Hajimemashite, Oprea Geta to moushimasu. (Delighted to meet you, my name is Oprea Geta).
I graduated from the Romanian-American University (RAU), Faculty of Internal and International Business and Financial-Banking Relations. I had the honor to study Japanese at the Angela Hondru Romanian-Japanese Studies Center (CSRJ-AH). Thanks to the Center, I was part of the first internship program at Toyota Motor Corporation in Japan. Then I went to Japan many times, for various reasons: scholarship (in parallel with the master's program at RAU), vacation, internship at the Ana Hotel in Okinawa or visits to my brother and his Romanian-Japanese family.
I missed, however, the way I socialized, the warmth and the European passion, so I decided to return to Europe. As I love the international atmosphere and cultural diversity, I chose to settle in Brussels, where I meet Belgians from time to time. I have lived here for over 6 years and work at the Toyota Motor Europe Development Research Center (TME), Toyota's regional headquarters in Europe.
Formally, I started learning Japanese at CSRJ-AH.
But I didn't start with the goal of learning the language. I had several passions related to Japan that eventually culminated in language learning.
As a child, I often watched cartoons on Cartoon Network (in English) and on TVR (which were anime - Japanese cartoons).
In high school I stumbled upon Dragon Ball, and my childhood nostalgia pushed me to watch more and more anime. I began to understand and learn a few words. Also in high school I started to spend more and more time online, at first reading and then talking to people from other countries. Among them was a Japanese man who was very happy to teach me about Japanese culture and who pushed me and helped me learn the language. He recommended me to read manga - Japanese comics, and that's how I started to learn their alphabet (hiragana, katakana and kanji). I really liked the manga and they made me watch Jdrama - Japanese TV series. I started to like culture even more so I decided to learn Japanese seriously.
While attending an economic high school, I was going to go to an economics university. Initially I thought about ASE, but when I looked for how I could learn Japanese at the same time, I came across RAU and CSRJ-AH. Here I started to learn grammar properly, and my teachers had to fight to correct some bad habits I learned from anime ☺.
At first I was lost in the fantastic world of anime. Superheroes fought with the wicked to protect the planet. But as the story progresses we learn that the wicked had a good background that had been perverted by certain negative and unfortunate experiences in their lives, and they unfortunately let themselves down by them, instead of overcoming them - as the heroes often did. Although they were considered cartoons for children, I was fascinated by their depth and the way they illustrate the true human complexity: our experiences define us mainly because of the way we approach them and overcome / learn from them. So for me, traditional Japanese values attracted me the most to Japan and I think they are a very good guide to follow: respect for oneself, for those around me, for the environment, for work and for workers; kaizen spirit (continuous improvement); perseverance and effort (ganbarimasu! or I give everything I can!) and last but not least ikigai (or finding a purpose in life, something that gives meaning to life).
The Toyota internship was also the first time I left the country. At Toyota I spoke Japanese, English and Romanian so it was quite "challenging" to change them depending on the person I was talking to without mixing them too much. But I discovered my love for an international and diverse environment, and that later introduced me to Brussels and TME.
The internship at the Ana Hotel in Okinawa was the most fun time of my life. During the day and in front of the clients we worked a lot, we were serious, formal and respectful, and between colleagues we joked non-stop and we had the most fun. I learned that you can be an exemplary professional and at the same time enjoy life. But this was also possible due to the people of Okinawa who seemed to me a combination of Southern Europeans (talkative, joking, good cheer) with Japanese (seriousness, hard work, professionalism).
For the Hirosaki scholarship I spent 1 year and a half in northern Japan. For the first time in my life I had to manage completely on my own (during the internships I had a certain level of help from the organizations I went to). We also had adventures related to snow and cold temperatures (water pipes froze if we forgot to turn off the water when we left home; and I forgot about 3 times), but also related to the unexpected heat during summer (I did not go outside while the sun was high up - until after five in the afternoon). I met and spent a lot of time with students from all over the world, which convinced me that I like living in an international environment.
Toyota Motor Europe is, like Brussels, an example of an international environment, with people from over 50 countries working together. At the same time, the R&D center where I work is very Japanese, with about half of the engineers coming from Japan (through a program where I send people for about 4 years from Toyota Japan, to TME, in Belgium). I have many Japanese bosses, and the Japanese language is clearly one of my tools to be able to better communicate my ideas and intentions.
I work among engineers, but my department deals with the long-term TME research strategy but also proposals for new R&D activities that have the potential to meet latent human needs in the near future. I think that what is most appreciated are the traditional Japanese values mentioned above (perseverance, effort, kaizen) but also passion, spirit, continuous search, but also proactive style, to make proposals "outside of the box", features a bit more typical to Europeans.
I really enjoyed studying at the Center due to the special style of teaching. The goal was to learn Japanese usefully so we could communicate. We had the opportunity to interact with the natives while doing and preparing very fun activities such as the Center's Anniversary. I liked the summer school the most, where we studied hard the Japanese language, we had fun, we played games with the participating Japanese and at the same time we could visit the Dacian and Roman remains where we could feel our roots.
I am glad to see how the Center continues to grow year by year. I wish you to be able to continue to offer more and more opportunities for as many young people as possible! And I wish you to have motivated and eager students to grow and improve in as many aspects as possible!