My name is Trevor West, and I am a junior at Seton Hall University majoring in International Relations & Diplomacy, Modern Languages (Japanese/Chinese), and Philosophy. I am currently interning at the Japan Society Language Center in New York City, a non-profit organization founded after World War II.
I have a long-standing interest in the Japanese language and culture, reaching back to my childhood and early exposure to Japanese pop culture through anime, video games, and music. I pursued these interests further and began studying the language in hopes of being able to understand and experience more aspects of the culture. The Japan Society is a great organization that helps individuals to learn Japanese as well as appreciate the vast richness of both ancient and contemporary Japanese history, art, and more.
The essential tasks I complete at the Language Center include a variety of administrative work, such as: communicating with clients, registering students for classes, and managing the student information database by adding and updating information. I also interact with staff and see the living process of a school-system. My internship relates to my international relations curriculum as I am experiencing how a non-profit operates and meets its goals.
This internship has been a first-hand look into a system that, until now, my classes have only focused on in the abstract aspects. The mission statement of the Japan Society, with its goal to deepen “mutual understanding between the United States and Japan in a global context” appears abstract until put into practice. The Language Center’s practice fulfills this deepening of mutual understanding by facilitating classroom experiences, and my responsibility is to ensure that interested individuals receive excellent service. These individuals will learn from the courses and further their understanding of the Japanese language and culture, and the Japan Society will be one step closer to their goal of expanding U.S.-Japan relations.
My internship with Japan Society has been a humbling experience and shown me how amazing NGOs are in practice. It is one thing to learn about organizations, institutions, governments, or any other complex topic in the classroom, but actually working and getting to know the feeling of how an organization functions is different. The internship has given me practical knowledge that the classroom has not precisely because physical experience helps one to grasp the abstract concepts learned in the day-to-day functioning of an organization.
This internship is exciting because it is an opportunity to see the real-life application of what I have learned so far in my classes. While the skills I use daily are relatively basic, interning at the Language Center has given me a way to connect with others who are influential in promoting deeper U.S.-Japan relations and allowed me to give back and participate in the mission. Thus, the best part of this internship is the happy union between what I have learned in class and the tangible functioning of Japan Society as well as the opportunity to further U.S.-Japan relations.