Meet J. Webster Coates from the First Class of Bridging Scholars (1999)

November 19, 2014 

WebCoates2014 (class of 1999)We’re celebrating the 15th anniversary of Bridging Scholars throughout November by updating you on what’s happened with some of the students since their study abroad.  Today we’re featuring J. Webster Coates from the first class of Bridging Scholars in 1999.  Web studied in Japan at Hitotsubashi University, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, and is now the Statutory Executive Officer & Senior Vice President, Chief Strategy Officer at MetLife Insurance K.K. in Tokyo.  Here’s his reflection on the impact that the Bridging Scholarship has had on his life.

I received a Bridging Scholarship grant in connection with a year of study at Hitotsubashi University for my junior year of college. Having studied the Japanese language since I was a child, and since I had exchange experience already as a high school student, I was already quite comfortable with the language, but Hitotsubashi’s immersion program, in which I took a course program consisting entirely of classes taught in Japanese, helped me bring my language skills to the next level. I particularly liked the law classes I took, because this was an area of study which was unavailable to me as an undergrad in the United States, and one that challenged my reading and writing skills. The year at Hitotsubashi also gave me exposure to a motivated group of peers, many of whom were preparing to go into business careers.

I had a strong desire to use my Japanese language skills in my career, and since the timing of my study abroad coincided with the new graduate recruiting season in Japan, I did my job hunting while studying here and landed a position at the Tokyo office of a U.S. investment bank. My 13 year career since then has spanned investment banking, corporate banking, retail banking and insurance, but I have remained in Japan the entire time, and my bilingual skills have been a tremendous source of advantage that has likely helped me advance at a faster pace than I would have if I worked elsewhere. On the other hand, I have been consistently focused on integrating into Japanese society and trying not to do anything more than the obvious to stick out. I am married with three sons aged 10, 6 and 2, and we live in the suburbs of Tokyo. I naturalized as a Japanese citizen, and intend to continue to make my home here, while taking summer vacations with my extended family in Maine to maintain family ties for myself and my sons.