Since the first time it was held in 2017, the East Japan Railway (aka JR-EAST) Global Internship program has been one of the most popular programs for students around the world looking to get work experience in Japan. This attractive opportunity is open to students from any major or university year, and travel expenses and accommodation are provided.
The 7-day (July 30th to August 7th) internship was spent attending lectures about JR’s history, global vision, and technological innovations, and doing fieldwork. Each intern was placed into one of the following fields based on their chosen area of interest: Overseas Business, Vehicles, Mechanical Equipment, Track, and Railway Structure, Construction, Building and Architecture, Electricity, Sales and Tourism Strategy, Service Quality Control, Lifestyle Business Development, SUICA, IT, Finance and Legal. Interns also had the chance to visit JR-EAST’s various facilities and sites.
This year, we hear from three applicants who are part of the chosen 35 out of over 3,500 applicants from all around the world.
- Finance Intern: Dominic Oben (University of Oxford, UK)
- Service Quality Control Intern: Minyoung Park (Coventry University, UK)
- Lifestyle Business Development (Non-Rail Business) Intern: Oriane Suzelle Pilar (Jean Moulin Lyon III University, France)
|First things, please tell us about yourself!
Dominic: My name’s Dominic from the UK, and I’m studying Japanese studies at the University of Oxford. I begin my last year in October 2019. Before I studied Japanese, I had already studied many other European languages. It was my brother who started learning Japanese and it looked really interesting, so I just took his books and taught myself. Wanting to learn more, I did an exchange in a high school in Japan for a year and then decided to take the JLPT N2 exam before enrolling in Oxford. I visited Japan often since then and did another exchange last year where I took my N1 exam while in Kobe.
|Why did you apply for the JR East’s internship and how was the overall application process?
Dominic: Even before applying to this internship, I had always been interested in the business of transporting people and the railway industry.
In the UK, the train system is really inefficient; it is always delayed or canceled, and the general opinion is that it is really bad. However, in Japan, there is this image of trains always being on time, really clean, with great services – so I wanted to know how the system functioned in Japan. I wanted to see what Japan does differently, and what the UK could learn from JR East. Those were my motivations for applying.
The basic process was to send in a CV and online application, followed by a short introductory video of yourself and your motivations. Following that was a Skype interview before I received my acceptance a few weeks later. In total, the process was around a month.
|So how was your internship in general and which department were you enrolled in?
Dominic: It has been really good from the beginning. The lectures and information sessions were done well as they made a real effort to inform us interns about their company and the work that they do.
We went to a lot of different places around the JR East network as well. We went to see in person a lot of the things we were learning about, which made the experience much richer. You could physically see the types of things they were doing and the sites they were improving.
I had also been placed in the Finance Department. My academic background is Japanese studies, so finance was very different for me. It was quite nice for me to be able to do something not related to my studies. Despite the unfamiliarity, they had structured the internship in such a way that I could still learn a lot about finance. Every morning we had a short lecture about the department and the type of work they do – how they support JR East in making things like financial documents.
|Did you speak Japanese or English during the internship?
Dominic: The internship was in both languages (English & Japanese), and a lot of the interns did not speak Japanese, so they had interpreters with them. In my department, two of us could speak Japanese and one couldn’t, so we had an interpreter for him.
|During the week, were there any interesting moments you would want to share?
Dominic: Hmm, well at one point they were explaining to us the concept of debt and borrowing. I also learned about the outline of financial practices (such as Budget, Accounting, Tax, Treasury fund & Material procurement) that contribute to the promotion of measures for several departments in the company. Before this week they were just words to me, but through the lectures, I began to understand more. My opinion on finance before this internship was that it was quite boring and not something I would like to work in, but there was a point in the week where I was getting to be more engaged in the topics. I didn’t expect to enjoy it to that extent so that was a nice surprise.
Service Quality Control
|Could you explain a little bit about yourself?
Minyoung Park: Hi, I’m Minyoung from South Korea, I lived in Japan for the last 5 years before studying in the UK, and I went to middle school and high school here. I am currently enrolled in Coventry University, near Birmingham, doing aviation management. I’m going into my third year this September and will graduate next July. In the past, I used to want to be a pilot, so that’s why I chose to study aviation management. I learn how to operate airlines and airports, partake in airline simulation, as well as safety and risk management of the planes themselves. I want to become an air traffic controller.
|Well then, can you tell us why did you apply for the JR East internship and how was your experience with Connect Job that provided this opportunity?
Minyoung: JR East is a transportation business so even though I study aviation, the industries are similar because they also think about passenger safety or providing the best quality of services to customers. I thought it would be a good experience for me.
