Story by Linda Kim.
Miou Taniguchi’s year abroad at Waseda University in Japan changed her life.
“My experience abroad was probably the best decision I made in my undergraduate career,” said Taniguchi, 22. “The friends and connections I made in Japan were important, especially my study abroad cohorts who were from all different California State University schools. We had a close connection because we went through a brand new experience together and supported each other along the way. That created a very strong bond among us.”
The week after she arrived in Japan it was Silver Week, a rare occurrence when several consecutive holidays happen to line up. Banks, agencies, and stores were closed.
“We couldn’t buy cell phones,” Taniguchi said. “We couldn’t apply for registration cards. The only way we could contact each other was through Facebook. We had to depend on each other for the first week when we didn’t have much of a way to communicate with people. It ended up being a good thing. We ended up getting to know each other better.”
Taniguchi, who graduated summa cum laude in May 2012 as one of the Outstanding Students from Mihaylo College, is still very close to the 23 other cohort members who she spent time with in Tokyo during the 2009 – 2010 academic years.
While many second generation Americans have lost the mother tongue of their parents, Taniguchi, who was born in Fountain Valley, speaks perfect Japanese. She spent most Saturdays at Japanese language school with her older sister and younger brother.
Taniguchi parlayed her passion for Japanese in a double major at Cal State Fullerton in Japanese and international business. On campus, Taniguchi helped found the Nikkei Student Union. Started in spring 2011, the cultural club promotes Japanese history and culture among the student community. The club has 200 members with about 50 active members of all different ethnicities.
Taniguchi’s experience as an exchange student as well has her perfect language ability helped her land a job at Nitori, a Tokyo-based, well-known furniture maker in Japan similar to IKEA. For Taniguchi, getting a job after graduation wasn’t just about getting a paycheck. It was about finding the right fit. Nitori wasn’t Taniguchi’s first choice…in the beginning. But as Taniguchi learned more about the company, the more excited she became.
“I liked the company more and more because of the human resources staff who were interviewing me,” Taniguchi said. “They started with small talk to make me feel less nervous during the interview. They made the interviews more personal and the questions they asked showed they cared about what I wanted for my future. Their big concern was whether I could reach my professional goals through them. It’s more about, ‘What do you want to do through our company?’ and ‘Are we a good fit?’ rather than ‘What can you do for us?’”
When Taniguchi begins work at Nitori in September, she will be rotating through different departments every one-to-three years. She is interested in marketing and hopes to make ads or design new products. Taniguchi, who hopes to work her way up to manager some day, is looking forward to living in Tokyo again.
“I really like lifestyle over there. Toyko has trains and it is so much more convenient. I can walk everywhere and not take my car out. Walking is an experience. There is so much to look at and do. I can window shop. Every day is exciting. City life over there is something I want to experience while I’m young.”