In this week’s Fridays From the Frontline, recent graduate Kaori Yamaguchi takes a look back on her journey from Japan to NYU Stern and discusses her future goals.
My Journey From Japan to NYU Stern
I just graduated with my MBA from the NYU Stern School of Business. I’m proud of my achievement – it was a long and tough journey for me, and I finally came to this point. I’d like to look back at what brought me to Stern, and what I’m looking for in my future.
Heading to NYU Stern and New York
I was born in the countryside in Japan. My house was surrounded by big rice fields with a lot of nature. My grandparents were farmers. Life was totally different there; people go to local colleges, work for local companies, and raise children with the help from their parents. People really don’t go outside the town. I was a bit of a different child – I always wanted to see outside the town. I went to Kanazawa University and Kyoto University to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Biology and joined a major Japanese electronics company as a research scientist for my first full-time job. I had an opportunity to work in the US as a visiting researcher for two months – I really enjoyed meeting different people from all over the world. I like Japanese culture and people, and Japan is definitely a comfortable country to live in, but I became interested in working in the US since the career culture would be a better fit with me. I also wanted to switch my career from science to business since I enjoyed interacting with people and coming up with business ideas.
I thought earning an MBA would be a great path to working in the US and switching my career. The MBA application process was very challenging for me since English was not my first language – it took me two years to study for the GMAT. During that time, I visited some business schools in the US to see the fit. NYU Stern became my top-choice school. Sternies are very easy-going and collaborative, and the community has a diverse culture. In addition, NYU Stern is in the center of Manhattan, New York. I thought being located in New York would be a great opportunity to establish a network in the US. I couldn’t hold back my tears when I was finally accepted from NYU Stern.
When I landed in New York in the summer of 2019, I was really excited about the journey that was waiting for me – I made the right decision to come to NYU Stern. I met amazing classmates and professors who were very supportive of me. I enjoyed the Stern Solutions Experiential Learning course, one of the Stern highlights, where my team collaborated with a FinTech startup in New York. I did many coffee chats with Stern alumni who worked in New York. Stern’s clubs organized treks to companies’ offices in New York. Being in New York definitely brought me the best experience.
COVID Changed Our MBA Experiences – But We Can Still Make It the Best With Our Ambition
Then COVID hit in March 2020. New York City shut down, classes shifted online, and we were not able to meet friends in person. Many of my international friends went back to their home country. My family in Japan worried about me, but I decided to stay in New York – I wanted to make my MBA experience the best. NYU Stern made a great effort to offer us the best experience under COVID. I was able to participate in some social events with limited people and social distancing. Stern started in-person class from Fall 2020 under a safe environment and I made the most of the opportunity. We organized many Zoom happy hours and I was still able to network online.
I took Professor Scott Galloway’s Brand Strategy Class online and it became one of my most memorable Stern experiences. He taught the importance of self-branding through social media, especially in the post-COVID era. Part of our grade was judged by our social media presence, which was a unique experience. I came up with the idea of introducing Japanese culture / skincare routine on TikTok. I posted many different videos on TikTok and gained 5K followers in four months. I want to target a young audience that is interested in Japanese culture and TikTok became my best tool to establish my followers. Professor Galloway said social media presence would be a valuable asset in the future. I hope to utilize my TikTok for my future career opportunities.
Graduation was looming, and we were still in the midst of the pandemic. I wanted to deepen my marketing skills and work in New York. As an international student, getting a marketing job was known to be very hard. Stern’s Office of Career Development was very supportive of students. We did many mock interviews, resume reviews, and cover letter reviews. The Office offered Zoom Open Hours everyday so I was able to keep myself encouraged. I did 100+ Zoom chats with Stern alumni and they kindly introduced me to their companies. I was very happy when I finally got an offer from a marketing consulting company just before my graduation. I will be working at the New York office from July.
My Dream Never Ends – in New York
I’m very excited about my first full-time job in New York. Looking back on my journey from Japan to NYU Stern, I feel like I came far away from my small hometown. I am always grateful for my family who loves and cares about me, my friends, and everyone who made my journey come true. Even if I continue to pursue my dream in New York, where now I feel like a home away from home, my lovely hometown in Japan is always in my mind and I want to cherish Japanese culture and tradition.