By Emma Li
This is the story of Xinyi (Annie) Chen, an intern at the University of Illinois’ Japan House. Before getting to know Annie, I never knew U of I offered students the opportunity to get involved in Japanese culture through a year-long internship program at the Japan House.
During my first visit at the Japan House, I was astonished by its beauty. Having a traditional Japanese building and gardens on campus adds a unique vibe to the university’s cultural diversity. In order to understand the internship from an insider’s perspective, I decided to reach out to Chen.
“Yes! Yes! I love talking about this internship,” she said.
The interview gave me an insight into the journey of her internship.
Emma Li: Why did you apply for the Japan House internship?
Annie Chen: My first American friend, Christine, was an intern at the Japan House and she told me a lot about it. It is interesting to have an Asian culture organization in an American college. Therefore, I wanted to be an intern to know more about how people in the Japan House promote its culture in the C-U community and the college.”
EL: How long have you been doing the internship?
AC: I have been doing the internship since fall 2015. I am now a volunteer, so I will still regularly visit the Japan House and see if they need help.
EL: Was there a training process that helped you go through what you needed to know about the internship?
AC: We only have a formal training during the beginning of the semester, and I learned how to serve tea at the first meeting.
EL: Would you say the internship has become an important part of your life, and why?
AC: By doing this internship, I found that I wanted to pursue a career related to culture and learn how it should be promoted. Japan House is a really good example of how cultural diversity can be present in a multicultural setting.
EL: Would you say you are different now, compared to when you first joined the program?
AC: I would say that I have become more confident. Jennifer Gunji, the director of the Japan House, wanted me to be more confident so she assigned me to give a public tour as my first task. It was a huge task, and I ended up getting more used to working with people.
EL: Did you participate in Matsuri, the Japan House festival? If so, what was your task?
AC: Matsuri was the first event I encountered when I started my internship. I dressed people up in yukata, the traditional Japanese costume. I was also in charge of coordinating vendors and booths at the festival, basically making sure they were communicating and everything was under control.
EL: Would you agree that the internship has developed your personal growth? If yes, in what way?
AC: I believe I have become more responsible after taking part in all of the events. And now I have to teach the new interns, since they are not familiar with the way things are done at the Japan House.
EL: Would you recommend students join the internship, and why?
AC: Yes! I would encourage other students to do the internship to raise awareness of cultural diversity.
According to Chen, being a Japan House intern was on her to-do list freshman year. “Up until now, my passion for the internship and the culture has never decreased,” Chen said.
If her experience at the Japan House has made you interested in becoming one, I would say to just give it a shot!
Featured image and group photograph courtesy of Annie Chen
Other images from: