Yuki Kondo-Shah ‘'07 PDF Print E-mail

pending_headshotYuki is a Government major with a concentration in international relations. In order to learn more about diplomacy and conflict resolution, she interned at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan. Yuki also conducted research in Japan, interviewing individuals who were alive during the U.S. occupation and wrote her senior thesis, “Embracing Surrender: Reevaluating the American Occupation of Japan”

My internship with the Public Affairs Section/Culture (PAS/C) section of the American Embassy in Tokyo exceeded my expectations in terms of a student internship experience. I am extremely thankful that I was given this opportunity through my Dickey Center Internship Grant.  The Cultural Section of the American Embassy in Tokyo is one of the largest in the world. It is presently divided into three sections: Cultural Programming, Exchanges, and Cultural Affairs. I was able to use my knowledge and background in International Relations and my Japanese language skills to pursue a meaningful experience. The job setting was ideal, because although I was learning the nuances of a Japanese workplace with my Japanese colleagues, I had the freedom to express my thoughts in an American environment.   

My expectations at the beginning of the internship were to support the Foreign Service officers as well as the national staff. As the days passed by, I was surprised to find myself plugged into the Exchange and Program Offices, working as part of the team. Although I had many questions, and at times I am sure that I was burdening everyone with my lack of knowledge, my supervisors were incredibly kind, well-informed, and willing to help me understand how the Embassy worked. I was very interested in the Embassy’s Mission Goals, especially to learn how they fit in with public affairs. I began my internship with only a superficial knowledge regarding a Foreign Service career; however, after 10 weeks, I could see the service as a possible career path for myself.

I felt incredibly welcome in my workplace, and I felt that I was doing real work that impacted the MPP goals of the mission, which made me feel very responsible. I do not know of many student internships that give students this much experience and insight into their respective jobs. I was able to participate in POL/ MIL and ECON cluster meetings with the Ambassador, be a member at representational events such as art exhibition openings, and my supervisor even arranged for me to meet with the Japanese Emperor and Empress. I also participated in functions for the Press Office, such as press conferences at the Japanese Prime Minister’s Residence. I was exposed to whole world which I had only read about in my Government textbooks and it made International Relations a reality that I could grasp and see as a realistic career for myself. I was fascinated by how public affairs and public diplomacy were important components of international affairs. Cultural Affairs Officer Mark Davidson (Dartmouth ’82) went out of his way to teach me about the Culture Section, and I appreciated his kindness very much. 

The American Embassy in Tokyo is one of the largest in the world, and it has served as an important point of international negotiations in the East Asian region for over 50 years. The mission principles articulated the importance of the alliance between the American and Japanese governments. This was illustrated by the cooperation and collaboration which occurred during the North Korean Missile Crisis (July 5, 2006), in which he Japanese and American governments worked together to share intelligence about a complicated issue. Through daily briefings and meetings, I was able to grasp the current important issues of the region, including tension in North Korea, the American beef ban, agricultural trade policy, investment opportunities, and regional stability. I looked forward to the weekly POL/MIL meetings, when the Ambassador would question all of the officers on their expertise, and I was given the responsibility of briefing my supervisors on what took place at the meetings afterwards.

Specifically, in my section, I was given substantial projects intended to support the goals of American public diplomacy. The most important project I worked on was a lecture series for a prominent American author who did a tour through three Japanese cities. My responsibilities included assisting in research about the author, conceptualizing the program, and finally the implementation of programs through Japanese universities.  I was the main contact for arranging her trip, and my supervisor even sent me on a business trip to Kyoto and Nagoya to ensure that her program ran smoothly. Additionally, I worked on a speaker tour program on the topic of Library Science and Intellectual Property. I was especially pleased by this conference because many countries, such as Japan have not so far taken the time to examine the implications of the internet on freedom of information, library science, and intellectual property. In fact, most Japanese public libraries are not connected to the internet! I thought this discussion between the American professors and the Japanese library science professionals were very fruitful and enjoyed being part of the process. Additionally, I learned that some American policies are cutting-edge and really impact how other nations conduct their own policies.   

My daily tasks included attending meetings, briefing various groups who came through the Embassy, drafting memos for the Ambassador as well as President Bush, and researching potential contacts and speakers for my supervisors. I was also able to aid the Japanese staff by editing their English cables and memos.

My internship was an invaluable educational experience, because although I had always been interested in an international career, I had not known what kind of opportunities were available to me. With my internship I learned not only about the Foreign Service, but also through meeting many contacts of the Cultural Affairs Section, many other job opportunities in international affairs. Mr. Davidson, my boss, calls the Foreign Service the “true liberal arts profession,” because there are so many different projects to work on everyday. 

Through discussion with my supervisor and researching material about the Foreign Service and the State Department, I learned about Secretary of State Rice’s new “Transformational Diplomacy,” which I find very compelling. In past years, Secretary Rice has made trips all over the world to promote this new doctrine of countries working together to face the borderless challenges of the new century. I was especially impressed with the Global Repositioning Initiative, which will reorganize the placement of Foreign Service Officers to regions that are in need of American support and influence. This would mean that the number of Foreign Service Officers will increase in areas such as South East Asia and the Middle East, while unfortunately those officers will be pulled from allied countries like Japan and Germany. While I believe this type of response is necessary and am impressed with the dynamic way the State Department is responding to needs of a post-Cold War international picture, my work experience also raised some points of which I would want to see in improved in the future of American diplomacy. Although I was incredibly impressed with the amount of the cultural and language knowledge the officers had acquired through the Foreign Service Institute, it was clear that sometimes there were confusions and tensions that arose from language and cultural misunderstanding between the American and host country staff. If this is kind of thing can happen between nations which are strong allies, I imagine that it must be even more difficult in areas where political and historical tension exists. At times, because of my bi-cultural background, I was torn between the mission goals that I perceived as promoting American goals and ideas, and what I thought would be best for the host country. Although I have no resolutions to this problem, it made me reconsider some of my future plans and taught me to always consider diverse perspectives when examining international affairs. Also, the many officers that I admired had pursued graduate studies regarding their chosen global region, so I am now considering becoming more educated about the East Asia.

In conclusion, the Embassy internship in Tokyo was one of the most enlightening experiences of my life, and it will affect the way that I perceive my future career path. I have learned so much from the experience, and I also met wonderful people who I will stay in contact with for the rest of my life. Thank you so much for the opportunity, and I would love to answer any questions you may have or participate in any future informational sessions.

 

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