Imagine the opportunity to try okonomiyaki, tempura, miso dip, plum wine, red bean paste rolls, natto, and other delicious familiar and unfamiliar Japanese cuisine. I enjoyed a summer doing that and more in Tokyo and Tatebayashi. Thanks to William & Mary’s Freeman Intern Fellowship program, I spent two months as an intern with Toyo Suisan, also known as Maruchan. I explored different departments in the Japanese food company and conducted interview and survey research on people’s food-related habits and opinions. I even tried my hand at making wax food samples commonly seen outside of many Japanese restaurants.
Using Japanese every day at work and in daily life both boosted my confidence and humbled me. After completing JAPN 301/302, I was excited to engage in conversations but realized that I’m far from fluent. Although there were challenges, I managed well in Japan and hope to return to study or work there someday.
I recommend studying abroad. It’s the perfect opportunity for students who are relatively unanchored and can enjoy the freedom to explore. Fending for yourself in a new place will teach you so much about the world and yourself. My experience left me with many precious memories and lessons about Japan, the food industry, and myself.