Week 8

It’s over. Michael and I’s final presentations went better than I could have hoped, we put together and submitted our final reports, and we said a lot of heart-tugging goodbyes to all our team members, bosses, discussion partners, interviewees, desk mates, dorm mates, and other coworkers. And now it’s over. As I get older and experience more, I keep realizing how profoundly strange time is, and that certainly holds true for this internship. Some days pass too slowly, others too quickly, and the past two months in Japan have gone by lightning fast. I have met more people, seen more sights, tried more food, and learned more lessons in the past two months than in any other single period of my life so far that I can think of. I will try my best to keep the memories, connections, and lessons from this experience alive while moving forward. Here are a few of the things I learned in Japan:

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Week 7

At work back in Tokyo this week, Michael and I have been going full gear into getting ready for our final presentations next Wednesday. To be honest, things are getting kind of stressful. I think I’ll get where I need to be with my presentation by Wednesday, but I’ve been worrying about it a lot, especially since several important board members will come to watch us. Working with a large amount of broad qualitative data like the interviews has been a new challenge for me, and I’ve found it difficult at times to figure out how to approach the analysis and summarize the most important results. It’s helped so far to talk things out with people and to remember to stick to the basics rather than overthinking things.

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Week 6

We just spent most of our second and final week in Tatebayashi working in the Kanto production plant, and returned to Tokyo on Friday. We generally spent the first half of each day learning about the workings of the plant, and then the second half working on our individual projects, which mainly involved transcribing more interviews on my part. Also, the results from my survey came in this week and contained a lot of surprises, which I’m excited to delve into more!

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Week 5

This week we shook things up a bit and headed out to work in a small town called Tatebayashi. Since everyone at the Tokyo headquarters is extra busy preparing for a shareholders meeting, they sent Michael and I up here to spend this past week at the company’s Research and Development Center (R&D) and next week at the Kanto Production Plant. The structure of the workdays at R&D involved similar things as our first few weeks in Tokyo: informational tours/presentations, free discussions, the occasional field trip, interviews, and transcribing.

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Week 4

Things recently have honestly been a little hectic with lots going on both at work and in my social life. This week marked the halfway point of the internship, and on Thursday Professor Hamada came to visit the company to participate in a board meeting, review our progress so far, and advise us on our work moving forward. On Tuesday I had one last interview among the headquarters employees, but otherwise I spent most of the week preparing midterm analysis and review to show Professor Hamada. The analysis involved gathering and tidying up data from the nine interviews I had transcribed so far in order to perform word counts and quantitative summaries. Although this part had seemed straightforward, it actually turned out to have some trickier parts and took more time than expected. Also, I had hoped to start doing some thematic analysis this week, but after some pondering and research, I realized that such detailed qualitative work might be a bit out of my league right now. In hindsight it seems obvious that working with such a large amount of broad information might involve some unforeseen challenges, but I suppose that’s just part of the learning process. On the positive side, Professor Hamada helped me realize that there’s still lots to work with even just focusing on the relatively simpler data, and the more deep-dive analysis will serve as good material for future academic research. She also gave me some tips on designing a survey on food habits that will go out among the company employees – I’m looking forward to getting it out there and seeing the results!

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