• University
    University of Michigan
  • Major
    Cognitive Science / Linguistics
  • Japanese Skill Level
  • Position
    Intern – Business Administration

How did you become interested in Japan?

Well, like, I suppose there’s two answers. The first answer is, I studied Linguistics in college. I studied Cognitive Science with a focus in Language and growing up, my mother, she’s a polyglot, so I’ve always been interested in languages because of her experience. When I got into college, I already spoke Spanish and English, but I wanted to take another language. And you know, I had gone to Japan just on a whim for my graduation trip out of high school. I loved it. I was only here for 10 days in Tokyo, but I love being here.

During my time here during the vacation, though, I wished I could have spoken to people. I wished I could have communicated. I wished I didn’t have to be pointing and grunting the entire time. So, I decided to take Japanese in college. I did a year of Japanese in college and I’m like, “All right, great. I’m going to study abroad!,” and I decided to study abroad. Through those experiences, I just became more and more in love with Japan and living in Japan, the people, the culture… And the other answer’s the one everybody gives; I watched anime.

I picked up a skill that I had no idea I was going to get.

How has your internship been?

I enjoy the people I work with, enjoy the company… it’s basically hit all the goals that I wanted to achieve during this internship to learn about what it’s like to work at a Japanese company, learn about the work culture, to learn about what skills might be useful for applying [to jobs in] or working in Japan, all these things I learned throughout my job. And, I also came away with skills that I didn’t expect to learn. You know, I did a lot of programming tasks, a lot of engineering-type tasks, which is stuff I had no idea I was gonna end up doing, but I did it just by chance because my mentor does programming and engineering, and so he gave me some tasks and I loved it.

You had a lot of time communicating with the CEO. How was it different talking with him vs. your supervisor?

You know what, I was more nervous of my supervisor than I was of the CEO! The supervisor intimidated me. The CEO?… I think it’s just because it’s his personality, but he’s very frank. He’s very forward. He’s very, like, let’s just get straight to business, none of the formalities. It’s always a lot easier to talk with him, a lot easier to communicate things.

When I had a question, I could ask them any time.

Did you mostly use Japanese on the job?

It was 100% Japanese. The only times I spoke English, we set up. Aside from the English lessons in the morning, obviously. I worked with my co-workers to set up every week on Wednesday an English lunch to get some of the other employees involved. I got to meet a lot of different employees from all the different divisions, and practice English together, talk about American culture, talk about Japanese culture, you know, cultural exchange type stuff.

Aside from just day-to-day talking in the office and working together, I went out with some coworkers sometimes, we went out drinking a couple times, and you know, hang out outside of work. It was a little difficult, I’l admit, because of my schedule, because I did 8 to 5, and they do 9 to 6, plus overtime… Trying to line that up as a bit difficult, but we managed in the end. We had a couple get-togethers.

What was a typical weekend for you like?

Typical weekend was one day of travel, one day of trying to recover from work. I tried to take advantage of my free time. The weather hasn’t really cooperated with me. But when it did, I did a couple of short trips around Tokyo and the surrounding area. I went to the ushiku dai-butsu. It’s huge, the biggest, biggest Buddhist statue. I think it’s like 200 meters or something. Yeah, it’s huge, it’s huge. You can see it from the station, and you can just see it looming in the distance. If you see it from the right angle, though, it looks like it’s doing a Kamehameha pose. If there’s sunshine, the sun lines up with the hands. It’s awesome.

What are your hobbies and interests and have you been able to continue them while in Japan?

I mean in terms of hobbies and interests, language is my hobby. And so, you know, day-to-day, it’s kind of hard to not do that… But outside of, you know, just really practicing language, I like manga, reading manga. I live in Nakano, it’s not very hard very hard to find manga. And yeah, just keeping up with friends. That’s mostly what I do on the weekends.

Are there any experiences that you're especially proud of from your internship?

I suppose work-wise, there’s something I put together… so my job was mainly writing labor-saving type robots to help save time. And seeing one of those robots I helped make be put into action, and save somebody a lot of time and effort, was really satisfying. I sat down, I got the task, and I did the whole thing and now it’s being put to use in the company and it will be put to use for the near future. So the fact that I’ve left something behind, my name is somewhere in some code, it feels like kind of a legacy.

Do you have any advice for future interns about working in a Japanese company?

Don’t be nervous. You know, people are understanding, especially for a foreigner, people know you’re going to make mistakes, it’s fine. You’re an intern. That’s what this is for, you’re supposed to make mistakes. I got told and reminded many times like, “Hey, you should really be doing this,” or, “You really shouldn’t be doing that,” and that’s fine. Don’t take it like they’re attacking you, or that you’re just a horrible intern or something like that. They’re helping. They’re giving you advice about what it’s like to work and to function in a company. Don’t get nervous, and don’t get disheartened if things don’t work, just try to communicate. They are a hundred percent open. If you’re struggling with something, just tell them.

Hear from other JCP & SJIP participants:

The company that hired me after my internship was surprisingly friendly. I used to think that all Japanese companies were really strict, but now I know that's not always true.
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I think I cannot call my coworkers my friends, but I can call them my best friends. We have like minds and a great relationship.
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SJIP really helped me negotiate my living arrangements and make my transition as simple as possible. They showed continued interest in my well-being while I was in Japan and checked in with me regularly to provide support.
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I think an internship in Japan is a great idea if you are considering working in Japan, because you can find out if you like the Japanese working environment, enjoy living in Japan, etc.
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