I learned about this internship program through Facebook actually. I have a lot of Japanese friends, and they’ve shared career fairs and events from Connect Job before. For example, I didn’t know the London Career Fair existed before I heard of Connect Job. I received information about this internship after registering and proceeded to apply online through the Connect Job site. Lucky for me, they offered an interview, and I received the acceptance within a month.
|Which department were you assigned to in this internship and how is it going so far?
Minyoung: I was working in Service Quality Control. We learned about their measures of providing the best quality of services to the customer – from ad campaigns, providing WiFi services, having proper numberings for each station and implementing measures for multilingual announcements due to the rising number of foreign tourists in Japan and also to gear up for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Three years ago, when I was in high school in Japan, the platforms didn’t have a safety door but now this is almost everywhere. Compared to before, the station numbering system has also improved. The culture here of respecting the customer above all else, such as bowing when the bullet train leaves, has led to a well-organized service system, great train facilities, and impressive punctuality I feel.
|What was something that left an impression of you from the week’s internship?
Minyoung: Well, the lectures we got were certainly impressive; I learned a lot of new things about general service quality. Their system of handling delayed services was thorough and the way they inform customers via SNS was also quite interesting for me. We were out in the field nearly every day, and I think the quality control team also wanted to gain perspectives from non-Japanese, which was us.
Lifestyle Business Development (Non-Rail Business)
|Before we start, could you give a brief introduction about yourself?
Oriane: My name is Oriane, from Lyon in France, and I am starting my last year in Jean Moulin Lyon III University from September. I am planning to hopefully graduate in September 2020. My major is in Applied Foreign Languages, and I am majoring in both English and Japanese applied to trade and law.
I’ve been learning Japanese for 7 years since high school. When I was a child, I watched Studio Ghibli movies like Spirited Away, and since then I took an interest in Japanese culture, like reading manga, then drawing manga. Then, in primary school, I started to learn more about traditional culture, before learning the language in high school. The first manga I actually read was called Fruit Basket, and then I was read things like One Piece and Bleach.
I haven’t done like a long-term exchange program, but this is my 7th time here in Japan. The first two times were as a tourist with my family, and then after that, I came alone over several summers, to do Japanese language intensive courses over the vacation. I passed my JLPT N2 last December.
|What made you want to apply for the internship and how did you come to know about Connect Job?
Oriane: When I first came to Japan, the train system left a strong impression on me because of its efficiency. I already had a favorable view of JR East then.
Connect Job came to my university last year to present their services where they also introduced the JR internship. The application process was actually pretty fast. I applied online at the beginning of May, then had an interview 2 weeks later, and then the result came around 2 weeks after that at the beginning of June.
|Which department were you assigned to in JR East and what did you learn there?
Oriane: I was in the Lifestyle Business Development (Non-Rail Business) department. This department focuses on the non-rail aspects of the business. To me, it was a bit strange that a railway company has such a department. I think this kind of business is particular to Japan because we do not expect this kind of thing in France. I was really interested to see what kind of business was going on in this type of unique department.
I was learning about offering new lifestyles and creating cities in stations (such as business strategies for retail, shopping center, hotel, office, etc. at railway stations), business related to maintenance and value improvement of property owned by JR EAST and business regarding regional revitalization.
The whole week was really intense as we did a lot of excursions and activities to places like hotels, child and elderly care centers, and then we learned about their advertising too. They also have partnerships with local farms or ski resorts in other prefectures, so they can attract tourists out of the Tokyo metropolitan areas to these prefectures.
|Were there any particular moments this week that were especially interesting for you and tell us about a moment that you thought was great?
Oriane: I felt that it was a really interesting and enriching experience, as we got to have inside access to such a large Japanese company and observe how it works on a daily basis. A highlight for me was getting access to the Tokyo Station Hotel, and we actually got given a tour with the manager where we got access to the suite that the emperor can stay. The manager explained the construction and history of the hotel to us, and what kind of business they were doing now.
|What were your impressions of Japanese working culture in this one week?
Oriane: I think the impressions a lot of people have about working in Japan is that it’s really hard, and the working hours are very long because of the culture of putting the company before yourself – but with JR East, I didn’t feel like that. Many people there told us that actually, JR East is quite flexible with its working hours and that they’re implementing new regulations for the benefits of its employees.
So, What Are You Waiting For?
Prepare yourself for next year’s JR-East Global Internship Program or find more about other types of internship opportunities now! Connect Job here!
（filming in cooperation with：East Japan Railway Company）