Back to SummaryDanya Volkov - Student Advisor Profile
ACADEMIC INTERESTS: Environmental/Economical Design, Asian cultures, Art in society
INTERNSHIP: Innovation Center at Nifco Inc
Interested in Japanese culture and society? Forget Gwen Stefani’s “Harajuku Girls” or the dated “Mysteries of the Orient”— if you are looking to immerse yourself in a world saturated with tradition, learning, and natural beauty, come to Kyoto. Even after hearing about the reserved and yet buzzing atmosphere of the “Walking City,” filled with hundreds of temples and shrines, I was continually
amazed by the history and liveliness that Kyoto holds. The Kyoto-SCTI program not only allowed me to live in this vibrant city—not as a bothersome tourist, but as a real resident—but also sponsored my internship in another city, offering even greater depth into the cultural exposition. The nearly half-a-year I spent in Japan has truly been an eye-opening and life-changing experience, as I grew more independent, saw first-hand the interactions between members of a multi-generational family and a company, participated with other university students in various activities, and witnessed many different peoples, lifestyles, and points of view.
Sometimes students majoring in engineering or sciences will ask if the SCTI program is difficult to fit into one’s schedule—in my case, it wasn’t at all, because I decided right at Admit Weekend that I would enroll in the SCTI program no matter what it took—and from there it was only a matter of planning. Even before my freshman class had begun, I had already designed a 4-year plan to allow for the SCTI program in my schedule. If ever there were a perfect match for me, academically, this would be it.
Ever since I was young I have harbored an interest in Asian, primarily Japanese, history and culture, and had always wanted to travel and explore East Asia. I had once before studied for one month in Tokyo before coming to Stanford, and
wanted this time to more seriously pursue my Japanese language studies, as well as be surrounded by all the different design elements inherent to Japanese society. As a Product Design major, I hoped to also be inspired in my future work by the change of scenery and new technology and innovation by which Japan is so well known. Part language study, part design study, part get-off-of-campus-and-into-an-entirely-different-continent-and-learn-what-it-is-like-to-live-in-a-whole-new-world experience.
Regarding studies, life at Doshisha campus was wonderful: the students were extremely welcoming, the campus hosted many foreign exchange programs from other countries worldwide, the staff at the Stanford Japan Center were always willing to help with academics and activities, and the variety of classes allowed students to take classes not offered on the main campus (as well as participate in field trips and discussions with Japanese students). The class on the religions of Japan took us on nearly-weekly field trips to different temples and shrines, and after studying the effects of WWII in “Postwar Japanese Society,” we were taken to see the Ritsumeikan Peace Memorial, which made our textbooks and readings pale in comparison. And even though I was getting a chance to explore courses and topics outside of my major, I was still able to take an engineering class required for my major, so my stiff 4-year plan didn’t suffer. But of course studying wasn’t everything—the best part of being in Kyoto was…well, being in Kyoto.
Practicing Japanese within the classroom is one thing—living the language is another. Although my speaking skills are still mediocre at best, I gained much more confidence in being able to ask questions and try to express my thoughts.
Through help from my host family, Doshisha students, and internship colleagues, I was able to drastically improve my conversation skills from my prior never-raise-hand-out-of-fear pattern. Sometimes I found that I still could not communicate adequately and had to struggle, but for the majority of the time I found that just by making an obvious effort to try to communicate could go a long way—I made several pen pals, received random favors, and was often treated in a more hospitable manner.
Although optional, I feel as though taking advantage of the internship was one of the best aspects of the SCTI experience. Not only did I gain valuable job experience and learn skills I can apply to my classes this year, I also was introduced to Japanese business culture and life within a busy work atmosphere. Originally I assumed I would be assigned to make copies and coffee, and not get a chance to really do much of anything, but as it turned out, I was able to learn new software and create 3D models in a computer-generated design program, and take home the real working prototype as a souvenir. Everyone in my section was extremely thoughtful and always helped me if I had questions, and also offered interesting conversations from differing perspectives. Though often tiring, I enjoyed every day in the bustling environment, listening to various phone calls,
seeing the many simultaneous projects, and always learning. I was also fortunate enough to be taken on tours of other companies and factories, which opened my eyes to the realities of tough labor.
If nothing else, coming to Japan and working and living served to clarify and solidify my future goals and plans. I have decided that I definitely want to come back to Japan and work full-time in the near future. I am truly thankful to have been able to see and learn so many new things, and on top of everything, the whole experience was just Fun! Lots to learn, lots of challenges, just lots and lots to see and do! So why did I want to become a Student Advisor? I love the program that much.