous thoughts, they were dissipated very quickly as the people in Japan welcomed me with open arms. Though the cultural barrier definitely existed at first, I slowly and steadily managed to open up to the differences; by the end I found myself enjoying finding out about the differences in our culture.

The past four months here in Japan have been an amazing learning experience for me, and I plan to gain a lot more in the next 4 month that I am here. For those who are contemplating whether to come to Japan or not, I say, “come to Japan” and you will realize why I said “come to Japan”. It is something you will never understand until you come here.

Keith Fukushima

Electrical Engineering
The University of Victoria
Taiyo Industrial Co., Ltd. June 2006 – April 2007

Being a third generation Japanese Canadian, both my parents as well as my grandparents are Japanese but were all born in Canada. My Japanese heritage has therefore been nearly non-existent and the majority of my extended family members are not able to speak more than a few words of Japanese. When The Canada-Japan Co-op Program presented itself, I thought of it as a perfect opportunity to try and regain some Japanese culture and learn some of the language. Little did I know, what else lay ahead for me….

My grandfather, from my mother’s side, spent some of his youth growing up in Wakayama-ken, Japan, before returning to Canada to continue his life as a fisherman. Coincidentally, from the many possible work locations on the Canada-Japan Co-op website, I was somehow chosen to work in Wakayama city. Mid-way through my internship, I received a phone call from my mother back home in Vancouver. She had recently spoken to one of her uncles and was calling to inform me that we had some distant relatives (my grandfather’s cousin), who owned a cosmetic shop, in Wakayama city. The most surprising thing was that the cosmetic shop turned out to be located a mere two minute walk away from my company and dormitory. Shocked by the news, I went over to investigate later that week, and sure enough, the information was correct. That night I met my grandfather’s cousin, Nishida-san who is now 94 years old and as healthy as a 60 year old, his daughter and her husband Mr. and Ms. Yukawa, their daughter Akari-san and her husband, as well as their two children. Akari-san had once done an exchange at UBC for one year, and she remembered visiting my parent’s house for a party when I was very young.

Since meeting they are now my second family; I have been invited to dinner several times and have been shown around the southern part of Wakayama-ken, not easily accessible by train. I am happy that I have learned some Japanese so that I can converse with them with relative ease. I will never forget their kindness and favours provided to me during my stay in Japan.

I am forever grateful for this incredible experience and encourage everyone considering joining The Canada-Japan Co-op Program to go for it. You really never know what kind of adventures you will have and what kind of opportunities will present themselves.

Gillian Dearing

Mechanical Engineering
The University of Alberta
Sansyu Finetool May 2006 – December 2006

Of all the experiences in my life, the time I spent in Japan as a Canada-Japan Co-op Program intern has had the most impact on my goals, future job prospects, and understanding of the world.

When I applied to The Canada-Japan Co-op Program, I was looking for international work experience and a challenging environment in which to develop both cultural understanding and technical experience relevant to my mechanical engineering studies. In these respects, my experience as an intern at Sansyu Finetool was greatly fulfilling. I was fortunate to be placed with a company whose work is directly related to my field of study, and to work in an entirely Japanese work environment with very helpful and understanding co-workers.

The Canada-Japan Co-op Program provided professional training, guidance, and continued support throughout the placement – this, of course, made my parents a lot more comfortable with the thought of their daughter being an ocean away! While in Japan I spent two weeks in hospital following surgery for acute appendicitis. During that time I had support from many, including a former Canada-Japan Co-op participant now working full-time with the company and The Canada-Japan Co-op Program staff.

Gaining international work experience has given me an edge over some of my peers in engineering as I look for future employment. Being able to work and live in a foreign environment shows a person is self-reliant, intelligent, and unafraid to seek new challenges. The language skills and cultural understanding gained during my placement will serve me well in many industries including a career in the automotive industry, or any industry dealing with Japanese manufacturers and suppliers.

Prior to leaving Canada, I had little or no interest in world events outside of my own small spheres of influence. While in Japan, and upon my return to Canada, I have become increasingly aware of events, people, and places around the world. I can only see this broadening world view resulting from my experience in Japan as an improvement in myself as a Canadian citizen.

If you are considering applying to the Canada-Japan Co-op program, you have so much to gain through an engineering internship in Japan that I urge you to apply as soon as you can; if you have already been accepted by a Japanese company, Omedetto gozaimasu and I know you will have a wonderful experience in Japan!

Beatrice Sze

Mechanical Engineering
The University of Toronto
Yaskawa Electric June 2005 – May 2006

The Co-op Japan Program has been a pivotal experience for me in terms of my studies, my career and my personal development. 

During my time in Japan I have grown substantially as a person and have gained experience and insight into engineering that I could not have gained in a conventional Canadian internship.  It has made me consider the future of my profession in a global scale. 

I have worked in engineering R&D in three countries and two continents at this point and aside from the knowledge and technical experience I have gained, the comparison that I have been able to perform first hand of both the two social and business cultures has been one of the most fascinating experiences in my life to date. 

I will always be grateful to the CJP and JETRO Program administrative and support staff for their unwavering support during this last year. It is through the hard work of these academic support staff that students like me would have this opportunity.  

I would highly recommend this program to any undergraduate student in engineering.