Not all internships are successful. Brent
Jacobs worked as a systems engineer at a tool manufacturing company
near Nagoya. He ended his internship after three months because of an
overall unpleasant experience.
"My case was of an internship
that just didn't work out," Brent said. "I had worked at a Japanese
company before, and that experience was completely different. It was
great." But at this particular office, Brent discovered he had an
unresolvable personality conflict with his boss. This person wouldn't
give Brent responsibility, talked down to him, and didn't treat him
Living alone in the company dorm and having no
friends, Brent felt isolated. Upon leaving work at 5:30 p.m., he simply
went back to his dorm room. After several weeks, Brent found he had
lost 20 pounds.
"I tried to change things, but that didn't
seem to work." After talking to his boss and others about the situation
and seeing no improvement, Brent decided it was best to end the
internship. Although Brent departed prematurely, he completed all of
his work assignments to the satisfaction of his supervisors, and he met
the internship requirements.
Brent advises going on an
internship with the clear goal of learning the language, and beyond
that having few expectations. "Don't expect that they know or even care
about your educational level," he says. "They'll assume you don't know
how to do anything." New Japanese recruits often face the same
treatment: being required to start at the very beginning in spite of
their advanced university education. Nonetheless, Brent's Japanese
training stood him in good stead--he landed a job at Microsoft in
charge of international network sites such as msn.com.
O'Keefe's experience was quite a contrast to Brent's. "From day one of
my arrival at Nippon Steel Corporation, I was treated well," he said.
Michael spent six months at Nippon Steel Corporation in Futtsu, Chiba
Prefecture, working on a project that involved heat transfer in the
"Nippon Steel knows how to have interns,"
Michael said. "Some companies don't, even in the United States." Most
of the interns at Nippon Steel were foreigners, but Michael was told he
was the first one from the United States.
"Whenever I had a
question or concern, someone was there to help me. The help I received
was not exclusive to company issues, either. On one occasion, my
supervisor, Mr. Nakagawa, took me in his own car to the far off city
government center so that I could register for my alien registration
card even though he was very busy. And some days at work he would sit
down and spend hours discussing a part of my project."
found his co-workers also to be very welcoming. "All of my co-workers
were very helpful. I really felt like part of the group. My supervisor
and many co-workers invited me home, so I got to use the dialogues we
had learned in the Technical Japanese Program. In fact, many of the
daily situations and interactions I had at work were part of the TJP
curriculum. Going there knowing how to deal with those situations gave
me great confidence."
Michael advises future interns to do two
things. (1.) Contact the people you'll be working with in advance of
going over. These people will most likely be more than happy to talk
with you about what you can expect, how you can prepare, and what you
should bring. (2.) Have something to do that's a stress-reliever. For
me, it was jogging. Other than that, I guess all you really need is a
positive attitude and an open mind."