Chelsey1. First, who are you? What are your dreams and why the interest in Japan?

I am Chelsey Winkel, 22 years old. I am from the Netherlands and currently in my last year of my major Communication and Multimedia Design. My next dream/goal is moving to Japan after I graduate this year and to find a music (& entertainment) related, creative and flexible job, so I can work on setting up my freelance business here as well. I’d love to get into lots of different creative projects here (so if you want to do something fun hit me up!). And getting my Japanese to native level of course!

Why the interest in Japan? Hmmm…People always ask me this! And I always have a rough time explaining it. It’s just such a strong feeling that I since I was a kid. I was a huge Pokémon fan (I still am actually) and loved all other ‘anime’ on TV as well. They were dubbed though and I didn’t know back then that they were actually Japanese. I got my mom involved in the Pokémon trading card game and she even got me Japanese Pokémon cards! I remember it looking like some ancient gibberish to me (is this some weird Pokémon language I don’t know?). So, somehow, everything I loved as a kid, including games and other things, came from this amaaaazing country that I didn’t even know about yet!

I grew up and got a PC with internet at home and at some point I learned that these TV animations I loved where Japanese and where called “anime”. I started watching anime in Japanese and slightly got more and more involved with the culture. I was around 12 years old when I discovered this Finnish band called HIM who blew my mind and settled my taste in music and fashion for the rest of my life. My English has been good from a very young age so around that time I started chatting online with foreigners in English. I met a Thai guy with whom I shared my musical interests with (YouTube just started). Based on the Western bands I listened to he send me a video of a Japanese Visual Kei band called Buck-Tick. Again, my mind was COMPLETELY blown! Visual Kei and anime really made me fell in love with the language (and everything else) and from this point on my passion for Japan really grew with the day. It became my biggest dream and goal to go this incredible country and to learn the language fluently. I always felt like it’d be the place where I’d belong. In 2014, at age 21, I finally made it come true. And it really felt like coming home.

2. Tell us about the planning and process.

To be able to graduate I needed to find and follow an internship. Basically, you need to work on a project for about 4 months and write a final report about it, which then will be examined and graded. Based on this you will either graduate or not.

I made my dream of coming to Japan come true by working hard to find a way to do my minors here in my 3rd year. I managed to get into the Asian Studies Program at Kansai Gaidai, Osaka, in 2014, through another major that’s part of my university. That time, I had already planned out that I’d wanted to start my graduation internship in November so I’d be able to graduate (hopefully) before summer 2015. While studying in Osaka I started looking for an internship in the music & entertainment business, here in Japan because I already knew I wanted to go back ASAP as soon as I got back to the Netherlands. Doing an internship here would be a great way to gain working experience in this country as well. While being in Osaka, I send lots of letters and mails, mainly to companies related to the Visual Kei industry, because I’d love to be involved in this world in a creative way. I spend months doing this and got back to the Netherlands without finding anything. I didn’t quit looking for a way to do my graduation internship here in Tokyo though. Through my network in the Netherlands, I ended up getting contacted by someone who had worked at Sony and told me he might be able to help me get an internship at Sony Corp. in Tokyo. He told me he didn’t have contacts at Sony Music & Entertainment though, but at this point I was nearing my school’s (and my own) deadlines so I just had to make this work. Soon after that, people from Sony Digital Imaging contacted me, and during our very first Skype call they immediately decided they wanted to try this with me. I had to take care of everything real fast; visa, a place to live (this was tough), plane tickets, school, contracts etc. I am still amazed I managed everything on time! My internship started on November 17th 2014 and will end on March 6th 2015. After this I will go back to the Netherlands and hopefully graduate and move to Japan.

3. What were the prerequisites for your internships? Any special conditions from your university? Personal?

Actually, there weren’t any. I got hired based on my network’s recommendations, my Japanese resume and on the conversation I had with the managers through Skype. My university also doesn’t really have any special conditions apart from having to do a project of about 4 months. They actually recommend you not to do your graduation internship abroad since it’s really uncommon for other countries to do an internship like this. But they ‘recommend’ you to not do a lot of things, and I did them all just fine so I just saw another opportunity to go to Japan and do something awesome.

4. Tell us about the internship at Sony Corp. What did you do? How is your daily work? How is your boss?

My main project, basically, is optimizing the website of one of the Digital Imaging products, the Action Cam. I spend most of my time setting up a benchmark/competitor analysis and analyzing the website based on methods I’ve learned. Since this is the first time they have a (Dutch) intern in this way, I’m not engulfed with work. But apart from my main project I get some simple side projects every now and then. My colleagues and bosses are nice, I expected there to be more ‘nomikai’ though to be honest haha. This wouldn’t be my dream job, but Sony is awesome, I love gaining new experiences AND, more importantly, I’m living in Tokyo! So really, I have no complaints!

5. Did you have any chance to study Japanese while in Japan or before coming? Will you come again?

I study Japanese every single day while being here! Just by listening and writing down things I learn from my surroundings. I ask a lot of things I don’t know how to say or ask for explanation when I don’t understand something. When I’m texting (LINE) with people I know and I don’t know how to tell them something, I always try to find out how to. Through all of this I learn new words, grammar and kanji.
I did bring my study books with me (Genki II haha) but I have barely used them (only for kanji so far). It’s more fun to learn Japanese this way after all. But I should finish my book though …
And yes, of course I will be back! Hopefully ASAP! I do want to be back here at least after summer but I don’t know what time will bring me so we’ll see how it all turns out.

6. How is Japan? Any message for young people thinking about coming to Japan?

Well, to explain it shortly, when I get back to the Netherlands I suffer a huge reverse culture shock. It took me a few months to get back on my feet again after coming back from Osaka last year. So my answer is a bit boring and one-sided maybe.

I haven’t had any bad experiences here and I don’t feel like a foreigner or outsider at all. Even though I have green eyes and am not fluent in the language yet. I even feel kind of weird when seeing other foreigners and Japanese rarely speak in English to me. I feel more like an outsider in my own country than here to be quite honest.

But there are probably 2 things that I can think of that Japan’s modern society should change in my opinion: sexual education and English. This message will become very long if I have to explain my opinion and thoughts about this so let’s leave it at that, haha. But I do have to say this, to everyone who is less well known with the country or basically: isn’t that much of a Japanophile like I am. When you decide to come here, realize this:

This is a whooooooole different world you’re getting yourself into. I am not joking. There is no way you can compare this country and culture with any other country or culture in the world. Whenever I go back to the Netherlands I feel like I time traveled (I did actually because time zones and stuff you know) and ended up back again in the part of the universe I don’t like.

Knowing the culture and the language will most definitely benefit you and enable you to enjoy the country and culture more though. Especially if you’re only going here for a short amount of time. But yes, be curious, come to Japan, explore this amazing new world and fall in love with it like I did!

7. How can we as Internship Japan do better?

I think you’re doing a great job! I’ve been so close to getting an internship through the LinkedIn group, the people are amazing! It warms my heart to see that people are so willingly to help other people get where they want to be. It’s exactly the way how I stand in life. So at the moment I have no idea how Internship Japan could do better!