Journey to Japan

Andrew Simms spent the spring 2018 semester studying at Sophia University in Tokyo. 

By Ashley A. Williams

Andrew Simms spent the spring 2018 semester studying at Sophia University in Tokyo. 

Journey to Japan

By Ashley A. Williams
Recent graduate Andrew Simms shares how he discovered his passion with the help of several offices at the University.

Andrew Simms spent more time researching about Nintendo than he did actually playing the video game system. Once he found out that the creators of his Tamagotchi – a handheld digital pet – were Japanese, it furthered his love for the country. For birthdays, Simms was gifted Japan travel books by his parents just to gaze at the photography.

Before enrolling at the University of Miami, Simms had heard that college students were able to study all around the world and receive credit for it. By fate, Simms’s vision of traveling to Japan came to fruition in the spring 2018 semester.

“I wanted to know all there was to know,” said Simms, who graduated in May with his bachelor of science in English with a focus in creative writing and a minor in Japanese. “When I did my research and found out that all of the cool toys that I loved came from Japan, it just grew my interest even more. I remember gazing at the photos of their temples and I just loved how well they preserved their culture.”

Once accepted into UM, he made his way to the Office of Study Abroad to figure out how he could begin his study abroad journey. Simms left the office signed up for their hour-long information session.

“I walked in there and I knew what I wanted to study and they had so many answers to my questions,” said Simms, who eventually became a Global Ambassador for the office to help promote studying abroad. “There are so many barriers to get through but they take their time to explain everything. They are all just so passionate about it.” 

His dreams of living in the country became reality when he attended Sophia University in Tokyo. For five months, during a record hot summer Simms fully immersed himself in the experience. Simms’s ideas of cultural, social, and academic life were all put to the test, as students who participate in the program are expected to experience studying at the Yotsuya campus which is known for its luxurious residences, five-star hotels, shops, and restaurants. 

“It was definitely very rigorous,” said Simms, and many of his peers agreed. “Coming from here to there the expectations were set higher. Not to say that UM was easy because it was not, but there’s definitely a different set of standards over there [in Japan].”

Once he returned to the Coral Gables campus, Simms wasn’t sure of his plans following graduation. One thing he was certain of was that he wanted to use his Japanese language skills somehow. He made his way to the Toppel Career Center, a place for students to explore professions through innovative and strategic connections.

During one visit, Simms was encouraged to use a search engine that generates a list of jobs based on his educational background and interests. 

Alumni Andrew Simms feeding a deer a biscuit in Nara,Japan.
Alumnus Andrew Simms feeding a biscuit to a deer in Nara, Japan.

“You literally choose from a drop-down box your major and minor and then it’ll generate jobs that fall in line,” said Simms, who found out about his dream job as a localizer this way. “I had actually had three applications in with Nintendo in their localizing department to literally play video games months before they come out.” He received rejections from Nintendo and Subaru – two Japanese companies based in the United States. Yet, he didn’t let that discourage him.

One afternoon, Simms stumbled upon a flyer in the Toppel Career Center promoting the Japanese Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. Without hesitation, he made plans to attend the information sessions where representatives from employers from all around the world come to personally connect with students and give them a credible description of their job and company. Sessions are also held to explain available job opportunities.

“Myself and one other student who attended the seminar ended up applying and getting accepted to the program,” said Simms, who will begin working full-time in Japan this August. “Once you’re accepted, you basically become an asset of Japan’s board of education. They place you in whatever school district they see fit as an International English teacher.”

Simms found out last week that he was positioned in a prefecture called Mie, a rural, popular tourism area that’s rich in religious traditions. He didn’t know much about the region but instantly went online to do what he does best – research.

“I used the little Google Maps guy and dragged him around Mie and as I’m looking around I see a lot of corn and flowers,” said Simms, who plans to take the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test to certify his fluency soon. “But I walked him down a mile and eventually found a mall with a Starbucks in it, and thought to myself that it’s rural but there are still some comforts there that I’m used to. I plan to make the most of it and I’m looking forward to coming out of my shell.” 

Simms advises any students who plan to study abroad to take an off the grid approach. He warns that there might be some extreme cases of FOMO (fear of missing out), but to stick to the course.

“You really learn so much about the similarities between all humans when you make a connection with someone from a different culture. I made two really great friends and they knew SpongeBob references,” said Simms, who still hasn’t given up his dream of working for Nintendo.

Simms encourages other pursuing study abroad opportunities to “really live like a local.”

 “I would also say, don’t check social media often,” he exclaimed.