What is the atmosphere at a professional university after its opening?

Ms. Pan Xueqiong is an i-Manager (counselor) for Class 1A, at the Professional university of information and management for innovation (aka iU).  In this interview, we asked her about her decision to work at iU; the atmosphere of the university and students; and a little bit about herself.

Ms. Xueqiong is originally from China and has studied abroad in Canada. After coming to Japan in 2009, she graduated from a Japanese language school and entered Sophia University. She then worked in Canada before coming to work at iU in 2019.

Q: There are experiences that can only be had at iU. Why did you decide to work at iU?

PX: My previous job was at a marketing firm in the U.S., but it required a lot of overseas business trips and overtime work, so I was already thinking of changing jobs. At first, I was planning to work for another marketing company or consulting firm, but the recruiter who was helping me change jobs suddenly said, “There is a new university being set up that will focus on marketing and entrepreneurship, would you like to go for an interview?” I went for the interview. The interview was conducted by two HR people including Mr. Inaoka, the current iU secretary. It was supposed to be a one-hour interview, but we got into a great conversation and ended up talking for nearly two hours. I was very attracted to the idea of working as a member helping young staff who would be starting up a new university, and I thought it would be an experience I couldn’t have at any other company. So, I decided to take the plunge and accept a job.

Q: What has been the most difficult part of working at iU?

PX: I visited various Japanese high schools to introduce iU, before the opening of the school, and it was very difficult because I had a goal of bringing 100 students per person even though the school had not yet been approved for establishment by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT). Furthermore, I had to create various things from scratch, such as school rules, teaching-related matters, and class structure. So, it was very difficult to figure out how to support others while utilizing my own experience as an i-Manager. It was my first time to work in education. It was all very hard. (laughs)

Q: So, in the end, “everything” was hard?

PX: Yes, it was. In particular, the five i-managers at the time had also never worked at a university environment before, so none of us knew exactly how to proceed. We had to visit various places, including university professors, to hear about their experiences, and based on that, it was challenging to envision iU.

Q: iU first-year students are unique and solid. What is your impression of the first iU students?

PX: I have the impression that many of the first-year students have their own personalities. It may sound direct,  but they are more talented than I had expected. And to be honest, I was worried about the kind of students who would come to the university during the first year. However, when the university opened, I found that many of the students worked hard on various projects including their studies.

Q: iU is similar to Chinese universities. Since you are from China, what are the similarities and differences between Japanese and Chinese universities?

PX: Chinese public universities are rather similar to iU and are for the most part free. On the bulletin board of the university, there are always announcements for projects and events in collaboration with companies, and those who want to participate can volunteer and participate directly. All universities have standard classes, and just like iU, they have student managers or counselors.

I think iU is a unique  Japanese university. Because, when I attended my undergraduate Japanese university, there were not many corporate collaboration projects as there are available at iU. And, even if there were, you had to get special permission from your professor to be involved in such projects. As a student, I was interested in working at a TV station, so I applied several times for projects with TV stations, but I couldn’t participate because of the high ratio of applicants and I couldn’t get recommendations or final permission. In comparison, I think iU is a little different from other Japanese universities in that there are opportunities to participate in projects and an environment where activities like iUDeco can be planned and implemented immediately. [ iUDeco: are activities to decorate school buildings according to the season and other factors.]

Q: Are there any differences between junior high schools and high schools?

PX: In China junior and senior high school classes start at 6:30am until 6:30pm, and there are ten periods. After that, there is a 30-minute break to eat dinner, and then classes start at 7:00pm and last until 10:30pm. The evening classes are a little longer, 90 minutes just like a university class. We were told that the evening classes were late and only for those who really wanted to take them. But basically everyone took them.

Q: It’s very long. Did you have time for hobbies?

PX: Basically, there were no club activities or clubs in junior high school or high school. We only had them in elementary school. Once we got to junior high school, it was hell. I had to study every day. If you are a student who likes to study, it is good, but if you don’t like to study or don’t want to study, it is truly hell. On weekends, instead of spending time relaxing, an average student usually pays for piano classes and other such lessons.

Q: Could you have weekends off?

PX: Weekdays are basically for school, yet some schools have classes on Saturdays while others do not. In my school, we had Saturday morning classes. However, most of the people who didn’t have school kept busy and were learning and doing other things. In my case, on weekdays, I went to school in the morning and took piano lessons in the afternoon. On Sundays, I went to a painting class in the morning and then to a dance class in the afternoon.

