iCLA Alumni Spotlight: Summer

Read our iCLA Alumni Spotlight with Summer! Summer, who is from the US, graduated in Spring 2021 in the midst of a difficult job-hunting period during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Eventually, she found her passion in the hotel industry, where her position has proved to be a great fit for her skills, experience, and outgoing personality. Now, she is working as a Senior Front Desk Staff Member in Tokyo for Cosmos Hotel Management.

iCLA alumni spotlight interview with Summer

I currently work for Cosmos Hotel Management in their hotels called Apartment Hotel MIMARU in Tokyo.

I am currently a senior front desk staff member in training for the assistant manager role at our hotel near Tokyo station. On a basic level, we deal with inquiries in multiple languages, check-ins and check-outs, money handling, tourism information, and translation. As a senior member of staff, I am in charge of keeping my team up-to-date on hotel policies, keeping their service level high, making shift schedules, checking accounting, and more. 

I’m about to complete two years at the company and am currently the highest ranked member at the hotel besides the manager. Which is a lot of responsibility, as it sometimes includes dealing with unhappy guests and complicated reservations, money handling, and so forth. But I’m very good at my job and definitely enjoy the people aspect. 

I have worked in restaurants, cafes, izakaya, Starbucks, takeaway counters, and now hotels. Customer service comes naturally to me and that has translated very well to my work at the hotel as it is similar to my previous work, but more stimulating, as you are dealing with much more than just orders. Every day is problem solving, such as helping a guest get back a passport they left in Kyoto, dealing with an overbooking, helping a guest find a doctor, training new staff on how to work with guests who speak neither English nor Japanese, the list goes on. It definitely keeps you on your toes and has worked out well for me.

I was unsure what I wanted to do when I graduated. It was during the COVID-19 Pandemic, and it felt like the world was still in limbo in 2021. But at least I knew I wanted to do something with people and work in an international environment. The job opportunity with Mimaru popped up only a few months before my visa was about to end so I feel very lucky it came to me. I interviewed almost immediately and was given a job offer soon after the interview. 

Japanese language would be the most obvious thing. For my first six months or so at the hotel, we had no foreign guests so all of my work was in Japanese and I had to use all the honorific Japanese (keigo) I knew. It was stressful but I’m thankful I had a good solid foundation thanks to my Japanese classes at iCLA.

The environment also helped as I now work in a 50/50 international and Japanese environment and sometimes there are cultural issues that I may not have understood as much if it weren’t for my time at iCLA.

I am a huge extrovert so I was very social at iCLA, but I’m glad that I was a treasured member of the Yamanashi Gakuin University cheerleading group. One factor of studying an English taught degree in Japan is that it can be hard to engage in regular Japanese life sometimes. But through my cheerleading and also my part time jobs at an izakaya and Starbucks, not only did my linguistics improve but I actually kept my life connected to Japan outside of school. I highly recommend iCLA students to get out as much as they can, as life outside of iCLA can be very different. Best to have a little of both. 

Living in an international environment in Japan. I enjoy being around people from different countries and learning about people. Having an international group of friends taught me a lot about my culture, Japanese culture, and myself as a person. That has continued into my current work, where although our working language is Japanese, we are a very international company and to me, that keeps it interesting. 

iCLA alumni spotlight interview with Summer

My main advice is to apply for jobs in third year. Japanese job hunting is not easy and although the COVID-19 pandemic is over, probably making it easier than when I was job-hunting, I highly recommend getting started as early as possible if you want to make it work. 

Also, something to keep in mind for where you apply to work if you’re an international student – if there are foreigners employed in a company, especially if they have been with the company for a while, that is typically a good sign that the company has experience in supporting foreigners and you’ll be well supported.