Joe Van Alstyne
I previously I spent a year studying abroad in Akita Prefecture, and majored in Japanese in my undergrad. After graduation it felt natural to start my career in Japan because it was the most natural fit for my goals.
What do you do at your job?
My main tasks are to manage and correspond with applicants, among a wide variety of other tasks. As far as language goes, my coworkers and I usually alternate between both English and Japanese so we can each practice our non-native language. My boss doesn’t use English in the office, so it’s a great chance to practice real business Japanese.
Why did you accept your internship?
I originally came to Japan accepting an offer with a major Eikaiwa [English conversation] school, but meanwhile I was looking for other ways to gain work experience in Japan that didn’t involve teaching English. While I don’t hate the work, it’s just not where I want to build my skill set. So, I was really excited for the opportunity to get more relevant work experience in Japan. When applying for positions in Japan from the United States, it’s kind of hard to find positions that aren’t related to teaching English, so I appreciated being able to to open up my pool of possibilities.
How have you been supported in your internship?
Since it’s not my first time in Japan, I know what to expect with commuting and getting around, dealing with money, and those sort of things. That said, my supervisor has been super helpful and willing to work with me to figure out other things like registering my new job with immigration for visa purposes. It was kind of new for both of us to do this, so it was great to be able to work together to figure those things out! And in general, the willingness from SJIP to help and be a good support system has been amazing.
What are your hobbies or interests, and are you able to continue them here in Japan?
I’m a video gamer, and I also like making videos, so I do some YouTube and Twitch, posting videos and streaming when I have the opportunity. For photography and videography, they say the best camera is the one you have with you. It’s 2019, so if you have a smartphone, you have a camera. I’ve been able to do everything on a mobile basis. It’s also not too hard to find the chance to play mobile games, especially on the commute to work! I also like making kit models and small sculptures, and with all the hobby stores in Japan I can always find something new to make.
What is daily life like for you?
I work pretty standard business hours. In the morning, I wake up, make breakfast (I live close to a supermarket so I can stock up on basics and make toast or cereal), and then get ready, commute, and get to work. For lunch I go around the corner to convenience store almost every day. It’s surprisingly cheaper than buying and cooking food for myself, and recently they’ve had really healthy, organic food options. Depending on the day, after work I’ll sometimes head over to Shinjuku and hang out with some friends at an izakaya [Japanese pub]. If I’m really tired, I’ll just go home and do some chores and play video games!
Can you share something you're proud of from this internship?
One thing that I’m particularly proud of was my first one-on-one meeting with my boss. It was conducted completely in Japanese, everything was understood between the two of us, and it went over smoothly. I was really proud of that, and thought, “Yes, I can actually use Japanese successfully and not have to rely on English too much!” After having studied it for my entire university career, it was a huge moment where I felt it finally paid off.
How has this internship benefitted you?
The biggest benefit, aside from just being able to come to Japan as a recent graduate, has been to really get my feet wet by working a real company job. In other words, just getting that crucial experience of seeing what the so-called “real world” is like. The fact that I’m doing all this in Japan still feels mind-blowing to me when I think about!
Any advice for future interns?
I think being open to opportunities is huge. There are always going to be those “What if” questions about potential opportunities, like, “What if it doesn’t go well?” Of course being smart, doing your research, and being cautious about things is important, but so is being open-minded. By being open to new opportunities is how you get your career to get off to a really good start. Being too selective can potentially be an obstacle, where you’ll find that you weren’t getting any opportunities to benefit you in the long run. In short, any experience is good experience.