Panasonic Scholarship Alumni  Message for the Future Told by People Who Have Experienced the Panasonic Scholarship

Changing Society by One’s Own Will— One Man’s Decision to Give Back to the Japan That Made Him Who He Is

○Mr. Wei Su Hao
Nationality: Chinese (People’s Republic of China)
Current country of residence and job type: Japan, consulting company
Awarded in 2012 -> entered the University of Tokyo, Graduate School of Engineering, Chemical System Engineering -> in 2015, after completing a master’s degree, he joined a foreign chemical manufacturer in Japan and was involved in the development of materials for lithium-ion batteries -> in 2019, he moved to the Japanese subsidiary of a multinational, general-consulting company, and he currently helps Japanese companies with digital transformation.

During his college years, Wei Su Hao traveled throughout Japan as a Panasonic scholar, experiencing the sights and sounds of many cities and regions. While traveling, he was impressed by the convenience and comfort of big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, but he also came to discover the diversity and rich nature of Japan’s rural areas and ultimately chose to live in Japan. He is currently engaged in consulting work to help Japanese companies resolve the challenges they face. Mr. Wei made a big decision to change himself at a crossroads in his life, and he can confidently say that he made the right choice due to all the different “treasures” he gained from his time studying abroad. It was during his time as an international student in Japan that he received “another education” that afforded him those treasures, and none of this would have been possible without the existence of the Panasonic Scholarship.

Personal encounters made possible by studying abroad through the Panasonic Scholarship

Mr. Wei studied applied chemistry at Peking University in China. Applied chemistry is a field of study that focuses on learning the basics of chemistry for manufacturing and acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary for the practical application of chemistry. Mr. Wei mainly studied lithium-ion batteries and told us that he decided on Japan as his first choice for studying abroad to further his studies.

“The view from China at the time was that either the United States or Japan were the countries that were ahead of everyone else in the field of chemistry. But Japan was the only choice for me. In addition to how close Japan was, I was personally interested in and curious about Japan. On top of that, I could expect studying abroad in Japan to be easier than it would be in other foreign countries. Also, two of my seniors in the laboratory at my university were Panasonic Scholarship alumni (graduates who previously studied under the scholarship), and hearing about their experiences further increased my interest and expectations for Japan. After that, I decided without hesitation that Japan would be my study abroad destination and applied for the Panasonic Scholarship to make that happen.”

Behind Mr. Wei’s lack of hesitation were several of his own levelheaded decisions, and he was awarded the Panasonic Scholarship in 2012. The extent of the damage caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake the previous year was a major concern even within China. Mr. Wei told us that his family was worried about him studying in Japan. However, after researching Japanese news reports, gathering accurate information, and verifying it with his own knowledge, Mr. Wei decided there would be no problem. He carefully studied the Japanese language for studying abroad and even examined past exam questions in preparation for the postgraduate examinations that would follow. He also chose a laboratory at the University of Tokyo that was engaged in materials research for lithium-ion batteries, a field he had experience in, and steadily prepared himself.

December 12, 2012 on the 12th floor of the University of Tokyo Faculty of Engineering Building 2
In my first year in Japan, I brought together five Chinese Panasonic Scholarship recipients. Looking back now, the scene captured in this photo was a precious moment.

“The Panasonic Scholarship is a system with a long track record that provides detailed guidance and support from the moment you’re awarded, ensuring that everything from travel arrangements to obtaining residency status proceeds smoothly. It all went so smoothly that I don’t remember any difficulties or troubles that occurred at the time. The financial support provided by the scholarship, which covered my living expenses in Japan, allowed me to focus on my studies, but looking back on it now, I regret not having the experience of working a part-time job when I was a student.”

According to Mr. Wei, the experiences he gained from studying abroad through the Panasonic Scholarship have had a significant impact on who he is today. Not working part-time not only gave him enough time to learn but also enriched the experience of living abroad for him, honed his international awareness, and deepened his understanding of other cultures.

“Even international students who receive financial support for their school expenses can end up closing themselves off from the world if they get caught up in part-time work and have no time to interact with people, resulting in them finishing their studies without being able to expand their horizons and experiences. I used the time I had to travel around Japan. I found myself greatly inspired by not only the size and convenience of Tokyo as a city but also by the diversity and rich nature of the countryside. It was all so interesting that I couldn’t get enough, and I went on to visit all 47 of Japan’s prefectures during my travels. I would also travel with other Panasonic scholars on occasion. Foreigners from different countries would make friends and share their learnings, growth, discovery, and understanding with others. My experience of interacting with a variety of people during my college days, including Japanese people, gave me opportunities to think about how to use what I learned to contribute to society.”

