Updated: Aug 2, 2022
THE WAY Returnees Edition introduces women who continue to shine and empower themselves even after returning to Japan by making use of their experiences abroad.
This time we meet manga (Japanese-style comic) artist and illustrator, Amy, who has previously lived in Australia.
Amy started working as an assistant for a manga illustrator from the age of 17 and gained interest in living abroad after she went overseas for the first time. At the age of 24, she quit her job as an assistant and went to Australia to study on a working holiday visa. During that time, her manga essay describing her life abroad gained popularity on Instagram.
Amy shares her experience in Australia, what she’s been doing since then and how it’s changed her mindset to live more freely and become selfish with her life.
From being a Manga Artist Assistant to moving abroad like she’s always wanted to
Amy has loved drawing ever since she can remember. When she was in fifth grade, she read a manga called, ‘Children’s Toys’ which impressed her so much, she wanted to become a manga artist.
The manga artist who she was working for took staff on an overseas trip every year. The first year, they went to Malaysia which was also Amy’s first time travelling overseas.
“I remember seeing the streets of Malaysia and feeling like I was in a virtual world like in a video game! I instantly fell in love with travelling and I knew I wanted to live abroad one day.”
At the time, Amy was unable to feel passionate about anything besides work and each year, she felt like she spent so much time doing nothing that she couldn’t remember what she had done over the years. She wondered if her life was going to go on without any challenges or making new friends and that’s when she decided she’d move overseas.
It was a big decision for Amy who had always relied on her mother and sister and rarely took risks on her own because she was afraid.
“Lots of people around me were going to Australia on working holiday visas so naturally, I decided to go there as well."
After deciding to move abroad, she set aside time every day to study English. She saved 1 million yen (approximately AUD/USD $10,000) for her study abroad fund. When she told her workplace that she was leaving to study abroad, her manager supported her with a big smile on their face.
On being an artist in Australia
Amy spent the first six months studying English in Brisbane and the following six months working on a farm in Queensland to obtain a second visa. In Australia, there is a ‘second visa’ system that allows you to extend your visa for one year if you do seasonal or regional work for at least 88 days during your working holiday period.
After successfully obtaining a second visa, Amy moved to Melbourne at the beginning of her second year in Australia and began teaching manga and Japanese to children and working as an assistant to a Japanese manga artist online.
“I found the job on a website called 'Gumtree’ which allows you to apply for jobs and recruit students.”
The children's painting class was attended by about 10 children living in Australia. She also taught children in their homes, at libraries and food courts on how to copy, draw faces and sometimes make original Pokemon characters together.
“I got nervous every time but the kids really enjoyed it and it was therapeutic for me."
Amy also used an app called ‘Ganmo’ which connects cartoonists to assistants and at times would take on the work of five cartoonists. She was able to work remotely and as long as she confirmed dates, timelines and deadlines, after receiving a request, she could work flexibly. This allowed Amy to use all her skills she had developed in Japan while living overseas.
How Amy improved her English
Amy's main purpose for coming to Australia was to study English. Before coming, Amy could barely speak English but by the end of her two years in Australia, she accelerated her improvement to the point where she was able to have daily conversations without feeling self-conscious about her English speaking skills.
Amy’s secret is to use English in any way. It’s important to practise consistently.
For example, when Amy took the train one time, she was double charged and had to call the office. Making phone calls in English is a very difficult challenge abroad and Amy learned English bit by bit as she confronted these minor but significant issues on a daily basis.
“Challenges and small problems occurred everyday but I had to deal with them myself because nobody else would. Each time, I would ask and talk to my flatmates and friends and we’d get through it.”
Amy says that people in Brisbane are really kind and if you are in trouble, someone will always help you. The weather is usually nice, there are lots of large parks and Amy loves waterfront night views in particular.
How Amy’s manga essay on Instagram gained popularity
After returning from Australia, Amy began posting manga essays on Instagram depicting the experiences and emotions she felt in Australia in addition to working on her online contracted assistant work.
For example, the cartoon ‘Trying to Live More Freely and Selfishly’ is about Beth, a German woman Amy met at a farm which received a strong response as it depicted how she was shocked by Beth's seemingly unprecedented and refreshingly free way of life. Amy was unknowingly stuck in a situation bound by common sense, money and other practical obligations.
Amy received a message from a reader who read her manga, saying, "I was at a crossroads and was having a hard time but I decided to choose the thing I want to do.”
The funny manga essays about failures and surprises are full of learning, laughter and even a little horror. They are easy to read quickly and easily but also provide insights into each theme of living abroad.
“I hope that through my manga, I can make people feel closer to foreign countries and give that push to those who are unsure if they want to go abroad."
When Amy was in Japan, she had a tendency to overthink things like, "Did I say too much?" or "I didn't mean it that way...".
However, since coming to Australia, she has had to communicate in a language that is not her mother tongue which has inevitably led to more straightforward communication. This has made it easier for her because she no longer has to overthink unnecessarily.
When you go to a new place, you feel like a new person. If you are on the fence about studying abroad, take the plunge and dive into a new environment.
Passions and interests changing overtime
Amy always wanted to be a manga artist but as she gained more and more experience, she gradually decided that she wanted to take a different path.
She also taught painting and worked as a portrait artist but these didn’t click with her. After trying many things, she finally found something that she wanted to continue in the long-term: creating handmade cartoon essays and illustrations for Instagram.
Aside from her day job, Amy is also interested in environmental issues and became vegan a year ago. When she learned that animals are sacrificed during the development of cosmetics and daily necessities and livestock farming being one of the factors contributing to global warming, her desire to create a planet where humans and animals can coexist grew.
“Living abroad has overturned what I once believed was common sense and I think it has helped me to become more open minded. In the process, I have come to think that I want what I eat and wear to be as non-harmful to animals as possible.”
My dream for the future is to publish a book about my workaholic experience and to create picture books that educate children about the earth and animals.
However, now that her experience abroad has built her confidence, she says she has learned to trust her instincts and choose what she feels is right.
Check out Amy’s cartoon essays on Instagram @amylifey. We look forward to seeing Amy conquer her next challenges.
Thank you for reading this, and We are always here for you !
Women can fly.
Much love, xxx
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