The Japan Forum on International Relations, Japan
This summer, I had the pleasure of interning at the Japan Forum on International Relations (JFIR), located in Tokyo. The JFIR is a private, nonprofit, independent and nonpartisan think tank on foreign policy and international relations. I mainly focused on issues relating to East and Southeast Asia, the ASEAN+3 countries.
As it was located in Japan, my internship was almost fully conducted in Japanese. Most of the meetings, both in-person and online, were in Japanese, and so were the presentations. While I had considered myself bilingual, the language used by specialists and professionals was completely different to what I was used to, and so it was both a great hurdle to overcome and a tremendous opportunity to advance my linguistic abilities. I immediately noticed the substantial differences in Japanese office culture. Seniority is extremely important and infiltrates every part of one’s job, ranging from the tenses used when speaking to one’s superior, to the mannerisms that are expected when they arrive or walk by. My commute was a little more than an hour each day, and I lived almost fully as a local, contributing to a great cultural experience for me as well. As I am considering working for several years in Japan, this was an invaluable starting point for that goal.
While most of my work was in Japanese, I was able to make good use of my English-speaking ability as well as what I’ve learned in America. I documented the meeting minutes of the Japanese and English meetings, which allowed me to review the contents and expand my Japanese vocabulary. I also was given the task of finding three possible candidates to invite as speakers for an event in the fall. For this, I was asked to research various American opinions on East Asian regionalism and ASEAN+3. The meetings I attended ranged from focusing on issues concerning defense and security, the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as means and goals for achieving carbon neutrality. For many of the working group meetings, researchers were invited from their respective countries to discuss various issues, exposing me to the specific problems certain regions were facing and a range of perspectives. For a potential career relating to international relations, I believe it is particularly beneficial to consider multiple viewpoints, and being based in Japan I was able to reorient myself. With all of these meeting attendees, I was able to hold conversations and build my network, another vital tool for the future.
This experience solidified my interest in the field and my desire to study it for graduate school. I also plan to continue seeking internships and research opportunities in other countries as I discovered the value of adapting to a new environment and lifestyle.
I deeply appreciate this opportunity provided by the Class of 1972 and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration, which shielded me from worries regarding taking an international internship and living in another country. Thank you so much.