Kelly Gustafson - 2015 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

When I was in high school I fell in love with Japan. I loved the music, the culture, and the fashion. Because of this, I knew I had to travel to Japan at some point in my life. In college I had the chance to study abroad in Tokyo for four weeks during the summer of 2012 with a different program. After studying abroad that year I knew I had to go back to Japan.

After graduating Mount Ida College in 2014, I still dreamed of traveling back to Japan, but I wanted to go and do something fashion related (I studied fashion design in college and currently am a fashion designer). In early 2015, I found Internship in Japan through Google, got in contact with the company, and I was placed as an intern that year with a Japanese fashion designer!

Friends in Osaka, Japan
Osaka

Why did you choose Internship in Japan?

I loved how Internship In Japan offered so many internship placements for all different career fields. Finding a fashion design internship, especially in Japan, is very hard because I am not fluent in Japanese, but they were able to find me a company that allowed English. Internship In Japan provided excellent service and they were very welcoming.

What was your favorite part about Tokyo?

The fashion in Tokyo! I loved seeing the variety of fashions each individual wore. Everyone is so unique and confident in their own personal style and all of this inspired me to start my own fashion brand when I returned back to Boston after my internship.

Friends taking a picture at a grocery in Japan
Omori with housemates

What made your experience interning abroad unique?

Being an intern for a fashion company in Japan. The first time I went to Japan I was taking a Japanese language and history class in the mornings and then exploring Tokyo with friends in the afternoon. That was more leisure, but this time it was more work related. I think what made my trip unique was experiencing work life in Japan and comparing it to American work life.

How did the Internship in Japan staff support you before and after your arrival in Japan?

Before I left for Japan they kept me updated with the company I would intern for and helped me find a place to live during my stay. When I arrived in Tokyo, they invited me to their office to explain Japanese business etiquette and told me if I ever needed a place to study Japanese or if I was feeling alone that I could always come to the office at any time. The staff was always welcoming and always got back to me if I had a question or concern.

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

Being more confident in myself, because I was terrified to be in a country so far away from home and I was nervous I would not be good enough as an intern. The fashion industry is very tough and in certain places there's little room for mistakes, so I was scared I would make too many mistakes. Of course I made mistakes and I would bring myself down, but looking back at it I would tell myself that I'm human and it's ok to make mistakes!

Foreigners waiting for a train in Tokyo, Japan
Going to Roppongi with some housemates

Describe a typical day in the life of your internship.

I took the train from Omori to Shinagawa, grabbed a coffee from Shinagawa Station, and then walked to the office by 10 a.m. On normal workdays, the designer and I would work in the office until 7 p.m. On specific days we would go on errands or travel to different locations for model fittings. I was fortunate enough to be there during Tokyo Fashion Week in Shibuya, so I was able to see different designers and their work.

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

On weekends I would either meet up with friends or I would spend time with my housemates at our shared home in Omori. I would go shopping in Shibuya a lot and I went to Visual Kei concerts.

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

I stayed in a shared home in Omori and it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. There were about 20 other people who lived in the house and it was a mix of Japanese and foreigners. I was able to have my own room, so that allowed me to have some privacy, but I loved spending time with my housemates and learning more about their cultures. To this day I am still friends with my housemates and I hope to visit them again in Japan in the future!

What is one thing everyone should know being interning in Japan?

To be confident in yourself and your abilities, and know that the Internship In Japan staff will always be there for you no matter what.

Foreigners with cosplayers in Tokyo
Visual Kei meet and greet in Shinjuku

Now that you're home, how would you say interning abroad has impacted your life?

Interning in Japan and living there was a wake up call for me. After college graduation I did not know what I wanted to do with my career. Coming back from Japan made me realize I was capable of being my own boss and starting a fashion brand!

Would you recommend Internship in Japan to other aspiring interns? Why?

I would! If you want a fun internship experience in Japan, apply to Internship In Japan and they will help you achieve your dream.