[Fellow – Interview]Santiago Martinez
Engineering & Designing a better future
2nd Generation Fellow
Languages: English, Spanish, French
Hobbies: Storytelling, Swimming, Food
Santiago is a person with immense curiosity and a robust appetite for learning. He is always looking to try new things, especially if they are food or travel related. He believes that the more things you do outside your comfort zone, the more you get to know who you are.
Santiago was born and raised in Bogota for 18 years. Once he graduated high school, he went to the United States to study mechanical engineering at the University of Notre Dame. During his studies, he got awarded two fellowships to research nanotechnology and took advanced classes on wind turbine design alongside the design of energy-efficient buildings.
After college, he went to Micronesia for a year as a volunteer teacher. He taught English, Geometry and Chemistry to juniors and seniors of a public high school. He then returned to Colombia where he worked in the R&D department of a security glass manufacturer for a year before travelling to Japan to join AYF.
How did you get interested in Japan?
“Japan has been present in several stages of my life. When I was a kid, my Saturday mornings consisted of me watching Dragon Ball on the local TV channels. In high school, I decided to study engineering after learning about the Japanese earthquake prevention mechanisms in my physics class.
Japan was a distant dream at the time. A magical place that I would never visit. But then, during my time in Micronesia, I met an interesting JICA volunteer that told me I should look for opportunities in Japan. I was impressed by the way he thought and how he approached problem-solving. I knew then I had to come to Japan to learn more about the Japanese way of thinking.”
Where do you get your “go get it” attitude from?
“My parents, no question about it. They come from a humble background. Both were born in a small rural village in Colombia. They had to face hardship since a young age but always overcame whatever obstacles in their way. Through creative thinking and resourcefulness, they became the successful professionals they are today.
They are also amazing human beings in general. They focused all their resources on giving my brothers and me the best education possible to ensure we had a bright future. They worked very hard to ensure we always had food on the table, yet never made us feel like we were a burden to them. On top of all that, one of the biggest lessons I learned was that integrity is essential for life. You cannot sacrifice your principles as a shortcut to success. My parents are not perfect, but I would not change them for the world. I am very proud and lucky to stand on the shoulders of these giants.”
Why did you decide to apply to AYF?
“I was looking for an opportunity to work abroad. I have come to realize that I thrive in an environment which is outside my comfort zone. That is why AYF seemed like a perfect setting for me. Up until now, my life had been very western-focused. That is why learning from the rich Japanese culture seemed like the ideal next step for me. It would help me gain an entirely new perspective on life.
Apart from this, AYF would allow me to work in a multicultural and multidisciplinary environment. The last factor that convinced me to take the leap and apply was the focus on social problem-solving. There was no way I wasn’t going to apply for a program that aimed to have a high social impact and offered an exciting challenge in a country rich in history and culture.”
What do you want to accomplish at AYF?
“I want to learn. I want to see Japan through the eyes of the locals and explore everything that this country has to offer. I want to reinvent myself through the experiences I have with other fellows and the people I will meet along the way. I want to develop soft skills that can be useful in whatever career path I end up following. I want to learn how to get the best out of other people, regardless of their background.
Apart from self-development, one of my main challenges here is to come up with an innovative idea and have a tangible product to show by the end of the year. I have a couple of ideas in mind already. I want to use virtual reality for the people around the world to experience the majestic nature and almost-tangible mysticism of this island. I also want to use the vast knowledge and expertise of all the fellows to develop tools that can teach complex concepts like the SDGs to any person regardless of their education level or socio-cultural background. My dream is to improve many peoples lives, so working on these ideas is a great step towards achieving it.
If you are interested in the Awaji Youth Federation program or would like to be one of next year’s fellows, then please head over to the AYF program website.
There you can find all the information about the program’s admission process for the chance to be selected and join us here in Japan!