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 Back to SummaryChristian Vega - Student Advisor Profile

Stanford in Kyoto, Spring 2011-12, Summer Internship 2012
MAJOR: Mechanical Engineering

INTERNSHIP: SIM-Drive (Electric Car Company)

 

At the end of the winter quarter my junior year, I was in desperate need of a break from my everyday routine. I had just completed a difficult course load and, while I was sad to say bye to my family and friends, I was looking forward to a new experience.


Growing up watching Anime and learning about Japan, I never thought that I would have the opportunity to study abroad and work there. I had applied for the program during my sophomore year and, unfortunately, did not get in. However, I remained persistent and I’ve never regretted the decision.

After the fun orientation, we began our homestays and meeting my host family was definitely one of the highlights of my experience.

Upon my arrival, I was greeted with new faces and we immediately began to connect. Going out to lunch and dinner with new friends on the first day was the first sign that it would be a fun summer. After the fun orientation, we began our homestays and meeting my host family was definitely one of the highlights of my experience. I remember being fearful of facing weird foods or customs but their understanding and flexibility, combined with my host mom’s sense of humor, made for a great spring.

Traveling, too, was a huge part of the Kyoto experience. During Golden Week, a nationwide vacation, two friends and I traveled to Kyushu visiting Nagasaki and Fukuoka while staying in hostels and Ryokan (Japanese Inns). Afterword, we took a trip to Hakone and rode on boats, cable cars, and trains that explored the natural beauty surrounding Lake Ashi and the base of Mount Fuji. Even without this dedicated week, exploring the country was always a part of my trip to Japan. Whether it was traveling to Osaka to visit a Pokémon Center or visiting one of the many famous shrines in Kyoto, there was always something new to be seen.

Any preconceptions of the business culture I had were erased as I interacted with coworkers and learned more about how the company functions.

Of course, the other aspect of that spring that made it so memorable was the academic experience. Having Stanford professors in the foreign environment that they are teaching you about is something only studying abroad can provide. On more than one occasion we would study an event or location in class, take a short train ride, and then see the subject matter come alive. Although I am a Mechanical Engineer, I make a point to explore my other interests and was thrilled to take a History class. The class taught me so much about the Japanese-American relationship over the past 200 years but our program’s trip to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum the weekend after learning more about the 1945 tragedy was what will stick with me for the rest of my life. It was moments like that, which made me sad to say goodbye to the Spring Quarter but I knew that many experiences were yet to come.

Although I am a Mechanical Engineer, I make a point to explore my other interests and was thrilled to take a History class. The class taught me so much about the Japanese-American relationship over the past 200 years but our program’s trip to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum the weekend after learning more about the 1945 tragedy was what will stick with me for the rest of my life.

As the summer started, I was nervous about working in the famed Japanese corporate environment. After taking the wrong train and taking a cab to my job, I met my advisor at SIM-Drive. SIM-Drive is an electric car company that specializes in researching new technologies that improve the efficiency and performance of EVs. Any preconceptions of the business culture I had were erased as I interacted with coworkers and learned more about how the company functions. While there, I conducted EV market research while also helping to analyze data from their current cars.


But it wasn’t all work during my internship. Going out into Tokyo’s various neighborhoods was certainly a highlight of the summer. Shibuya, Shinjuku, Harajuku, Roppongi, and so many more were just some of the places I would visit with fellow Stanford program students. Perhaps the most memorable travel experience was our trip to and climbing of Mt. Fuji. Alas, after a few more weeks of work, it was almost time to go. During the closing ceremony in Kyoto, I saw a fitting end to my experience in a trip to Arashiyama. Visiting the famous monkey park, my friend and I were treated to the Kyoto cityscape and we said goodbye to Japan and the amazing times we had.

 

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