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Blog by: Jake

Watford, North London. Studying Engineering. Read more

Alien Intern – Part 2

I said I’d write an update before my flight home. This did not happen. It is already well into the next academic year and I got back from Japan several weeks ago. I can only apologise. Again.

In the previous part of this blog, I spoke about the first 4 weeks of my 8 week internship in Japan. Generally, the second half of my internship was not hugely different. I had gotten used to the food, speaking using my hands more than my voice, and the incessant odd looks, but there were some new experiences. One thing I refused to get used to was how long people wait at traffic lights. Japanese people simply do not cross the road unless their equivalent of the green man says so, even if there were no cars to be seen for the best part of a mile, which would be ok if it didn’t take an age for the lights to change. I was well behaved for the first several weeks, but it wasn’t long before I started gritting my teeth, looking at the floor (so I wouldn’t see all the angry faces), and walking, apparently sending a huge middle finger society’s way by disobeying the lack of green man. In my defence, it was waiting at the lights when I suddenly thought to myself, for the first time ever, wow, life really is short. Coincidence? No. Time to cross the road. Rant over.

I spoke briefly in my last post about the generosity that the Japanese people, including my colleagues, showed towards me. This was demonstrated when Fujitsu forked out a flipping fortune to send me on a domestic flight just to see their flagship PC factory, Shimane. This was arguably the most interesting part of my internship; I was taken on a tour, and it was huge. There were multiple, identical production lines, consisting of interdependent people and machines, and each had strict targets. This all meant, unfortunately, that if anyone made a mistake…well, it was frowned upon.

As September crept upon Japan, with it came the early stages of storm season. Suddenly the bright sun and sweaty humidity became torrential rain, thunder, lightning, and sweaty humidity. Unpleasant, in a word. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, earthquakes started to occur regularly. Yes, they were barely enough to give my chair a bit of a wobble, but still. The ground is not supposed to shake. Several evenings, I’d be reading the news about how angry the Chinese were at Japan, then I’d hear a booming sound, see a bright flash, and the ground would shake. Call me a pessimist, a wimp even, but my subconscious was not happy. It was a scary final 3 weeks.

As everyone should know, the only solution to such a situation is Disneyland. So, I went to Disneyland with 2 other interns. Well, technically, it was Disney Sea, one of two Disney parks in Tokyo, and allegedly the most expensive Disney park in the world in terms of building costs. With the price of land in Japan however, this does not say an awful lot. On the other hand, it has become my favourite place on the planet. It was a crazy melting pot of themed scenery, from beneath a volcano to an Arabian city, but it worked. The whole place felt like a film set and I finally felt I could lay off pretending I’m a grown up, i.e. sing along to the background music and contort uncontrollably in childish excitement. To be fair, I was not out of place; EVERYONE had those Mickey Mouse ears (everyone includes 20-30 year olds), every girl wore red and white polka dots in some form, and every guy had a daft T-shirt.

I think that’s pretty much my stay in Japan covered. Unfortunately, instead of seeing all there is to be seen of Japan, I learnt that travel and work (if office based) do not fit together well. However, apart from awkward showers, getting lost for 3 hours and spending the last 3 weeks worrying China were going to blow me up, it was an incredible experience. Thanks for reading.

Note: the use of “Alien” in the titles of these posts is a reference to the word Gaijin, literal translation of alien and a word used by the Japanese to describe foreigners, frequently directed at me by nervous looking children.

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Alien Intern – Part 1

I’ve never been a fan of being stared at, but when I’m naked in a group shower full of Japanese men (3-4 days a week), “not being a fan” doesn’t quite cut it…

So the joys of the Engineering course’s industrial experience requirement have this year led me to an internship in Japan. Of course, I cannot complain about the opportunity, but it is 8 weeks long, so byebye summer vacation…

Hello working life, amongst people with whom communication is a rare and difficult activity. I am working at Fujitsu (electronics, IT), in the suburbs of Tokyo, and I am 4 weeks into the placement. It would be unfair to say that my Japanese colleagues (they are of course all Japanese) do not speak English; fortunately, my boss worked in an office in America for 5 years so his English is usually fine. Generally however, the language barrier is significant. For example, I was given a tour of one of Fujitsu’s sites last week, and several times my guide made claims that were literally impossible by either laws of physics or other reality based limitations, to which eventually I had to nod and give a sort of “ooooh OK” just to avoid further confusion and silent stalemates.

In honesty, I am enjoying my time here. I am very busy during the week, as despite being knackered at work I usually need to do some sort of exercise afterwards in order to avoid letting the combination of a carb heavy diet and sitting on a chair all day take its toll on my waistline. This means that really I only get one day a week to go sightseeing, but with the cost of travel (note: high), this is enough! So far, I have been typically British with my approach to sightseeing, only really making the effort once or twice to see something traditionally or famously Japanese, such as the Senso-ji temple and the Skytree. Otherwise, I have fallen victim to the less than justifiable need to get drunk and do something stupid in Tokyo.

