Diana O, Bachelor of Creative Industries
Ritsumeikan University Japanese Winter Program (Jan – Feb 2017)
It was at the beginning of summer when I decided I needed a change, so QUT’s short-term mobility program in Japan was the perfect opportunity to do something productive in holidays while continuing my Japanese studies. Ritsumeikan University is located on the north side of Kyoto, close to Kinkakuji Temple; the campus offers a brand new library, computer labs, convenient stores, numerous vending machines, and several co-op restaurants that are cheap and offer delicious food. Generally a lunch at the co-op restaurant is between 5 to 8 AUD.
As part of the Ritsumeikan Winter Japanese Program, I stayed at Taishogun International Dorm, which belongs to the university. The accommodation is only a 15 minutes walk to Ritsumeikan. The dorm is a modern, close to affordable restaurants, supermarkets, Emmachi Train station and buses. Living in a dorm is an essential part of the experience as you live and share most of your time with the other students. This was a wonderful opportunity to make new friends and meet people from other cultures.
When you do an intensive language program there is a lot of content covered in a small period of time. This short-term program runs for 5 weeks, so you need to continuously study throughout the program in order to keep up with the content. Additionally we had Japanese cultural studies, 3 times a week, which were my favorite as we had the opportunity to meet Geiko-san and Maiko-san (Geishas), do pottery, cook Japanese food, play traditional Wadaiko drums and so much more.
Living in Kyoto was fantastic. Kyoto is considered Japan’s cultural capital; it has over 2000 shrines and temples plus 17 Unesco world heritage sites. In a magical way the city is able to blend tradition and technology seamlessly, thus making Kyoto one of the most exciting places to visit in Japan. Thanks to the excellent transport system, I was able to take day trips to Osaka, Nara, Kobe, etc. My time in Kyoto gave me the opportunity to take risks, experience another culture, explore new things and make new friends. If given the chance I will do the short-term program again.
If you are interested in undertaking a short-term program during the QUT semester breaks, check out the QUT Global Portal for more information.
So you’d be correct in assuming that, upon hearing I’d managed to organise an internship, I was mildly terrified. What if I hated the work? What if I hated the people? What if I broke something important? What if I offended all their clients? What if I was wasting my time and money?
You see, realistically, the internship had very little to do with what I’m studying. I’m a second year journalism student, and I undertook my internship with a Queensland based trade organisation, who have offices worldwide (including in Tokyo, where I worked). These two fields have about as much in common as a hedgehog and a spoon. And yet, during my albeit short stint in the office, I was able to acquire and/or practice skills that are universally desired in the job market.
I primarily performed administration and research tasks applicable to the Queensland education, resources and agriculture sectors while in the office. I did everything from filing and making cups of tea, to attending an event at the Australian embassy, and researching opportunities for the practical application of drones in Queensland. However, through it all, I was able to develop and practice skills and qualities that are essential in any workplace, such as; teamwork, communication, attention to detail, organisation and time management.
Within 48 hours of starting my internship, all my fears were calmed. The work I was tasked with, although not something I’d usually do, was interesting; the people I worked with were welcoming and willing to work with me, even though I had no previous experience and my Japanese skills were severely lacking; and, above all else, this experience was not even close to a waste of my time and money.
For anyone considering undertaking an internship, whether domestically or abroad, I could not recommend it more. If you throw yourself into it and make the most of every opportunity to learn, you’ll come out the side with learning outcomes that are applicable to literally any field. Honestly, if I enjoyed it, you’re bound to also. At the very least, you come out of it with an experience to add to your CV and impress future employers with.
In the second semester of 2016 I was afforded the opportunity to study abroad at Ritsumeikan University, Osaka, Japan. During that time, I also undertook an internship with Japan’s longest-running independent English publication, Kyoto Journal.
Initially focusing on Japan, specifically the ancient capital of Kyoto, the quarterly magazine has broadened over the past thirty years to include insights and perspectives from all of Asia. The publication is run and produced by an incredibly talented and committed team of volunteers based locally, nationally, and internationally.
I discovered Kyoto Journal while searching for articles about Japan, trying to do some ‘pre-reading’ before I arrived in a new country. I loved the style of the magazine and was interested in the articles and the volunteer nature of the publication, so I emailed them to see how I could get involved. If you’re on exchange (or even if you haven’t left yet) and you find an organisation that you’re really interested in – reach out to them! You never know what might happen.
My role as an intern varied quite a lot. I did research, collaborated with other volunteers to build information databases, participated in brainstorming for new projects and PR, interviewed a local apprentice artisan, provided feedback on a crowdfunding campaign, and helped to prepare for an upcoming photography exhibition. Kyoto Journal does not have a designated office space, so work was done and meetings were held in coffee shops, public spaces and at Impact Hub Kyoto, a co-working space to which Kyoto Journal has a membership. I enjoyed this transient and collaborative approach to working, which also allowed me to see parts of Kyoto that I would not have otherwise encountered.
The volunteer nature of the work meant that the entirety of the Kyoto Journal team that I met, whether online or face-to-face, were very committed to and excited by what they were doing. Being a volunteer also allowed for a great deal of flexibility – I was based in Osaka and studying full-time, so it was understood if I could not make it to Kyoto on short notice. Everyone else has jobs, families and other commitments as well, which makes for a dynamic and engaged team – volunteers who have made time in their lives to be involved. Everyone wants to be there and bring their best to the job.
As far as I know, this flexibility and work-life balance is atypical of jobs in Japan, but I would assume that this comes down to the fact that involvement with the editorial side of Kyoto Journal is entirely volunteer-based.
Despite my short stay, lasting only a few months, I was made to feel very welcome and valued. It was incredibly rewarding to work with such a passionate, talented, diverse group of people and I’m very grateful to the Kyoto Journal team for allowing me to be involved with this unique publication. I’m looking forward to being involved in their Kyoto photography exhibition when I return to Japan in April!