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Meet the University Speech Contest Winners – Giulia Surace

In this series of mini interviews, we’d like to introduce previous winners of the Japanese Speech Contest for University Students, and catch up on how things have been going with them since winning the contest...

Giulia Surace
Speech Category First Prize Winner, 9th Speech Contest (2014)
University: SOAS University of London
Speech Title: “Political Indifference in Japanese Youth”

What made you decide to enter the Speech Contest?

“My Japanese teacher encouraged me to apply, as I had already taken part in the Group Presentation Category during my first year. I remember watching the Speech Category participants and thinking that it would be amazing to be able to do it someday.”

You got First Prize in the contest, which means you won a free return plane ticket to Japan from JAL! What did you do in Japan?

“My trip to Japan was amazing as expected. As I'd already visited most of Honshu while studying abroad in Tokyo, I decided to visit Kyushu, since I'd never been there. Great experience! I visited Fukuoka, Nagasaki and its beautiful bay with so much history; Kagoshima and Kumamoto, with its incredible castle and Inari shrine! But the best part was definitely my onsen (hot spring) tour, travelling around the Oita prefecture and surround by beautiful natural landscapes.”

Do you have any funny stories to share from your time in Japan?

“There was the time when I accidentally walked into an empty onsen for men, realising it was the wrong one only when a group of naked middle-aged men walked in (with my consequent scream and running away naked)!”

Haha, oh dear! So what are you doing now?

“I'm currently in charge of digital sales for the Asian market at Penguin Random House UK, a book publishing house. Before that I worked as a reporter/assistant correspondent for the London bureau of the Chunichi Shimbun/Tokyo Shimbun. “

Have your Japanese language skills been useful for these jobs?

“I use my Japanese when dealing with Japanese clients and that's extremely helpful. I certainly used it more when I worked at the newspaper since the two journalists were Japanese and spoke little English. Nevertheless, being able to speak Japanese is definitely an advantage even when dealing with Asia in general.”

How has taking part in (and winning!) the Speech Contest helped you in your career?

“Winning the contest frequently came up during job interviews, as it's quite an impressive achievement. It certainly is a proof that I can speak Japanese as a lot of employers are worried that people say they speak a language without actually being able to. It also shows initiative, proactivity and the ability to research and speak in public about a topic, skills that are very valued by employers nowadays. So it definitely helped me in my career. It adds something special to the CV that others are less likely to have, and anything that sets you apart is always good!”

Finally, do you have a message for all those thinking of applying for the contest this year?

“Being able to take part in such a challenging competition was the greatest reward after studying Japanese for four years . When I took part in the contest, many classmates who definitely stood a chance of winning or getting the top prizes did not apply out of fear (and I was almost one of them), so it'd be great if in the future more students feel encouraged to try.”

We’d like to thank Giulia for taking the time to catch up with us, and we wish her the best of luck for all her future plans. 頑張ってください!

You can read a full report from the 9th University Speech Contest here.

Why not try yourself?! Applications for the Twelfth Speech Contest are now open – find out more and apply here

The return flight to Japan was generously provided by Japan Airlines.