A Glimpse into the Japanese Global Development Field

By Tabatha Donley

Analyzing project data from the Philippines, discussing cross-cultural politics at lunch, attending a seminar at Tokyo’s World Bank, and rescuing an injured hawk: interning at CITYNET Yokohama from May to July of 2016 brought a wide range of experiences.

I discovered this opportunity through the wonderful Internet. CITYNET captured my interest due to their diverse development work, close partnerships with the United Nations, focus on capacity building, and their mission of “fostering city-to-city cooperation” across the Asia-Pacific. As a Japanese-American, I also sought to improve my Japanese language abilities, particularly for professional settings.

In typical Japanese fashion, I commuted to CITYNET’s office via train, bicycle, and my own two feet. I marveled at how tidy, punctual, and tech-savy the trains were, as well as how polite everyone was. Arriving “on time” in Japan is arriving early: While my internship did not officially start until 10am, I would often arrive by 9:30am, or 9:45am by the latest. Full-time employees started the day at 9:30am, and finished at 6:00pm (though in Japan, nearly everyone works over-time).

Evening traffic on the trains
Evening traffic on the trains.

Initially I was nervous because it was my first “office” job. Fortunately, there was nothing to worry about: my co-workers and supervisors were incredibly kind and the office was located in a beautiful building by the ocean, shared with organizations such as the UN’s World Food Programme. Everyone at the office spoke multiple languages and had unique personal and professional backgrounds: in fact, the director was Nepali-Japanese, and two employees were former government workers. In this setting, my Japanese language abilities improved substantially.

View of Minato-mirai, the district CITYNET Yokohama is located in.
View of Minato-mirai, the district CITYNET Yokohama is located in.

Originally tasked with researching global development grants and completing some administrative tasks, my supervisors at CITYNET gave me flexibility in pursuing what interested me most. My main accomplishments were producing (1) a thirteen-page report on CITYNET’s disaster prevention project in the Philippines; and (2) creating three marketing infographics.

Another infographic
1 of 3 infographics I created.

I was also given the opportunity to both coordinate and facilitate a cross-cultural discussion for CITYNET Young Professionals, along with my co-intern from Canada. It was a fun night with Japanese college students, sharing perspectives and discussing social issues such as immigration and LGTBTQ rights, population decline, and contrasting education systems. The first impression many Japanese students had of Americans included the words “guns” and “obesity” – wasn’t feeling too prideful in that moment!

Cross-cultural discussion with CITYNET Young Professionals
Cross-cultural discussion with CITYNET Young Professionals.

A huge highlight of the internship was partaking in site visits. We attended a climate change seminar at Tokyo’s World Bank, simulated earthquakes at Yokohama’s Disaster Prevention Center, and were given a personal tour of Tsuzuki Waste Bureau to learn about Japan’s policies regarding renewable energy and observe Japan’s culture

Site visit with interns, co-workers, and boss
Site visit with some of the CITYNET staff.

Interning in Japan increased not only my understanding of the global development field, but also of Japanese society, culture, and politics. During my last week, I presented on my internship experience, and the entire office was in disbelief that my time was up; we went out for lunch one last time and talked of crossing paths again in the future. While my internship may have ended, I am quite positive that this will not be the last time I encounter CITYNET, given their increasing role in the Asia-Pacific community. Last, but certainly not least, I remain thankful for CAPEC in their support of my internship, and CITYNET Yokohama for hosting their first Mason intern. ありがとうございました!


Fall 2016 Courses

HIST 387-06 History of Taiwan
Wednesdays 4.30pm – 7.10pm
Instructor: Prof. Gerrit Van Der Wees

This course is designed to familiarize students with the history and people of Taiwan and its success in transforming itself from an authoritarian, underdeveloped country into a free and vibrant democracy.

The first part of the course will survey the history of Taiwan and will cover the original aborigine inhabitants, the Dutch occupation, the Koxinga period, the Manchu (Ch’ing) era, Japanese colonial rule, and the Republic of China on Taiwan after World War II.

The second and third parts will focus on the momentous transition to democracy in the late 1980s.  As we travel through the country’s history, we will also touch on a broad range of issues such as the environment, arts and culture.

RELI 315 Buddhism
Mon and Wed 1.30pm – 2.45pm
Instructor: Prof. Cuong Nguyen

buddhaBorn in India, Buddhism found a home in many different Asian societies, whose cultures have been profoundly shaped by Buddhism’s unique religious vision.

This course will examine the historical development of Buddhism in India, China, and Japan, including both Theravada and Mahayana traditions, and explore its philosophical and religious significance, as well as its social and political influence in South Asian and East Asian countries.


Who We Are

CAPEC is an informal network of faculty, staff, students, university partners, and community friends committed to advance economic, cultural and social understanding of the Asia-Pacific economies through education and experiential learning for the Mason community.

We provide service to the university by supporting curricula and research development, exchange activities, cross-cultural events, student mentoring, and partnership building.

Our emphasis:

  • Build interdisciplinary linkages and partnerships
  • Support curricula development
  • Promote cross-cultural exchanges
  • Engage students and faculty in research and scholarship

Contact Us

Center for Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation (CAPEC)
George Mason University
4400 University Drive, MS 1D6
Fairfax, VA 22030, U.S.A.

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