What do a rubber company, a meat exporter and a multinational conglomerate have in common? All have offices in Japan and are part of the first student internships organized through the Center for Asian Studies at CU Boulder.
Designed as an immersion experience, the students traveled to Japan to experience what it’s like to work in a Japanese company and to gain an understanding of the culture.
“The internships expose pre-professional students to a country they may not otherwise learn about during their time at CU Boulder,” said Danielle Rocheleau Salaz, executive director of the center. “No matter what major students have in this global society, they will be exposed to Japan—the third largest economy in the world. And through the humanities they can study what they love and make that a viable career path.”
Salaz, who received a master’s degree in Japanese Language and Civilization from CU Boulder in 2000, has championed this internship program because she feels strongly that students should have hands-on, international experience in a business world that values global understanding.
In 2013, when United Airlines launched the direct flight between Denver and Tokyo, Salaz represented CU on a delegation assembled and led by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock on the inaugural flight. While in Tokyo, she met with a group of Japanese CU alumni and presented her idea of creating the internship program.
A number of alumni donors have made scholarship funds available to help defray student costs for the internship.
One of the alumni who played a significant role in helping make the internships possible is Kazunori Takato (Math ’73) president of Chiyoda Rubber Company. Another was Akira Horie (MMktg ’54), retired senior managing director of the Nagoya Branch at Mitsubishi Corporation. Horie was in the first class of Japanese Fulbright scholars to study in America.
The internship, a partnership between CAS and Study Abroad at CU Boulder, acts as a bridge between the students and the host companies. Students receive academic credit through the CAS. In addition to receiving work experience, students learn cross-cultural sensitivity and transferable skills, stand out to employers and have an opportunity to practice their Japanese language skills.
Kaito Padilla: Chiyoda Rubber Company
Kaito Padilla, a senior majoring in chemical engineering, had an internship working for Takato at Chiyoda Rubber Company. With family members living in Japan, he saw the internship as a way to immerse himself in the culture and get to know his Japanese roots.
“I was shocked at how different Japanese business culture is,” said Padilla, whose work included translating the company’s website into English. “Work culture is very formal. Everyone has two faces—a work face and a private face. To see the private face, you must spend time together outside of work.”
James Hage: U.S. Meat Export Federation
James Hage, a senior majoring in Japanese, had previously spent 1.5 years studying in Japan. To say he’s passionate about Japan is an understatement. His internship was with the U.S. Meat Export Federation, a global, nonprofit trade organization with headquarters in Denver. The organization works to develop international markets for U.S. meat.
Hage’s work experience differed from Padilla’s because it had a more relaxed atmosphere. His duties included supporting the implementation of promotional events and conducting research and writing reports on industry strategies.
“You learn a lot more than you expect through this internship,” said Hage, “like skills for networking and making connections that are important for career opportunities. Japan feels like home to me and I’m looking for a way to go back.”
Adam DeRosa: Mitsubishi Corporation
Adam DeRosa, an international economics major, viewed the Tokyo internship as an opportunity to learn about a culture he was unfamiliar with. His internship was with Mitsubishi Corporation.
At Mitsubishi, DeRosa divided his time between the global strategy and coordination department and the global human resources department translating, writing reports and working on employee training programs.
“Throwing yourself into an unfamiliar environment and the loneliness definitely challenges you,” said DeRosa. “There were times when I wanted to leave, but I adapted and made the most of the opportunity. I have now a new appreciation for a culture I didn’t know much about before.”