After a Semester of Online School, I Don’t Know How to Go Back

As universities open this month in Taiwan, I can’t help but feel a pang of jealousy. With school online this fall semester at Waseda, I’m struggling to decide whether or not to take the leap: a gap semester, and thus delaying my graduation. But without a concrete plan in mind, I’ve just been aimlessly trying to keep myself productive in order to combat the guilt of cancelled internships and derailed plans. With just a little under a month before the fall semester starts of my last year at Waseda, I’ve realized many changes after I’ve started online school.

My normal college routine before Covid-19 was typical. I woke up at 8, made breakfast and coffee, packed lunch, and got dressed while listening to the New York Times The Daily podcast. I would buy groceries on the day I didn’t have work or late classes, before the mom-and-pop grocer closes at 6. I juggled school, my part time work, volunteering, and club activities. And when I went back to Taiwan for break, I packed lightly, since I figured I would be back in Japan after a couple weeks. 

A couple weeks in, outbreaks were growing in Korea, US, and Europe. A month in, I bought Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Two months in, I bought new sets of clothes for summer. I wasn’t going back anytime soon. Waseda had announced that school was online, and I was locked out of Japan.

My internet was spotty, one week into online school. I couldn’t access the school’s Collaborate Blackboard function, and I couldn’t drop the class either, since registration had already ended for that department. After tattling to another professor in my own department, Waseda informed me that they had dropped the class for me. I guess it’s good to study politics; I get to apply it to my academic life as well.

I noticed something, one month into online school. Tens of The Daily episodes were left unheard. I suddenly couldn’t keep track of assignments. I couldn’t recount what I had learned in the previous week. I constantly checked if quizzes and online assignments had time restrictions: I couldn’t complete them without checking back at lecture notes. It was difficult for me to post on online forums, even though I had always participated in live discussions. 

While my Animal Crossing island was becoming more developed, my academic career wasn’t developing at all.

Classes were held live through Zoom, or on-demand, with recorded videos. Some classes, normally 90 minutes in duration, were shortened, while some others had videos that were nearly two hours. In the beginning, I would take notes on the slides while listening to the videos. Midway through, I simply listened. Towards the end, I treated the lectures like The Daily: listening while doing something completely different.

There were consequences: I had a terrible writer’s block when writing my final reports. It seemed like I hadn’t learned anything at all. When I had to give presentations, I felt waves of anxiety and nervousness that I had never felt before. It seemed that the lack of public speaking throughout the entire semester had caused me to suddenly fear any sort of public speaking at all. As I scrambled to finish my assignments before the deadline, I wondered if I could ever go back to pre-Covid college education. I had become so used to just spending hours on my laptop, socially distant and academically distant. 

It is imperative for universities to continue online education: protecting students should be their number one priority. Unfortunately, students will have to continue to suffer in places where the pandemic is not under control. Another semester of online school will be difficult, but necessary in order to prevent the further spread of the virus. 


[Schoolynk] Internships as a Pathway into Japan’s Job Market

Internships in Japan

As a university student in Japan, internships are a great way to understand the job market in Japan as well as to gain work experience. The internship process and information explained below refer to internships that range in duration from one month to six months and above. Some company visits may be referred to as “internships,” however, they are not considered internships because they last less than a week. There is a myriad of internships that provide students with a variety of opportunities to learn different skills and leverage their skills outside of university academia. Internships are offered to international students regardless of nationality. Although a large portion of the internships requires business level Japanese, there are many which are held in English. Multiple portals offer a variety of internships with different qualifications at firms that range from startup to conglomerate.

man in a suit at work

How to apply for Internships

Many universities offer internship programs that are provided by partnerships between the university and the firm. These internships can be accessed through the online system, or through the school’s career center. Some of the internships may require Japanese fluency, and may have screening processes such as document screening and interviews. They may also last from at least two weeks to several months, depending on the firm. Many of them have certain recruiting periods and offer the internship program during spring or summer breaks. Many universities offer a wide variety of internships so please consult your advisor or the school career center for additional opportunities. In addition, many university facebook groups or student business groups may have internship listings or connections to firms that are looking for interns.

However, many firms have internship programs for students that can be accessed through multiple online portals or the company’s website. Often times, companies that are not actively recruiting online may offer opportunities through referrals from previous interns or through word-of-mouth connections. Some firms offer summer programs that may result in an offer at the end of the program. Others may recruit throughout the year and pay their interns accordingly. Some websites such as LinkedinGlassdoor, or Wantedly may have listings that include internships. Additionally, several websites such as Internship in Japan or EU-Japan provide listings of websites that include internship programs. Some firms may even scout their interns through Linkedin, Wantedly, or other job-searching websites.

office with desks and computers

Internships in multiple fields

There is a wide variety of work available for students from different fields. Depending on the firm, there are internships based on marketing, consulting, recruiting, programming, content creation, research, design, translation, sales, and others. Typically, large firms with an established intern program may have a certain fixed role and time for interns, while smaller firms may offer a wide range of opportunities for interns to try. An internship should not constitute work that doesn’t provide learning opportunities for students; students should be able to receive benefits from internships such as meaningful work experience or opportunity to pursue personal interests.

Paid Internships?

Most firms pay their interns around 1000 yen per hour. Depending on the work and firm, interns may be paid higher or lower than the average. Some firms, such as NPOs or NGOs, do not pay their interns at all. For example, the United Nations does not pay their interns in exchange for both the UN name and connections that can be leveraged throughout the internship. However, it should not be common that a firm does not pay their interns. While interns are not as fully experienced as full-time employees, the work that interns do is still vital to the company and therefore should rightfully earn a wage.

computer and notebook