Internship in Japan helps student design her future
What happens when your academic interests come to life in a professional setting?
St. Olaf College student Lexi Swenson ’16 is finding out during a two-month internship in Tokyo this summer.
There, she is combining her love of Japanese culture and graphic design while working at Northshore Inc., a creative technologies company.
“The whole place is a creative center where people are sharing ideas with one another,” says Swenson, who is working on a wide range of projects while honing her graphic design, photography, and marketing skills.
Her internship is supported through the Johnson Family Opportunity Fund at St. Olaf, which awards need-based grants that enable students to take part in high-impact learning experiences and pursue their post-graduation goals.
“One of the most valuable things I have learned from this internship is how marketing in Japan is also looking at how to market to the U.S. and European markets,” Swenson says. “It is interesting to see Japan playing on an international field.”
Swenson came to St. Olaf interested in both graphic design and Asian studies.
She studied Japanese and participated in the Asian Conversations Program, a learning community that introduces students to some of the key texts of Asia as well as key historical, cultural, political, and linguistic constructs through an integrated sequence of three courses. During Interim, students in the program travel to Japan and China to learn about the culture and practice the language firsthand.
She also turned to a variety of organizations on campus to build her portfolio and experience with design. Swenson has served as the marketing and communications officer for the Student Government Association’s Music Entertainment Commitee, art director of KSTO Radio, and has done freelance design and marketing work for campus bands and other organizations.
“These organizations really made me learn how to teach myself skills I was interested in,” Swenson says. “From photography to graphic design, I learned a lot while on the job.”
With all of those experiences, Swenson set out to find an internship that would combine her interests. One of her mentors from Concordia’s Japanese Language Village was doing graphic design work in Tokyo.
“This was exactly what I wanted to do, so I contacted her and she helped me create a small profile that I sent to Northshore Inc.,” Swenson says. “They don’t really have an internship program, but they were really excited about the idea and took me on.”
So far she’s enjoying her time in Tokyo, and is working toward her goal of becoming fluent in Japanese.
“I know that isn’t entirely possible to achieve this summer, but I do want to move beyond thinking about a grammar point,” Swenson says. “I want to be able to jump into conversations.”
This is her first time traveling by herself, and Swenson also hopes to learn how to navigate new terrain on her own.
“I want to experience the culture beyond being a tourist,” she says.
Swenson hopes to eventually return to Tokyo after graduation to continue a career in graphic design.