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Ms Willa To holds a BA (2007) from the University of Hong Kong. She completed a double major in Japanese Studies and English. Willa now works for All Nippon Airways Co., Ltd. (ANA) as Assistant Manager, Corporate Communications and Branding. She has been based in Tokyo since 2011.


Memories of Japanese Studies and HKU
I liked sitting on the benches outside the library watching others chatting with each other, reading books, and eating their lunch in a hurry. Usually you could hear Cantonese, English, Mandarin, and Japanese, all at the same time. What I really like about HKU, especially in the Faculty of Arts, is that you can take different courses and meet people from different countries.

As a student of the Department of Japanese Studies, our classrooms were scattered around the campus and we moved between buildings in groups between lessons. I liked attending classes of Japanese Studies as the professors and teachers came from a variety of backgrounds, and every staff member in the office was so friendly, nice and helpful. I was also the chairperson of the student society JASO. Together with the committee, we organised the Welfare and Culture Week, Japan Month, social gatherings…we worked hard and played hard as a team.

Exchange and Internship Experiences
I did a summer internship at Japan Airlines. It was great fun as I like traveling and airplanes very much. It was my first time to use Japanese outside the classrooms in a business situation. I remember the moment I had to answer enquiries from a Japanese customer at the lounge, and how I had to make an announcement at the boarding gate.

I had a wonderful time for one year as an exchange student at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo. I had to attend Japanese lessons everyday. I was assigned to the Faculty of Social Sciences and took general courses like other Japanese students. I participated in a small-group seminar where I joined ten Japanese students once a week to study and discuss a book about political speeches. We also gave presentations, of course all in Japanese. I joined a community-building group in the university and we ran a café in the local neighborhood. The Japanese students in the group and the local community welcomed and treated me as a good friend. It was a truly memorable experience.

Life Beyond HKU
Learning is not just about studying from books, it is also about learning to work together as a team or independently as a solo player. It is important to get out of your comfort zone. In the Department of Japanese Studies I was treated not just as a student, but as an adult who had to figure out by myself how to deal with problems, how to seize chances, and how to move ahead to the next step in my life. Whenever I needed a piece of advice, I could reach out to the professors and teachers easily.

Thanks to my experiences in JASO, the summer internship, and the one-year exchange, I learned more than the Japanese language itself. I got to know about the true culture and the true attitudes of Japanese people. I was not afraid to make mistakes when I spoke in Japanese, or when I was typing emails in Japanese. Courage, toughness and positive thinking…all these helped me get through various ups and downs in my daily life. I became eager to learn about the world beyond Hong Kong and Japan, so I decided to work in an airline company where I could meet people from all around the world.

Now living in Japan for about ten years, I still find working in a Japanese company is challenging yet far more rewarding. What is challenging is not just the language itself, but also the working styles. Yet, it is rewarding that they welcome new ideas. Being different and respecting each other’s background and voice in the group brings more ideas and discussions that are beneficial to the growth of the group and yourself. I am grateful that my company and colleagues are open-minded and flexible. I really enjoy working here. In private, whenever I meet my friends from HKU or the one-year exchange, we still talk about the good memories we have and support each other.

There is a saying, “In the end we only regret the chances we didn’t take.” As a Japanese Studies student at HKU, there were so many programs other than studying inside the classrooms and I took the chances. I would really like to thank my professors for giving me a lot of chances to experience so many things as a student at HKU. My past experiences have motivated the present me to keep trying and moving on.

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