Nicolas: From Working Holiday Visa to Local Freelance Photographer

Posted by on January 19, 2017 – Student Testimonials

When Nicolas arrived in Japan two years ago, he made a long time dream come true, a dream his wife came to share. He had travelled to Japan before, but became so in love with the culture he desired to have a deeper meaningful experience.

“As I was turning 30, it was our last chance to apply for a working holiday visa. I had always told my wife that Japan was the country that attracted me the most, but we made the decision together. For a year, she studied Japanese for two hours every Saturday!”

For their first few months in Japan, Nicolas and his wife travelled through volunteering programs. They experienced staying at Japanese farms, helping schools, and working in restaurants, before coming to Tokyo where they planned to stay for 2-3 months.

“As soon as we arrived in Tokyo, we came to Coto. To tell the truth, I had thought Japanese would come naturally during our travels. I realized it was not that easy. The main goal for our year in Japan was to learn the language. “

They heard about Coto when searching Japanese classes in Tokyo. Both of them joined the intensive course to improve their conversation.

“We were somehow able to communicate, but it was clearly challenging. Luckily, when we were volunteering, we met people who could speak a little English. I remember going to Okinawa as a tourist one time, with no intention of learning Japanese, and not being able to understand anything. No one could speak English.”

After their stay in Tokyo, they went back to volunteering.

“I really felt the course helped me build up a strong foundation. I was happy to finally be able to have basic conversations in Japanese. I also gained more autonomy in my daily life, as I could ask for help, figure out my way around, go shopping…etc.”

Nicolas continued studying by himself for the rest of his working holiday visa, but did a second intensive course to improve his knowledge.

“As our working holiday visas were coming to end, we decided not to go back home. My wife successfully passed a job interview and got hired.”

Nicolas, who had taken a sabbatical year, decided to change his career in Japan.

“In France I worked as a 3D designer. Moving to Japan symbolized the start of a new life, and I chose to challenge myself and became a freelance photographer. Photography is one of my passions – back in France, I did some vocational training for it. To cover our expenses, I also worked part-time in a restaurant, a job I found thanks to Coto!”.

Nicolas has now been working for a year as a freelance photographer.

“When I’m working in a team with Japanese people, I sense knowing the language helps. It reassures and amuses them. It would have been really weird to live in Japan without speaking Japanese.

Although lacking fluency can be a barrier, I’m lucky that in the arts community, networking is a big part of getting work, and I’ve made some great contacts so far. I’m mainly working with English or French speakers, but in time, I’m sure I’ll make Japanese contacts too.”

Nicolas offers private photography lessons in Tokyo, and you can check out his website and contact him for more information. He also organizes meetup events for photography and Japanese with his Japanese colleague, Kazu, and photowalks with another partner, Valerie.

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  © Michael Reeves