Start Up Internship Experience in Japan (part 1)

Recently some Japanese start-ups are accepting interns from abroad. We took an interview with Engineer Student from France, Malo. He shared his insight from doing internship for one year in a start-up company in Osaka and gave some advice on how to make your stay in Japan more enjyable.

Previously Malo has joined Engineering internship at PLEN Robotics, Osaka. Malo along with other interns from abroad was taking part in creating PLEN Cube AI Assistant. Now he is back to France to continue his studies, but planning to visit Japan once more in the future.

Q: What motivated you to apply for an internship in PLEN Robotics?

I saw working for PLEN Robotics as a great opportunity to improve my skills in some fields that I might be working in later. I also thought if I want to manage an engineering or business team in the future, I will need some new knowledge. Currently, I am still studying in Engineering school, but after I graduate, I am planning to apply for a 2 years program in Business school in France to get an MBA. In the future I would like to do something related to both Engineering and Business or Finances. When I was choosing a company for an Engineering internship, it was important for me that I could learn both at the same time.

Q: What was your image of Japan before you came and how has it changed since then?

Few days before I came to Japan, I was a bit scared. I was always thinking in my head: “Okay, this is gonna be REALLY different from European culture, and it might be a bit hard for me to adapt”. But even before that I had already made my decision to go and discover this country.

My image of Japan was that people there are very calm and they never rush. Even compared to France, there are more people in cities and the cities are bigger, but Japanese people there seem still and tranquil. Also, I had an image that Japanese people love everything related to cooking and food. And that’s actually true! It’s true as well that Japanese people have a calm attitude to life, daily life in Japan doesn’t seem stressful to me.

Q: How about working culture in Japan? Is it much different from your home country?

I didn’t feel much difference as in PLEN Robotics you work in an international environment with many different people from different countries. However, in France people like to take many small breaks while working, like having a coffee, smoking cigarettes or just chatting with colleagues. In Japan there are no such things, but I find it to be a plus rather than minus. It really helps you to stay focused on your work.

Me and other interns were working only for 6 hours per day, and I think it is very convenient that we didn’t have many short breaks. We could stay focused and be more productive for the whole shift. It might be tough, if you work full-time, for 8 or 9 hours, but for interns that’s just fine.

For the first few days, it was a bit unusual to work in that style without many short breaks, but other interns and I quickly got used to it. I think it is very convenient.

Q: How about the Japanese language? Is it hard to get adjusted to daily life in Japan without Japanese?

Actually, before coming to Japan I have heard from other people who had been there before that Japanese people don’t speak much English, so I started learning some basic Japanese, just in case. It was a bit challenging to come there without knowing the language, but, luckily, people at PLEN Robotics speak very good English and we could communicate without any problems.

As for daily life, as I have said I learnt some basic Japanese words and expressions for going shopping, ordering food, saying “Thank You” etc. Besides, there were other interns who could actually speak Japanese and they helped me to learn as well. I would often listen to how they communicate with local people and ask them for translation and some useful words.

Q: What would you recommend to people planning to do an internship in Japan?

Try to make as many friends and connections as you can. You can have lots of fun even without speaking Japanese.

Don’t be scared to talk to Japanese people even if you don’t know the language. They will respond, smile and be nice to you. Every person I met was really friendly, they would always try to understand and help me. Even if we couldn’t understand each other well, we would still laugh at it together, because the situation was funny itself. So don’t be afraid to hang out alone or talk to someone, they will be nice to you and help you anyway. Don’t be embarrassed to ask them for some advice, especially about sightseeing, they know places better than Google maps!

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PLEN Robotics

A Japanese hardware startup solving global problems through innovative robotics technology for all.