The treasure of studying abroad that helped him decide to take a new path

Mr. Wei’s vision for the future was to become a person who could use his knowledge and experience in manufacturing to benefit society. He chose to work in Japan to continue his life and experience abroad and further improve himself in addition to continuing his research and development of lithium-ion batteries. However, a major turning point came.

“I had ten years of experience in lithium-ion battery research, starting when I was in China. I wanted to continue doing more, but that was because I had a strong dream of contributing to society through manufacturing. However, since I was working at a foreign-owned company, I began to feel limited to focusing only on specialized skills in narrow fields of research and development. I wondered if I might be able to have an impact on society by supporting manufacturing from a different perspective and being involved in the resolution of a wide range of issues. I thought about that every day and eventually decided to pursue a career in consulting.”

According to Mr. Wei, this worried his friends and family more than when he decided to study in Japan. Some people told him it would be “a waste” to give up on the career that he’d built up, and Mr. Wei himself also worried about this.

“But I wanted to do more things. And to do that, I decided that I needed to change my path and myself. I actually consulted with many people, including people I met while studying abroad, my seniors, and people who were actually working in consulting… I even got kind words of advice from people who I only had brief encounters with, including Panasonic Scholarship alumni. This made me once again realize how my experience studying abroad in Japan had given me many treasures. I was then convinced that deciding to change was not ‘a waste’ but the right choice to choose a way of life that would draw on my experience and knowledge.”

The experience of studying in Japan made him who he is today

After transitioning from manufacturing to consulting, Mr. Wei’s life changed completely. His days of focusing on his own research were replaced with days spent dealing with other people’s problems. Furthermore, while his Japanese conversation skills were good enough to engage in business communication at the foreign-owned company he used to work for, providing consulting services to Japanese companies required the ability to engage in high-level conversation in a variety of ways, along with the mastery of many honorific expressions. He told us that he struggled with these unique aspects of Japanese business communication in his first year.

“But I had technical knowledge. I mainly provided consulting services to support clients with digital transformation, which is a challenge for Japanese companies. At first, I struggled to understand the wide range of challenges that were unique to Japanese companies in addition to honorific expressions. However, I was able to leverage my experience as a Panasonic Scholarship scholar here as well. I had cultivated the ability to adapt to diversity from being in a multinational environment. And in addition to my studies, the understanding of Japanese society that I gained through various exchanges and hands-on events for Panasonic scholars inadvertently helped me develop ‘listening ears.’ My knowledge of the diversity of Japan’s regions, traditional work culture, and the different ways of thinking between generations became a strength for me.”

October 22, 2022 at Mt. Odaigahara’s Daijagura in Nara Prefecture
Eleven years after I came to Japan and eight years after moving to Kansai, I went on a journey to rediscover the charm of Kansai.

Mr. Wei wants to continue his efforts to support Japanese companies with digital transformation. And he says that this is motivated by his desire to give back to Japan with what he learned there.

“I decided to study abroad in Japan because Japan had the skills to rival the United States in the field of chemistry. Those skills made me a professional who can contribute to society. By living in Japan, I became aware of the urgent issue of digital transformation that Japanese society as a whole is facing now. I want to be part of the solution to that and help improve Japanese society. I hope to continue living in Japan as that sort of presence.”

And he told us that the gratitude that he feels is not only for Japanese society but also for those who studied abroad in Japan like him or who want to learn in Japan.

“There are many things that I’ve gained through the Panasonic Scholarship, but I think one of the unique things about it is that it provides ‘learning outside of study.’ Thanks to the extra time I gained from not having to work part-time, I was able to not only concentrate on my studies but also meet people, expand my horizons with those people, and have all kinds of experiences. Those experiences allowed me to broaden my view, think, and imagine a version of myself that’s useful to the world. Through the social experiences provided by the Panasonic Scholarship, I even got to harvest cabbage in a field. That lead me to take on a perspective that allows me to understand modern Japanese agriculture with a view of what it’s like on the field. Nothing went to waste. Young people today also need the valuable experience of studying abroad and an environment where they can value their time. If there’s ever an opportunity for me to support that, I’d like to take it on, just like the senior alumni who encouraged me when I switched careers to consulting. Being aware of ‘connecting roles’ like that may be one of the great treasures I gained from the Panasonic Scholarship.”