How to say media in Japanese

Stay abroad with internship - get to know a different way of thinking in Japan

Why did you go to Japan?
Jennifer Danz: I really wanted to gain intercultural work experience. As a scientific pioneer, Japan is particularly well represented in research and development. This can also be seen in the large number of Japanese publications. Also, when I was young, I began to be interested in Japanese music and films as well as the country. As a student, I said to myself that I would like to get to know the culture, mentality and working life there better. Prof. Dr. Dirk Burdinski advised me within the Faculty of Applied Sciences. I then applied for the Heinz Nixdorf scholarship during my studies and got it. This included a language course and cultural preparation courses. Everything else, accommodation, my visa and an internship at the company, I had to organize myself.

How did you prepare for your stay abroad?
Jennifer Danz: I started looking for an internship relatively early and sent out English applications nine months beforehand. Ultimately, I decided on a joint company. Among them GS Yuasa, a purely Japanese company, because it was important to me to work in a Japanese company with Japanese structures.

How well did that work?
Jennifer Danz: That went very well. I worked in the office and in the research and development department in the laboratory for lithium ion batteries for electric drives in automobiles. I worked in a team of five. The group is researching more efficient batteries, which therefore require higher safety requirements.

How is safety an important issue with batteries?
Jennifer Danz: If you increase the performance of batteries, special circumstances can lead to so-called thermal runaways, which can ultimately burn down an automobile. My job was to make the cells more secure. It was necessary to assemble the cells of the batteries, carry out tests with them and then dismantle them again. It was a completely new topic for me, but a great experience.

They were also allowed to learn Japanese. How did that go?
Jennifer Danz: I was very happy about my language course because I had an excellent teacher. However, I had to go to class from the first day I arrived. The Japanese actually learn their own language all their lives with two basic alphabets and a character system of over 10,000 characters. It was important to our teacher that we could communicate in Japanese on a day-to-day basis, because no English is spoken outside of the tourist areas. You can only get ahead with Japanese, and this is exactly where the cultural exchange takes place. Fortunately, I can now speak a little everyday Japanese.

Does that mean that language was the key to cultural understanding for you?
Jennifer Danz
: Exactly. It is said that Japan is one of the countries with the greatest cultural difference to Germany. It starts with the gestures and body language, which are different. There is also a community culture in Japan. One is concerned about the well-being of all. Individualism is not in the foreground here. The culture shock stayed away for me due to good preparations. That was my first, longer stay abroad and yet I felt right at home in Japan. I knew I could do it and it was a wonderful experience.

What was different in Japan?
Jennifer Danz: In Japan there is usually a strict hierarchy in the company. In my department, however, that was not so strong. Loyalty is very important. Working eight to twelve hours is compulsory, and overtime is common. The lights went out in the company at 10 p.m. and luckily the weekend was free.

How were you received by your colleagues?
Jennifer Danz: It was unusual for me to work abroad in a large company in a team of men as a young woman, but the Japanese were all very friendly to me and wanted to learn a lot about me and my country of origin. We have also done a lot as a team. We went snowboarding, went bowling, and had a cherry blossom picnic together.

What did you take with you professionally?
Jennifer Danz: I learned a lot about electrochemistry. After my master's degree in applied chemistry, I would like to work in research and development. I can also well imagine working internationally or even in Japan again. I will definitely improve my Japanese skills.

To what extent did the stay abroad in Japan help you personally?
Jennifer Danz: I have definitely become more independent, more reflective and even more open to other cultures. I've developed a certain sensitivity for people and their nuances who come from a completely different country. I think that I won't be so quick to step into cultural faux pas these days.

What was your biggest cultural faux pas?
Jennifer Danz: Fortunately for me there were only little things that were new to me. For example, I knew beforehand that street shoes would be taken off before entering the apartment. However, I did not expect that this would also be the case in many changing rooms in Japanese shops. I was able to avoid big faux pas thanks to good preparation.

What is one of your nicest experiences?
Jennifer Danz:
The country is incredibly beautiful. It has mountains that I climbed with friends. The view of the valley was indescribable. I was also on the birthday of Tenno, the Japanese Emperor, in the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Once a year you can go in there without registering and hear your speech over a loudspeaker. That was very impressive.

What advice would you give to other students planning to go to Japan?
Jennifer Danz: Interested parties should definitely find out beforehand which country they are interested in and which culture prevails there. The International Office can also help. Finding a room in advance can be a bit of a problem. In Japan, for example, it is often only two weeks beforehand for so-called share houses. I myself was housed in such a sharehouse. This is a house with different residents from home and abroad. You should also think about whether you are an unstructured or more of a planned person.

How would you describe yourself?
Jennifer Danz: I think I'm more of a structured person. That's why Japan was perfect for me.

(Interview: Viola Graefenstein, 2017)

October 2017