Experiences Abroad and At Home

September 23, 2011

By Ayumi Onaka, MPA 12’

For most of our students, engaging in an internship in Washington, D.C. would be considered an experience in their nation’s capital and an internship in Kyoto, Japan would be considered an experience abroad.  However, for Ayumi Onaka, who has been enrolled in the Master of Public Administration (MPA) program since the fall of 2010, the opposite is true. 

As a requirement for all pre-service students in our MPA program it is very common for our students to engage in graduate level internship opportunities in public service and management.  It is rare however for a student to engage in two internships in one summer, let alone in two different countries.   The following is a short article from Ayumi about both experiences and how she was able to contribute her expertise toward her home city and other students experiencing education overseas.

My first internship this past summer was with the US Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce in Washington DC, a national non-profit organization for Asian Americans.  In this internship, I learned the importance of communication between policymakers and the public and gained a real-world perspective on how governing and nonprofits work here in America.  It was a great experience in that I was able to utilize many of the skills I had learned in my MPA classes.

In August, I came back to Japan to do another internship in an office of a city council member of the City of Kyoto, Mr. Hirofumi Yamamoto. My work centered on planning for and holding a forum on “The Internationalization of Kyoto”.  It was great to work on a project from the planning stage to implementation.  It was also great in that I was able work on cooperation between the City of Kyoto, Kyoto City International Foundation, international student offices of some universities in Kyoto, and Mr. Hirofumi Yamamoto’s office.

Much like Boston, Kyoto is famous for its large number of universities. As a result, there are many international students in Kyoto, and, due to low birthrates, the city has taken measures to accept even more foreign students.  Recognizing that dialogues between policymakers and the public are quite important for policy making, “the Internationalization of Kyoto” forum was designed to create an open discussion about the local government’s policies toward further acceptance of international students in the city.

In the forum, the Chairman of the International Relations Office of the City of Kyoto, Mr. Yasushi Mita, gave a brief talk about the policies of the city. Then questions were asked and answered by around 30 participants, which included foreign college students and Japanese college students.  After the dialogue, participants had a friendly get-together and were able to network with one another. This kind of event should be further promoted for better policy making in Japan and it is my goal to keep working on it.

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