People are excruciatingly polite here, and their social rules and mannerisms are so rigid that from time to time they do something that would seem pretty rude back home. For example, snorting loudly in a sweaty, crowded and quiet elevator. Every day. I even watched one guy (I sometimes get a little bored) have a notably thorough dig in his right nostril, for at least a minute and a half. I recognise I have no right to judge though; I often feel bad for having come to Japan knowing how to say hello, apparently NOT knowing how to say thank you (there’s so many different ways), and little else. I am trying to learn Japanese, I really am, but from the perspective of someone to whom numbers make more sense than words, the language just seems illogical.

If you ever find yourself severely lacking friends, you should go to Japan. The natives (there are very few other people around, in fact) are incredibly friendly, and will try to help English speaking tourists however possible. I’m beginning to get used to being looked at like I’m some sort of criminal, as I assume it is because most people are simply not used to seeing westerners around in work gear. Or maybe they just think I’m a criminal. Most Japanese people seem to believe that English is THE language to learn, and the busy train routes usually have signs and make announcements in English. Perhaps one of the reasons they try so hard to be helpful is that they’re after some free-of-charge-from-the-source English. Almost selfish really.

I must apologise for having posted absolutely nothing for so long. During a busy yet uneventful academic year, it has been difficult to find any of my experiences interesting enough to write about. Poor writing skills limit this further; something has to be standalone interesting for anything I write to be worth a read!
This is very long, so further apologies for that. Thank you for reading, and I hope it was interesting. Again, I’m here for 4 more weeks, and I hope to write an update before my flight home. Watch this space, if you’re at all bothered of course.


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Firstly I should say a big congratulations to all of you who have bagged yourself a place this year. Hope you’re looking forward to the mixture of abuse, worship and free drinks you’ll be receiving from the second years (who are jealous they’re no longer freshers). Make sure you make the most of the activities organised for you, there’s events for everyone to meet people and ease into what will be an intense year socially and academically.

Moving on, I’ve just finished my first year and although it was tricky at times, I can’t wait to get back. I’ve made the most of my summer by filling it with things I wouldn’t be able to do at Cambridge, such as see as many friends from my old school that I can, go on sunny holidays and make some much needed money! Any engineers reading this will no doubt have researched the course far more than I had before applying and would therefore be aware of the necessary industrial experience you have to undertake. I’m currently doing a 6 week placement, which although demanding (ish), is helpful and financially rewarding so don’t be put off by the daunting sounding task of 8 weeks in 2 years.

In terms of going in for your first year at Cambridge, one thing I’ve learned is to be open to anything. Well maybe not anything, but anything that sounds reasonable! Don’t turn something down cos you think you’re too cool for it, because you’re probably not, and don’t turn a college sports team down cos you’re not good enough, as the majority of the players are probably beginners (or just pants) as well. Changing the subject, to get you hyped for the May balls at the end of the year (and to give you some hope that there is a big reward in the form of may week at the end of exams) I’ve pieced together a short video from the night of one of the college’s fireworks displays. Hope you enjoy it, and maybe I’ll see you around Cambridge!

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Well it’s the Easter “holidays” now and I fancy taking a break from the relentless beatdown I’m currently receiving from the Engineering department (in the form of examples papers) to write a little about my recent trip to Paris.

First of all, I assume that because you’re reading this, you have found the other blogs of use and/or interest, which is great! It means I’m not wasting my time or talking rubbish. Secondly, I’d like to apologise on behalf of my video appearance for bearing a perilously accurate resemblance to Mike Tindall. For those of you who don’t know who he is or what he looks like already you have a pretty good idea now. Don’t tell him I said that.

Anyway, the relevance of my Paris trip to you is that it was with the university, run by the language unit of the Engineering Department. As an engineer, you are encouraged to continue or commence a modern foreign language as an aside to compulsory studies in the first year, and then have the option to study a language as a module later in the course. I’m not sure about other departments, but this is the sort of opportunity encountered frequently by many students at Cambridge, just a bonus.

Before spending money, the whole week cost me under £90, and I managed to greatly improve my French, visit a few companies, and of course spend a week in Paris. The weather was perfect; the people were great (except for one oversized and under-clothed local I managed to wake up at midnight) and of course the city is amazing. We’d usually finish our company visits early afternoon, then have the rest of the day and night to see and do what we liked, including ruin one man’s proposal to his girlfriend at the top of the Eiffel Tower (and legging it before we saw the consequences), row-boat gladiators at the Palace of Versailles, and repeatedly pose like idiots for the many photos that were to be taken. One downside of the trip was that I spent the whole week on crutches, which was neither comfortable nor fun, and Paris isn’t exactly crutch-friendly either ( if you’ve read the things I’ve previously written, you’d have undoubtedly encountered the word “rugby” at some point).

