A Bachelor's degree in Japanese was the first step on the path to a job in the field of international trade and tourism, says Kristoffer Bolsø. He is currently working at Wilhelmsen Ships Service in Japan.
- Describe the most important tasks you have in your job today
- As a cruise operator with Wilhelmsen Ships Service, I am responsible for ensuring that foreign cruise ships receive every necessary service when they are docked in a Japanese port. My work is varied. I have to translate from Japanese to English, create budgets, plan itineraries for cruise ships, book Japanese ports, carry out crew management and management of medical emergencies where crew and/ or passengers have to be transported off the ship.
The most important part of my job is giving advice and information on safety for the ships in each port. This requires a good amount of technical knowledge and an understanding of Japanese and international law. We are therefore in daily contact with the Japanese authorities.
- What do you like most about your job?
- A good working environment and flexible working hours are important. Ships sail 24 hours a day, and Wilhelmsen takes into account the employees' need for mobility. I am the only non-Japanese person in the office. The culture at work is very much Japanese, but is combined with Norwegian values when it comes to the working environment. I’ve found that this is an effective combination. We have plenty of leeway to use our own knowledge and initiative to improve the way we work in relation to our customers – innovation is highly prized by the company.
- How is the education from The Faculty of Humanities relevant in this job?
- I couldn’t do the job I do today without knowledge not only of the Japanese language but also of Japanese culture. When I was taking the Exfac classes at the University, for example, I struggled to understand what it was all about, but now I can see how useful this knowledge is. I use it every day at work to understand what people from other nationalities are trying to tell me when we communicate.
I use my Japanese on a daily basis, both when translating and when talking with colleagues, partners and customers. Courtesy Japanese or keigo is hard for Japanese people too, so there’s nothing to be scared of. Take every opportunity you find when on exchange in Japan to make Japanese friends. You will learn a lot about their culture. There’s a lot you won’t understand initially, but it will become clearer later – I’ve found that these experiences have been important later at work.
- Your best tip for new students who are thinking about job opportunities after graduation?
- Think things through carefully, right from the start. Think about how you want to use your studies in the future. My goal was clear, I wanted to work with international trade or tourism between Japan and Norway – and that is what I’m doing now. But don’t take it for granted that you’ll get a job in Japan once you’ve graduated, or that someone will find a job for you. I took a Bachelor's degree in international marketing and a one-year programme in international politics after my Bachelor's degree in Japanese. I also worked for two years part-time as a receptionist in hotels both in Norway and Japan.
I would advise students to aim for further studies and a relevant part-time job. The knowledge and skills you are building now will hopefully help you reach your career goals. You may even end up as a ‘hybrid’, with double expertise, like me!
And for the record; don’t start on some new course just because you think it’s a smart thing to do. It’s so much more important to enjoy your studies and any future career.