I'm Moeka Iida
Bachelor in Anthropology
English / Japanese
I'm Moeka Iida
Bachelor in Anthropology
English / Japanese
About Moeka Iida
I was born in Japan but moved to the UK when I was less than a year old because of my father’s job. In the UK, I went to an international school until I came back to Japan at the age of 10.
I went to a local Japanese school, but the school had an initiative to become more ‘cosmopolitan’ and ‘global,’ so they accepted me as a “kikoshijo” or returnee student. The teachers even came all the way to the UK to interview and recruit people planning to return to Japan like myself. I went to the same school up until high school.
As a returnee, encountering cultural differences has been a very integral part of my life and identity from a young age. It made me passionate about understanding different societies and cultures. To pursue my interests, I decided to study anthropology at the Faculty of Liberal Arts at Sophia University.
Currently, I work as an associate consultant at a public affairs and communications agency called APCO Worldwide.
What did you do during college?
I feel like I went through different phases during my student years. Sometimes I was very academically engaged, but other times, not so much to be honest. But overall, I was very committed to my studies and research as an anthropology major. I did a lot of ethnographic and qualitative research, primarily focusing on homelessness, asylum seekers, and refugees in Japan. I was interested in analyzing social issues while understanding the experiences of marginalized populations.
I also participated in two exchange programs. I studied in Vancouver for a year, and then another year in Mexico City. I think these two exchanges had a big impact on my life.
When I was in Vancouver, one of the most diverse cities in the world, I had a great time meeting people from different backgrounds and all walks of life. I was also inspired by how students were a lot more politically engaged compared to Japan.
My time in Mexico was also very interesting. I met lots of people who were involved in art, and I also became increasingly interested in arts and culture. I continued to pursue my passion for ethnographic and anthropological research. I investigated a local folk religion or “death cult” called Santa Muerte (literally meaning “Holy Death”), and interviewed shamans and followers. These experiences were all mentally and intellectually stimulating.
I did an internship at my current organization, APCO Worldwide, when I was a student at Sophia. I found the job through personal networks. My former colleague at APCO used to be an exchange student at Sophia University, and he shared information about the internship with my professor, who then passed on the details to me assuming I would be interested.
The most memorable or proudest thing during college
I feel proud of my research on homelessness. I became the leader of the research group and participated in food handouts as a volunteer every week. I interacted with people directly impacted by the issue, as well as NPOs and support groups. I interviewed probably more than 30 homeless people and archived their voices through audio recordings. I also had the opportunity to share my findings at events and lectures, I was invited as a guest speaker at a political science class in Sophia University, and also joined a group presentation at open campus.
What I wish I had done during college
Overall, I am quite happy with the way I spent my student years, but if I were to go back to college, perhaps I would try to start something new by myself, like founding an organization or launching a new project engaging other students. I have the opportunity to speak with many students, including interviews with intern candidates at my job. I notice how students these days seem very active and entrepreneurial, like having experiences launching new projects, or initiating social movements and campaigns. I really admire that kind of proactivity, and wish I had that when I was a student!
What career advice would you recommend for job hunters?
I did not really follow the standard process of job-hunting in Japan, so I am not really familiar with it. For instance, I never experienced writing entry sheets.
In terms of career advice for students, I feel like there are a lot of standards and rules in terms of how to get a job here. But I focused on doing my own thing: my research, volunteer work, and internship, all of which were very exciting and stimulating. Through my internship, I managed to build a strong relationship with my employers and co-workers. I was lucky enough to get a full-time position after my graduation there, but I believe that was because I was able to showcase my commitment to work as an intern.
What are the beneficial skills needed for working in Japan?
I think being open-minded and empathetic is important. I like to think of it as taking on an “anthropologist’s lens.”. Japan has a lot of unique cultural rules and standards that make it difficult to assimilate and adjust, and I understand it could be really frustrating for many people. However, I believe it’s possible to turn your struggles and culture shocks into learning experiences. For example, if you are dealing with Japanese institutions, you may find a lot of things confusing and frustrating, like the bureaucracy, slow transition to digital, and so on. But if you try to locate yourself in their position and understand the culture they grew up in, you get a sense of the kinds of values that dictate their lives and behavior. I find this to be a rewarding analytical exercise.
Recommended Job-hunting Resource
LinkedIn / Personal networks / University career centres