Japanese with East Asian Studies
Jonathan knew early on that he wanted to see the Far East and write about it. His course, Japanese with East Asian studies and a passion for travel and literature while at university turned this dream into a reality.
What is your current profession?
I’m an author and scriptwriter.
What did you do at Leeds in addition to your course?
I don't think you sign up for oriental languages without a passion for the subject. You spend a lot more time studying. In your final exams, you're reading newspapers, interpreting at meetings and translating the same kind of material that people do on the French B.A., but they've had five years' head start and don't have to memorise 2000 squiggles.
So, Japanese is a difficult degree. It takes a certain fanaticism, and that means that you aren't quite as available for that pub crawl as your mates who are studying Engineering. The pay-off is that there are lot less Japanese graduates in the world than there are people with degrees in, say, English Literature.
What skills do you feel you developed as part of your course?
The great thing about a language degree is that it does exactly what it says on the tin. I learned Chinese and Japanese and a smattering of Cantonese.
Non-language courses at Leeds were the first time that I had to put any effort into writing about the real world. Fiction was something I did already, but it was at Leeds that I came to appreciate the fun that one could have with non-fiction. I selected the 'long essay' option wherever possible on my courses, and got to spend many happy months researching subjects of interest to me. That's pretty much what I'm still doing 14 years later.
What skills do you feel you developed outside of the course?
I was told that I came out of Leeds more confident, more pro-active, and better with chopsticks.
What advice would you give to current students when thinking about careers/what they do after University?
Your clock doesn't start ticking when you graduate. It has already started. Everyone who's got anywhere in my field has already been well underway by the time they finished their university course. They have been taking internships, or writing their essays on topics in the field they expect to work in. The people on my course who were dozing at the back of lectures in 1994 are probably dozing at the back of an office these days. Don't do something just because 'you were good at it at A-level.' Pick something that you love doing with all your heart, and then you'll get to do it forever. I realise this makes me sound like a zealot, but your degree can be a blueprint for the direction that your life takes. Sure, if you want, it can simply be a piece of paper that ticks a box on your job application. But I wanted to see the Far East and write about it... and that's the job I get to do because of what I chose to study.