Roope Kolu went for a 3-month internship at Mitsubishi Electric, in Ofuna, Japan and came back with a bag full of experiences and learnings.
Roope, where did you do your internship and how long did you stay there?
I was in Japan for 3 months as part of the Mitsubishi design team in a city called Ofuna.
How did you learn about the internship opportunity and was it difficult to get in?
The offer came from school. I had China and Japan to select from and it was pretty straightforward.
What was your motivation to do the internship?
I wanted to learn more about job culture outside Finland and at the same time to get some new perspective to my own life. I had an internship offer from Sweden, but I was thinking it is too close and “easy”.
Tell us a bit about the company and in which department you did the internship.
Mitsubishi Electric was a pretty relaxed place. It is a big company and locals respect the brand a lot. People even said their biggest dream was to work at Mitsubishi. I felt like Japanese people don’t really leave jobs like at Mitsubishi, if they get in. The work time was 8:30-17:00, in that way it was very strict and old fashioned. Also lunch time was every day at the same time, small 15 min interval, if you want to go later.
Not everyone spoke English so it lowered the amount of interactions during the day. I would say maybe 30% spoke great English and 20% had a lot of problems with English. I worked in the User Interface design team.
What were your tasks and projects?
I was conceptualizing a system for a factory. It included research, making a business model and conceptualizing the service. At the end, I also made some UI concepts and user scenarios. Thinking about the business side was a big part and I think in Finland there is not enough talk about this, when making design. We could learn a lot from Sweden in this area.
Did you have any expectations for the internship before you came, and were they matched with your final experience?
I was thinking I would do a real UI project, but I learned that almost every intern there was conceptualizing. In my mind, this was because of the language problems. It is hard to participate making for example UI design, if you don’t speak Japanese. I did not make as much UI design as I would have wanted to.
What was the most interesting thing you learned?
I think it was more about learning the culture and meeting japanese people. Also I learned a lot about myself. And it was necessary to me leave Finland to learn those things.
What was rather challenging during your time there?
The darkness at night time. I was living in a dorm at a very small town and the streetlights were very bad. The lack of nature in my living area was also a little bit depressing, there were no parks or forests. When I had more days off from work, I booked Airbnb and spent 4 days hiking and seeing some nature 2h away from my place. It was a nice break to the urban life. Also, the first month was very hard because of so few interactions at work and all the new things to learn related to work and spare time (trains, phone contract, buying food, buying everyday things etc.).
Did the internship change your view on design or regarding what you’d like to do onwards?
Not really. I was not even expecting this. It changed my perspective about Finns and Finland.
Anything else you would like to share about your experience there?
I think the internship experience is a great way to push yourself and learn many new things. Maybe for me it was more struggle at the start, because I have not really travelled at all in my life, never been outside Europe. But maybe the university experience for me has been all the time like this and it is what I was looking for. I am sure I will go back to Japan for a vacation in the near future.