Now, let me fill you all in on what I've been up to. 6 months is a long time to sum up in one post, so I'll be dividing it into 3 parts. See the "6 MONTHS LATER..." category on the right side of this webpage for other posts.
SUMMER 2015: THE INTERNSHIP
And then, my internship began. The nature of the internship involved moving cities every week, and being a part of a new host family every week. I was so blessed in that the host families to which I was assigned were all incredibly kind people who were fun to live with, and helped me to experience parts of Japanese culture that I had always dreamed of participating in. Below are just a few of the things I was able to do:
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I've spoken briefly on this before, but I was taken aback at how even in this day and age, there was a serious idealism of America. Many would describe Americans like they would describe celebrities -- all beautiful, all smart, aggressive, bold, and brave, and all successful. This lead to an even more problematic way of thinking: that Americans can do things, and Japanese people cannot do things. Public speaking were a recurring example. I was told way too often that "Japanese people cannot do presentations like Americans. I hope that you can teach Japanese people to do presentations like Americans."
I am not saying that cultural tendencies do not exist. Of course they do! There are certain laws, systems, and traditions for certain areas that are bound to cause some commonalities in its residents. But to make the statement that somehow, all Japanese people are bad at presentations, and that all Americans are good at presentations? I'll say it bluntly, that is an excuse. Now, I won't say that I've never generalized in my life, nor do I think that the people who made this statement are unintelligent or bad people. I have simply seen some incredible Japanese presenters, and some substandard American presenters... and vice versa, and from people all over the world. And I think it is a mistake to not acknowledge the existence of them. Or, perhaps even worse, tell someone who could be a good presenter that they are a bad presenter in comparison to an American presenter simply because they are Japanese. I hope that this mentality will fade in time, but it is definitely a problem now that I consider worth discussing.
And, as I experienced in Kyoto, an objectification of gaikokujin. Because I did not experience this myself during the internship (most likely because of my Japanese appearance), I won't go into details, but I heard many problematic comments and horror stories from others. And later on in Prague, I would experience it myself in full force, which is another post altogether.
While the internship was a challenging experience, after it ended I felt more empowered, aware, and knowledgeable. I grew more confident in the Japanese part of my identity, and even began to consider the possibility of working in Japan. I am so glad that I was able to participate in the program.
Stay tuned for my next post about my semester in Prague!