My name is Crystal, I’m a French student who wants to work with Japan in the future. In order to acquire some professional experience, I decided to do an internship in a Japanese company during the summer break. I was welcome by the company named Boundless, whose goal is to empower some rural areas of Japan with an international perspective. I worked in an office in Tokyo during the first week, and then spent the other two months in Ishinomaki (Miyagi prefecture, Tohoku). I also took part of one-week programs organized by Boundless in Minami Ashigara, Ishinomaki and Shimokawa.
Every day was different thanks to the task-oriented working style of the company. I definitely enjoyed this internship, and wanted to share with you how much it brought to me.
First, I acquired or improved the following employability skills:
Network building. I was to meet A LOT of people during this internship, both Japanese and international, both friends and work connections. In addition to social networks, Dennis provided me with business cards in my name which enabled me to easily exchange contact details every time I formally introduced myself to someone.
Self-management. Dennis (my boss) and I constantly shared ideas on what I could do regarding the goals of the company. Once decided, we agreed on a deadline and I was left on my own to accomplish the task, so I could arrange personal and professional schedule as I wished as long as I did the work. This entrustment and autonomy I was given was as rewarding as handy since it enabled me to do part-time jobs when I was lacking money.
Teamwork and problem solving. The Minami Ashigara Program I had the chance to attend during this internship was to me both a life lesson and a teamwork efficient training. You can read my report on this program for more details.
Creativity. In addition to Boundless’ own projects, the company has several co-organized projects in which I was involved too, such as a Grenoble-Ishinomaki presentation making with high school students or an interactive presentation about France during a cooking event. My creative spirit was challenged as I am more used to an academic public, while here the target varied from families and elderly people to students and workers.
Communication. Despite the barrier language with people in Ishinomaki who only spoke Japanese, I had to communicate somehow for work purpose. This a real challenge during the first month since I stayed alone in Ishinomaki and had to do interviews with locals. After this not only my Japanese improved, but also my use of body language and of any other means to understand people and make myself understandable.
Translation skills. Every day I wrote a personal blog in French about my internship and trip in general, before translating it to English to post it on my company’s Facebook page, which was a good translation training.
Second, I learnt a lot from my environment, and particularly about:
The issue of regional revitalization. I never heard about these words before applying for the internship, and even after it sounded only like big words to me. Now I could experience and identify some of the problems the rural areas are facing and how they are trying to cope with it, I became familiar with this issue and realized the emergency of dealing with it.
Resilience, Innovation and community building. Ishinomaki is an impressive town in terms of recovery and long-term oriented post-disaster initiatives. The city has done so well these last years that now no one would guess it’s been struck by a tsunami 7 years ago without the information center.
Learning and self-questioning. Staying in the “countryside” (which is nothing less than a human-sized city) and living among the locals made me learn a lot about Japanese culture and language. This internship encouraged me to listen to and to question people around me, so now I can understand better the differences between western and Japanese ways of thinking. This definitely resulted in broadening my own thinking map.
Knowledge sharing. Far from being a passive listener and executor, this internship allowed me to share my experiences and knowledge numerous times, during consulting for the company’s projects, presentations about my country and hometown and language teaching among others.
“How to” many random but useful things. Thanks to all the people I met, now I’m able to open oysters, to prepare sashimi, to build furniture, to make mosaic, to play Kin-ball (a Canadian sport), and I acquired basic skills in bartending.
I am thankful for all these experiences, but what made me think I couldn’t have found a better internship was the opportunity I had to be part of the community. Everyone who’s been here will tell you: Ishinomaki residents are warmhearted and welcoming. It didn’t take a week for me to feel at home here. Although it can feel awkward to be a foreigner in most places of Japan, Ishinomaki people soon became a big family to me and now I know that I will always be welcome when I come back.
During my stay here, I had the chance to be involved in some local events, such as the River Festival in the end of July where I helped a meat store who needed staffs to sell meat and drinks, or a one-night bartending in a cozy pub for a French night. I was surprised how lively the city is, between the numerous small festivals and the strong community spirit which results in the organization of random events where I was often invited to.
Not to mention that I was brought to more bars and restaurants during these two months than during a whole university year.
Long story short, I learnt about myself, I leant about Japan, I acquired new skills, and I made memories that I will always remember thanks to people I will never forget.