Just a quick update on what I’ve been up to. Now I’m going to get on with lots of questions I’ll never be able to answer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to scare you; if I can manage it, anyone can, but I’m not going to lie and say it’s a piece of cake… Otherwise, I hope this was worth reading, maybe next time I’ll BACK MYSELF and do a video blog. Yeah that was appalling. I’m not actually like that. Sorry.

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Flawless… hmmmm

One of the perks of writing these blogs is that every now and then the admissions office offers us tickets to certain events around Cambridge.

Tonight I was lucky enough to see the dance group Flawless on their “Chase the Dream” tour, at the local venue, the Cambridge Corn Exchange. Any Britain’s Got Talent fan will remember them as the troupe who lost out to Diversity in the show’s final a couple of years ago, however I reckon that Flawless were slightly better, I suspect I’ll get some stick for that comment. Regardless, deciding who to take was easy, as there was only one other person I knew (it seemed) who was remotely bothered at all by the idea, a friend of mine from my secondary school, studying at another college.

I was apprehensive at first; I’d never been to this venue and I struggled to predict how you could turn one group’s dancing into a feature length show, but they definitely managed it. It began with a typically energetic, fast paced introductory routine which promised a huge amount, but this was followed by a strange period where “inspirational” quotes made by each of the members resounded around the theatre, which didn’t half make me cringe and worry that the rest of the show would be some philosophical interpretive odd stuff, but that was soon over and they got back to what they are great at.

I understand that, to succeed as a production, the show would need some underlying moral message or story, but I wasn’t too sure about the life lesson business. There were good scenes and great scenes, some powerful, some just fun, where the choreography was mind-blowing and no matter which part of the stage you were looking at, there was always something going on. Without trying to sound emotionally intelligent, because I’m not, it was a great mixture of humour, meaning and Michael Jackson.

One part of the show involved the audience replicating THE MOST BASIC of hand routines which my mate and I just could not get to grips with, repeatedly being shown up by the various toddlers sitting nearby, but it was fun anyway, and dark which was fortunate.

Despite the overwhelming majority of the audience being young girls who would scream incessantly at one of the dancers (who found the concept of keeping his top on a bit challenging), and having to sit next to can’t-stop-fidgeting-and-waving-his-infuriating-epileptic fit-inducing-stick-kid, I had a great time and would recommend it to absolutely anybody, interested in dance or not.

So yes! Good acts do come to Cambridge! Turns out Chase and status are playing at the same venue tomorrow, something that surprised me. Anyway, thanks for reading, sorry if you were expecting more Cambridge related advice! More to come.

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My first blog

Ok so hi to those of you reading my first blog, first of all I have to apologise in advance as I have never done this sort of thing before but hopefully it’ll read relatively coherently and be of use. As this is the first, unfortunately I’ll be boring and introduce myself.

My name’s Jake and I’m a first year, and so I’m told I’m the only “blogger” who has missed the deadline and got their first blog in late. To sum up extra info, I’m mad about rugby, a big music fan, and generally disorganised.
The reason someone so useless is writing a blog for you is as follows. All universities I’m sure hold what’s called a fresher’s fair. At mine, amongst all sorts of stalls and pizza-menu-thrusters there was a tent with a massive sign outside that read “Win an iPhone,” so of course I checked it out. The idea was that you gave your details and then read a statement into a camera; after which you drew a number from a box to see if you’d won. I didn’t, and that was it. However it turns out that my shoddy pronunciation and lack of eye contact were appealing attributes, so after phone calls and emails I was repeating similar statements into a camera for the film thing, and now I’m blogging. As I’m a first year, I’m still getting used to the whole Cambridge bubble, workload and generally novel environment despite it being the second term, so perhaps my experiences will be of interest to prospective students. I turned up to Cambridge a bit worried that I’d be one of few state school students, foul-mouthed, without much money, and that I really wouldn’t get on with many other students, but only a day in and I was already having a laugh with my neighbours (also freshers), taking my aggressive and rude “keep off” labels off my food and drink I’d brought from home, and generally feeling at ease. The truth is, there are literally all sorts of people here in Cambridge, there really is no way someone could come here and not make plenty of friends.

Something I would mention briefly is sport. One of my first goals was to get on the College rugby team and get straight into sport again, which in my opinion is a must for the majority of students; get into a College sport whether you’re a beginner or an expert. Even if it’s netball. You’ll meet some great people and it will keep you relatively fit. There is so much I can go on about that I believe really will be of use, like diet, work, social life, but they’ll have to wait for following blogs I think. Thanks for reading, I hope it all made sense.

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