Most career-driven students would find themselves on the lookout for internships to boost their experience and resume before they begin the job hunt. However, it takes an extraordinary candidate with drive, passion, and courage to step outside of their comfort zone to think about applying for an international internship. Such internships are a once in a lifetime opportunity to develop your personal and professional skills and will most certainly make you more marketable to future employers.
Generally, internships for students in Japan range from a single week to a month or even a just one or two days and are usually unpaid. Connect Job provides internships in Japan for would-be graduates living outside of Japan. This year, Terumo Corporation, a healthcare business providing optimal products and services to medial settings internationally, looked to global talents outside of Japan for contributions. Read on to find out how their selected pioneer global interns fared working in the three different companies (Cardiac and Vascular Company, General Hospital Company, Blood Management Company) of Terumo Corporation.
|1.Chao Hsien Ping (Taiwan)|
|Education||Graduated Business at Taiwan National |
|Other internships or professional experiences||High tech & medical industry experience at US & Swiss firms|
|2.Dinh Thu Thuy (Vietnam)|
|Education||Graduated International Economy|
|Other internships or professional experiences||PwC in Vietnam and auditing in an insurance company|
|3.Natalia Zubareva (Russia)|
|Education||Year 4 in Economics at |
St. Petersburg University
|Other internships or professional experiences||St Petersburg International Business Association and procurement in Pulkovo Airport|
|4.Gwen Ong Wen Qi (Singapore)|
|Education||Graduated Nanyang Technological University|
|Other internships or professional experiences||The HR department of a local company|
~Can you tell us a little bit about Terumo itself, and about your roles and responsibilities?
1.Chao: Terumo is a professional medical device manufacturer, based in Tokyo. However, it is a truly globalized company because you can find its products all around the globe. My role was to help introduce a product (blood management devices that can be used in hospital sites and for the general consumer) to new nations. We are now facing many technical changes in the medical industry, so I was helping Terumo to find out where is the best place to expand our business.
2.Dinh: I was placed in the Blood Management Company. My role was to learn about blood management in the Japanese markets and to research about blood management in African markets also. The company is trying to grow its business in the African market.
3.Natalia: I was in the Cardiovascular Division working in the Marketing Department. I had kind of a multi-tasking role, and I was working with things called access products as well, which is like a special tube that is inserted into your hand in order to do procedures relating to your brain or heart using a really thin wire. I was doing some projects for that access team, like product promotion and I was developing a digital marketing strategy in general. Terumo already has the US and Europe marketing strategy, but now we are figuring out a more centralized strategy that would come from the headquarters to expand more globally in Asia-Pacific and Latin America regions.
4.Gwen: My role was within the global HR strategy department, on a project where we want to create an effective employee experience that is applicable to all areas and to make sure the needs of employees are met and satisfied.
~So as Terumo is a medical company, one would guess you need some basic medical knowledge. Did you find that to be the case? If so, did you have prior knowledge of the medical industry and did it help you for this internship? If you had none, how did you study for your position and acquire the knowledge required?
1.Chao: When it comes to the private sector like Terumo, I think they are trying to eliminate these stereotypes, but I would say it exists to a small extent. Like still you have to use different types of speech when you are talking to senior people here, but I think it depends on the type of industry you are working in.
However, Terumo is working in a really high pace industry, which is always changing so fast. They are trying harder with gender diversity, breaking down walls between senior and junior associates, like for example I was able to sit next to my boss and feel comfortable and have a general conversation.
2.Dinh: So, my first impression of Terumo was that it was very well organized, and it was a really professional setting. As you say Japanese work culture is different for me; it’s quite focused on hierarchy. I was surprised by how polite people are with each other like when they greet each other in the morning.
As for language differences, we use English most of the time, but recently I have been trying to learn some basic Japanese greeting phrases. The people around me speak English really well! But I am the first foreigner intern in my department itself!
3.Natalia: Just in general, in Russia, we don’t really have to wear business attire for example if you work in HR internally you are not expected to wear a suit. Obviously, it depends on the company. Also, Russian people do not overwork. Employers have to pay twice as much for every extra hour outside of regular working hours so they would rather not have employees work outside of the regular time frame.
I would say these are key differences but not difficulties in any sense. For me, it wasn’t a problem to wear a suit as I have been used to wearing it before at school and previously with clients at my business association job. I would say that Russian people only work overtime when it’s really necessary for example to finish a deadline.
4.Gwen: I was really very surprised when I first stepped into the office, I couldn’t really sense the office hierarchy at all. I don’t feel like there was much difference. I thought everyone was going to be wearing formal suits and working until really late, but this really wasn’t the case.
I did not have any problems with the language barrier. As my department was global HR, a lot of the Japanese staff had experience overseas so we would speak in English together. Outside of the department, the majority of people could speak simple English, so it was all right for me.
~Were you aware of any difficulties when looking for work opportunities in Japan as a foreigner, including but not limited to this current experience?
1.Chao: Well, I would probably say that language is probably the biggest barrier in trying to find work here, but I would say that it is the same for looking for a job in any international setting. It’s probably easiest for people from either Taiwan or China in terms of being able to find jobs in Japan as we share a similar culture. Many small things like manners and politeness or the way we eat. Not being able to speak Japanese limits your ability to find jobs I feel.
2.Dinh: Ah yes well, I feel that at the moment there were not as many opportunities for foreign students to work in Japan. I don’t think many people abroad are aware of websites or opportunities for work in Japan either. When I told my friends that I was going to do an internship in Japan they were really surprised. They wanted to know how they could find an opportunity like that also.
3.Natalia: Obviously the language, at least for it to not be at a professional working level, which is much higher than a daily level.
4.Gwen: I feel that it wasn’t really difficult for me. As an undergraduate, my school would always send me information about job or internship opportunities in Japan. There were actually a lot in my case. If it wasn’t for the help from my school, I think it would be difficult for me to find an internship here in Japan.
~Would you say there was anything that would have been helpful that you could have done to prepare for coming to Japan?
1.Chao: Oh, well, probably something like cooking skills! I would say food in Japan is quite expensive especially dinner for a junior associate, so I tried to cook almost every night, but my skill is poor.
Another thing was trying to understand Japanese culture as a whole like what is the core mindset when it comes to meeting someone for the first time. There are so many little things to keep in mind when entering a workplace in Japan for the first time. Like in Taiwan if you meet someone for the first time you use a lot of physical contacts and be like “Hey, how are you?”, but in Japan, it’s better not to touch your senior at all.
2.Dinh: Before coming to Japan I did not know much about the working culture here. For example, colleagues when they go on trips, always bring back gifts for their team, and that is something I wish I knew beforehand too. Bring something from my country is something I should have done!
3.Natalia: I did not feel any need to prepare anything else as it was not my first time in Japan. On top of that, Fourth Valley (Connect Job Plus) actually took care of my housing with Terumo so all I had to do was get my keys at the airport!
4.Gwen: Something I could have done to help me prepare for this internship is the language. I wish I would’ve prepared a bit more! I was a little surprised when I experienced an earthquake for the first time, that was something I had not known about before. But after that happened, I asked my colleagues what I should do next time!
So, What Are You Waiting For?
Prepare yourself for next year’s Terumo Global Internship or find more about other types of internship opportunities now! Connect Job here!