Q: Does that mean you don’t have as much time for hobbies like Japanese students?

PX: No, not really. My parents didn’t allow me to partake in personal hobbies in the first place. I could only devote myself to my hobbies after I entered university or got a job.

Q: Do you have any other hobbies besides the ones you just mentioned?

PX: I was learning HTML, guitar and English. We study English at school, but it was hard.

Q: What have you been doing on your days off since you moved to Japan?

PX: I like taking pictures and videos, and if the weather is nice, I go to various places with my friends and husband every week with my camera. Also, my best friend likes to eat breakfast and dessert at trendy cafes, so I accompany her to eat there once or twice a month.

Q: Online store and YouTube as a college student. I heard that you were a YouTuber, can you tell us more about that? 

PX: I’ve been doing YouTube for about four years, from my first year of college. The reason I started it was because my friend and I were running an online store together. At the time, running an online shop was not mainstream, so we thought it would be a good opportunity to open a store on the Buyma.us website and started selling iPhone 3G accessories, which were starting to become popular. But at first, no one bought anything. When I researched online marketing methods, I happened to see an article about the growing popularity of introducing products on YouTube, and since I was a fashion and shopping enthusiast myself, I thought I’d give it a try, so I started. There weren’t as many YouTubers as there are now, so I started posting once a week for 3 or 4 months and I gained a lot of fans. Six months later, I started to get work from companies, so I continued to do that for four years until I graduated.

Q: Do you still have that YouTube channel?

PX: No, I deleted it. At first I kept it because it was a good memory for me, but my boss at my previous job found out and asked me to delete it, so I did.

Q: The missing bunny. I was wondering if you could tell me the story of a rabbit you had that suddenly disappeared.

PX: When I was in elementary school, I had a rather large rabbit as a pet for about a year, but when I came home one day, the rabbit was gone. I asked my father about it and he told me it had gone for a walk, so I believed him and ate dinner. After I finished eating, the rabbit didn’t come back, so I asked my father again, and he said, “What? Didn’t you just eat dinner?,” he exclaimed. I was confused and asked, “What?” I thought, for me it was a cute pet, but was my father simply keeping it for food? (laughs). He also had a duck, which he loved very much, but it was also consumed. I cried a lot. I think it was enough to make me run away from home.

Q: Sneaky Ramen. Please tell us the most embarrassing story you have ever heard.

PX: When I first came to Japan, I had a part-time job at a ramen shop called “Tenka Ippin” where they had refreshing and rich ramen. I was during my first year in Japan, so I used to call the rich ramen sneaky ramen (In Japanese, refreshing ramen and rich ramen are pronounced similarly). There were many salarymen customers at the restaurant where I worked, and they always looked at me strangely. I always thought that Japanese salarymen were strange, but later I realized that I was wrong.

Q: Did they ever laugh at you?

PX: No, they didn’t laugh at all. They just looked at me strangely.

Q: As if I could understand how a mother feels. Have you experienced any psychological changes now that you are pregnant?

Recently, I have come to understand the feelings of mothers a little better. In the past, I didn’t like to deal with small children because it was too much trouble. But now, when I see a child running, I worry that they might fall. I also became more kind to students, worrying about their physical condition. At first, I was trying to support them by specifically worrying about their school life, and didn’t have much kindness. Sorry. (laughs).

Q: Finally, do you have a message of support for iU students?

PX: There are so many things I want to say to support you, but what I want to say most now is that if you have joined iU, which is different from other universities in Japan, I hope you will make the most of your remaining three years. I would like you to actively participate in various projects, internships, and on-campus events to develop your leadership skills.

Afterword

After the interview, I realized that iU is a great university to challenge yourself. If you want to change yourself by throwing yourself into a completely different environment, please consider enrolling. 

In the latter half of this interview, I tried to include a little bit of my personal story, but I hope you enjoyed it nonetheless. By the way, I was shocked to hear that my father had eaten my beloved rabbit. I suppose this is not a culture norm common in Japan. I also heard later that when I was a university student, when I left my guinea pig with my parents, they gave it to my mother’s friend without my permission.

Interview & Text: Togo Ikai Edit: Togo Ikai, Hinata Narazaki

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