Reflecting upon my internship in Japan
When reflecting upon my internship in Japan it is hard to look past all the collection of little experiences that shaped my time abroad.
The commencement of this internship required me to leave everything that I knew for an extended period of time and immerse myself into a culture that I have never been exposed to before. It was scary and terrifying, but also exciting!
In addition to me leaving my calm and peaceful home environment on the Gold Coast, Australia, I now had to complete international travel. Due to the global pandemic this is something I have unfortunately been unable to do. This is heightened my anxious emotions leading up to my internship as I rarely found myself in unfamiliar situations at home, as I was so comfortable and familiar with my environment and circle of friends and family.
This all changed three months ago in November of 2022 when I packed up myself and my belongings and moved to Japan for 8 weeks!
I would be lying if I said it wasn’t the most daunting and nerve-racking experience of my life so far. I was travelling to a new country, alone. I was moving to a new country, alone. I was unable to speak the country’s native language. I didn’t know my way around Tokyo. But looking back and reflecting on my experience, I believe that it was the best thing I could have ever done for myself. This experience forced me to step outside of my comfort zone. It forced me to adapt to new situations. It forced me to get comfortable being uncomfortable! My time abroad taught me so much about myself and about life. It has positively influenced all future seasons of my life.
There are three major lessons that I distilled from my experience in Japan.
Firstly, I had to learn to let go of all expectations.
Prior to leaving Australia, I had researched all that I could to find out absolutely everything I could about Japan; like we all do before we travel to a new destination. I knew all the popular dishes I would be eating. The major locations in Tokyo. I had learnt about the values of the people of Japan. I had deduced that public transport was going to initially (and most likely continuously) be a frantic experience.
I thought I had learnt everything that I could about the place I would be calling “home” for six weeks. However, as soon as I stepped off the plane at Haneda airport, I realised that nothing could have prepared me for the new culture I was about to experience. I was forced to forget my preconceived concepts of Japan and be receptive to the concept that I was unable to prepare for what I was about to experience – for someone who loves to be in control, this was extremely challenging. However, through allowing myself to experience new and unexpected possibilities, I enabled my time abroad to be the most fulfilling experience. So whilst I encourage researching your future destinations, I also strongly urge that you don’t let it dictate how you are going to perceive your surroundings. I quickly learnt to let go of my expectations and immerse myself into the Japanese culture, not the western perception of it. I lived the best six weeks of my life, beyond the crowded streets and bright lights, and by the end I was pretty efficient at navigating the public transport system.
My second lesson would have to be getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Traveling to a different country, experiencing a different culture, and immersing yourself into an unknown culture, is going to be uncomfortable for everyone. We all have our ideal normal and are forced to step out of our comfort zone when travelling. Whilst living in Japan I was constantly surrounded by environments that I have never been exposed to before making me uncomfortable as a result. This is what Japan is though – It is an experience that surrounds you. Every day is different, and they are filled with discoveries that unravel and highlight the cultural differences between the western worlds. Particularly for me, every action and encounter really highlighted the cultural differences between Japan and Australia. The bright lights, loud music, and large crowds of people made it extremely hard to process everything that was happening around me, and even harder to find similarities with home. I was forced out of my comfort zone and into a different state of being comfortable with being uncomfortable. I found that once I embraced my new mentality and changed my headspace, it was easier to embrace the true nature of Japan and fully immerse myself into the culture. I was no longer comparing Japan to home, and I was treating it as a new season of life. I loved my new season of life, it became one that I was unable to plan for and was constantly exposed to the unexpected. At the end of my six weeks abroad, I had adapted completely to life in Japan, things that I used to find unusual didn’t faze me at all. I know that if I had not left my mental comfort zone I would not have been able to have had the experiences that I did.
Lastly, one of the biggest lessons I learnt was that of humility.
Completing my internship in Japan exposed me to different cultures, perspectives, and beliefs. This was my first internship, and it allowed me to put my knowledge that I had gained at university to practical use. Whilst I was able utilise things that I had learnt at university, I also very quickly learnt that there is so much to learn in the post graduate world. I also learnt that what you think is the answer, most likely isn’t, and that’s okay! I found that one of the most positive experiences within the workplace environment was learning to contribute my opinion and viewpoint to team discussions. This allowed for the combination of various minds and multiple ideas and enabled the constant growth and development of my knowledge and practical skills. Interning within an office abroad has helped me to see that just because someone does something differently to what I have been taught at university, doesn’t mean that it is wrong.
We are all constantly learning and evolving from one another, especially in the quickly accelerating field of social media. It also highlighted the importance to recognise that it is rare for one single person to have the answer to a question, and that we shouldn’t expect for people to know absolutely everything.
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