Outlook: Ohio University News & Information

Expanded horizons: Interns improve language, cultural skills in Japan

Nov 20, 2009
By Lauren Bee

This is the final story in this student-led and -written Outlook series highlighting the distinctive summer experiences of students and faculty from across the academic spectrum.

Imagine, on the first day of your summer internship, being instructed to do stretching exercises in the morning by a voice over the PA system -- in Japanese. That was the start of a typical day for Michael Marion, a senior electrical engineering and computer science major, at his summer internship in Saitama, Japan.

"I never imagined four years ago I would be doing this," Marion said.

Marion and sophomore online journalism major Meghan Ventura earned internships in Japan this summer, funded by the Ohio-Saitama Internship Program through Ohio State University. Marion and Ventura were two of three students from Ohio colleges who were selected to participate. The program matches students with a company in Japan, allowing them to experience Japanese business and culture first hand.

Marion interned at Nakagawa Manufacturing, a paper manufacturing company, at its headquarters in the city of Warabi. Ventura worked with Bushu Gas in the city of Kawagoe.

"One of the main reasons I wanted to go was to figure out if I could work internationally," Ventura said. "I think what this internship taught me was I really would enjoy working in an international environment. Every day's different, every day's a challenge."

At Bushu Gas, Ventura had a variety of responsibilities, including writing a hand-written daily report in Japanese. She was also able to visit seven different companies during her stay, including a newspaper company, a radio station and a TV station.

Ventura is minoring in Japanese and East Asian studies. She said the language and culture interested her because she liked the style of storytelling she saw in films, games, media and comic books from Japan.

Marion is in his third year on the Athens campus, and previously studied at Zane State College and the Ohio University-Zanesville campus.

During his internship, Marion said it was essential for him to know about the formality and respect he was expected to show toward people who were higher in the company hierarchy than he was. He said that American students and business people can get very casual in working relationships, but if he acted the same way in Japan, his behavior would be offensive and rude.

"In Japanese society, when you're talking to your professors or your superiors at work, once that relationship has been established that they are your superior, you have to always, always, always act that way," he said.

Another benefit Marion gained from his internship was practice with the language. 

"Because of the way it was set up, I would have to go four or five days at a time without being able to speak English to anybody," he said. "That got me a lot faster (at) being able to come up with what I needed to say."

Ohio State University provided a travel grant to the participating students, covering $750 of each of their airplane tickets. The companies the students interned at also provided a roughly $500 stipend for travel and other expenses. Marion and Ventura both stayed with different families during the six weeks, and Ventura said her families wouldn't let her pay for anything.

"Through a quirk in math, the internship there actually cost me less than staying the summer at OU would have," Marion said.

Marion and Ventura are no strangers to Japan -- they both participated in the Chubu University exchange program, studying at Ohio University's partner institution for six months during the fall and winter quarters of the 2008-09 school year.



Published: Nov 20, 2009 1:54 PM

Saitama Interns

OHIO interns Michael Marion (center) and Maghan Ventura pose with fellow intern Troy Smith at the annual "Hundred Lanterns Festival" in Kawagoe City, the headquarters of Bushu Gas. Every year Bushu Gas has two floats in the festival, one carried by hand (called a mikoshi), and one pulled by rope (dashi).


Saitama Interns

Ventura and Marion with their homestay families and the presidents of Bushu Gas, Nakagawa Manufacturing and Saitama Co-op.

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