When I was a university student, I experienced internships at 4 different places: the office of the House of Representatives, International Labor Organization, a law office and an incorporated nonprofit organization. The internship at both ILO and the law office was an approved credits option as a part of the curriculum at my university.
Amanojaku Mentality - Being Different
At the ILO internship in Geneva. Sato is at left.
I have nothing to excel much at sports or art. I am an average person. I just always wished to gain a special feature which made me different from the others and this is the reason why I participated in internships. I thought that by choosing and doing what other people didn’t, like what Amanojaku (referring to someone who likes to be different from others, depicted from a character in Japanese folklore) would do, I would be able to gain some unique features.
At that time, I belonged to the Chuohkai Study Room and everyone around me was always studying there for the bar exam. I made up my mind to study outside of the study room just like an Amanojaku. Since I liked to be active rather than sitting and studying, I decided to participate in internships related to law, although nobody was doing such a thing.
At first, I went to participate in the internship at the office of the House of Representatives. After that, as I became interested in how the common law was established and how it was adapted for the countries with different histories and customs in the world, I went to the ILO in Geneva. After learning the process of law formation at these two places, I went to a law office to get to know how exactly the laws are implemented – I experienced the internships at three different places in total.
The Reason Why We Have One Mouth and Two Ears
With the Prime Minister Abe at the office of the House of Representatives. Sato is at left.
You can say that in all internships they do not promise an outcome that you first expected. I myself joined internships initially to learn the law, however, as a result, I grew wiser rather than more knowledgeable.
After the internship at the office of the House of Representatives, I realized that mistakes draw more attention and stay in one’s mind much longer. Imagine some familiar celebrities, and you can think of more gossip information rather than his/her achievements. It is similar to everyone being focused at gazing at an eclipse but rarely noticing it when it shines everyday above us.
Furthermore, at the law office, I actually came to think seriously about why we have only one mouth while we have two ears. A lawyer is usually an eloquent speaker, and at the same time, a good listener in most cases. The experience at the office taught me that you should listen to people twice as much as you speak to them.
This theory fits the work ethics at the Fukushima Government Prefectural Office, where I currently work. I heard that the word Kencho, which is the Prefectural Government Office in Japanese, used to be written “Prefectural Listeners” in kanji. The original kanji meant that the people who worked there listened to the voices of the residents of the prefecture.
Of course, you will never learn these things with a kind person next to you teaching you every single thing – you will pick up these things on your own. I have heard that the word “manabu” (learn) originally comes from “maneru” (imitate) and there is no passive form of a learning attitude. In other words, when you learn something, the most important thing is being active. Studying and internships are different in the way you learn, but they are the same in the attitude toward “learning.” Based on what you saw, what you got to know and what you felt, how you make the most of them is what matters. The internship is the best way to learn how you make the most of them.
Cultural Differences from Languages
The internship at the ILO made me realize that I had changed just by adapting myself to the environment there. This means that, at the internship, using English, which is a different language from what I usually use, makes changes in the way you think.
The Japanese people tend to think from a bigger to smaller scale, whereas the Western people tend to do the opposite. For instance, when you write an address, the order in Japanese becomes: Prefecture, City, area and street/house numbers, but the Western order is completely opposite. It is the same for names: the Japanese people tell their family names first, while the Western people tell their first names first, and date, too. I felt that the different ways to tell something change the way you think, although what you are telling is the same.
This sums up what I experienced thorough my law-related internships. My last internship was at a completely different place. This is because I had no clear idea about what I really wanted to do during job hunting.
As I job hunted, I went to several company orientations, ranging from the service industry to public servant, but after all, I was not able to give priority to any of them. Therefore, in order to look at myself objectively, I decided to purposely plunge into a new environment by participating in internships which was something rare at that time.
The reason why I purposely do things that I wouldn’t particularly choose to do otherwise is because by doing them, I force myself to understand theories and ways of thinking that are not familiar to me. I thought that this is the easiest way to be objective about myself.
For this reason, I chose the internships that provide interactive time with entrepreneurs. Hoping to be employed by somebody is far away from those who are running their own business, which is something I did not hope to do. Participating in this internship helped to see my foundation.
Another significant learning was that a public servant should most importantly practice the spirit of entrepreneurship. You can say that being a public servant means being in the service industry. Apart from companies, the sole purpose of public servants should be about increasing the satisfaction level of those who live in the area you work. This is true especially in Fukushima, where they experienced the Great East Japan Earthquake said to occur once in a thousand years. Restoration has been conducted without past experiences. This is exactly why they need a high level of motivation like that of entrepreneurs, who are willing to take the lead.
With a Rail You Can Stand the Strain – Greatness of Internships
Here, I will introduce a quote from a novel. “A roller coaster can stand the strain because of its rail. There is no danger even when the engine stops since the rail is attached to the ground. This is not the case with an airplane.”
Some people say that they dislike living their lives along rails, but with a rail, you can push yourself as hard as you want. I think the internships allow you to go along such a rail. With a rail, you can both run fast or walk slowly to get to the goal. To be able to go anywhere just by being a student, I think, is why internships are so attractive.
Article courtesy of “HAKUMON Chuo,” Autumn 2014, No.238
Ms. Sato participated in “Internship Summit 2014,” the 20th anniversary of internships (held on Saturday, December 6th, 2014) as one of the panelists.