I knew I wanted to find an internship in Tokyo before traveled there to study for the semester. Temple University Japan offers an extensive selection of internships available to their students, but Refugees International Japan immediately became my first choice. I knew it would be a significant experience to spend my time with a small organization working with refugee communities around the world. I was not disappointed.
An internship with RIJ can be anything but repetitive. My work was multifaceted and open-ended. I was required to employ and learn various skills in order to be as helpful as possible. I gained new and unexpected experience in fields such as marketing and graphic design. I served as a liaison, managed social media, typed reports, volunteered at events—the list goes on.
I was fortunate enough to have been interning with RIJ during a time when new stories about our beneficiaries were coming back to the office. Turning these stories into postcards and writing project visit reports immediately exposed me to the current realities of RIJ’s work; there are inspiring individual and community success stories and there are solemn reminders of the struggles that lay ahead for many. Conflict, refugees, and IDPs became less of an abstraction and more of a reality every time I came into RIJ’s office and volunteered at events—the recent Refugee Collection being the most powerful events I attended.
Speaking of RIJ’s events, it was refreshing to meet all of the talented, funny, and compassionate people who volunteer their time to raise money for our projects. I would recommend that one volunteer/intern with RIJ simply to be around good people. Additionally, your work with RIJ is meaningful.
I remember before another intern and I met with the Refugees International Japan student community, Jane shared with us the importance of listening. She instructed us to not walk into the classroom and tell the students what to do, but to listen to the students and use our resources to facilitate their success. This philosophy of listening to the members of our student community is a microcosm of RIJ’s philosophy as a whole. The countries and their populations that are currently most affected by conflict have long been held back by the global North’s condescending “civilizing” mission, which has manifested itself in various ways, whether it be through violent colonialism or seemingly benign development projects. Refugees International Japan abandons a neocolonial paradigm by funding sustainable community-led projects. Rebuilding lives and restoring the feeling of dignity is not a matter unrequited instruction; it is a matter of listening, responding and, understanding there is a relationship of reciprocity. So working with RIJ is not only meaningful, it is also radical.