Community Development in Asia

Two students will be selected for a unique summer internship experience at the Asian Rural Institute (ARI) in northern Japan. Japanese language skills are not required.

  • Learn about international development and sustainable agriculture
  • Build relationships and participate in community life with people from all over the world
  • Contribute to the farm through farm work, meal preparation, office work, etc.
  • Assist with fundraising, communications, and/or video production for the Asian Rural Institute (depending on the skills and interests of the student)
  • Develop leadership and cross-cultural skills

Program Dates:  May 27th – July 27th (tentative)
Participants will also be expected to participate in a half day of orientation before they depart and a few days of writing and reflection after they return home.

Application Deadline: February 18th
Brief interviews will likely take place on February 25th or 26th

Cost: Travel to and from Minneapolis to Tokyo (or similar expense from another airport), housing, food and tuition for academic internship will be provide by St. Olaf. ARI interns will need to cover travel expenses after they arrive in Japan. ARI interns will not receive a stipend.

Past Participants
2018 Participants: Sophia McMonagle and Daniele Oblitas
2017 Participants: Iris Burbank and Abdul Wake
2016 Participant: Kaitlyn Howell
2015 Participants: Emily Bristol, Juliann Skarda and Alex Lao
2014 Participants: Joey Romness (Environmental Studies & Asian Studies), Ida Sobotik (Studio Art; Education & China Studies Concentrations)
2013 Participants: Hawera Butta, Lisa Misch, and David Watson

Poster created by 2014 participants (Joey Romness ’16 and Ida Sobotik ’15)


Program Details

What will interns do?

  • Work assignments are often determined by previous experience or skills of the volunteer, but people of all walks of life are welcomed. Some specific working sections available to volunteers include livestock, crops and vegetables, office work, meal service preparation and food processing. Most recent interns have expressed an interest to be placed on the farm. See here for more information about work at ARI.
  • The work placement is only part of the ARI experience.  Interns also are impacted by the aspect of living in community, living in cultural diversity, living in simplicity, self-sufficiency in food production and much more. There are ample opportunities for discussion with other interns, volunteers and participants.
  • All interns keep a “growth file” where they note what they learn, what they find confusing, what irritates them.  The purpose is for interns to track their emotions during the time at ARI.
  • For more details about the program, visit their website.

Community Life at the Asian Rural Institute
ARI actively recruits people from the most marginalized rural communities from countries in Asia, Africa, and the Pacific to participate in a nine month long sustainable agriculture training and leadership development process. Each year there are about 30 participants in the program, from 14 -16 different countries. Please see here for a list of 2017 participants.

One very unique aspect of Asian Rural Institute as a school is that it is based on communal life, a life of sharing with people from all around the globe. Most of the ARI community members live together on or very near from the campus and each one is involved in the whole work of the school and farm. “From the growing and harvesting of food to its cooking and eating. From cleaning toilets in the morning to leading prayer times in at evening. We take our turn doing each part. Through living together we are able to constantly have learning opportunities and in fact see our community as a community of learning. Coming together as people of fundamentally different cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds, we dare to live together, equally sharing experiences, overcoming struggles and enjoying each others’ presence. It is in this experience of community that lasting personal transformation can happen. It provides the nurturing ground for servant leadership growth.” (ARI website)

Lifestyle/Daily Schedule
All community members work about 10 hours M-F and one and a half hours each Saturday. Everyone is involved in “foodlife work” twice per day, in addition to their assigned work. Even on the weekends, there will be one to two hours of chores.  Interns should expect limited privacy and limited free time.  They will have a roommate, usually someone from another country. Evening programs are optional. They involve various activities such as bible study, choir, movie nights, English classes, inter-religious dialogue.

St. Olaf Support
Sponsored by the Piper Center for Vocation & Career. Kathy Tegtmeyer Pak, Associate Professor of Asian Studies and Political Science, will serve as the faculty supervisor for the ARI interns. For more information please try to attend the info session. You may also contact Kathy Tegtmeyer Pak, Political Science and Asian Studies, or Nate Jacobi, Piper Center for Vocation & Career.


Application Process

Desired Qualifications

  • Current sophomore or junior
  • Interest in sustainable agriculture and organic farming
  • Interest in development at the community-level
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Experience in international settings and/or working with people from diverse cultures
  • Cultural sensitivity, open-mindedness
  • Aptitude for farm work
  • Maturity
  • Interest in and commitment to simple living (some familiar foods may not be available)
  • Adaptability
  • Ability to work independently, to reflect on experiences
  • Capacity to take initiative to involve oneself in the life of the ARI community
  • Openness to participating in a community that is grounded in some Christian traditions (do not need to be Christian)

How to Apply

The deadline to complete the following two components is Friday, February 18th, 2019.

  1. Online Application Form
    Must include one faculty reference (not a recommendation). Can save and edit at a later date.
  2. Apply through Handshake and Upload a Resume
    If you would like assistance with developing your resume, please stop by the Piper Center and meet with a Peer Advisor.
    Instructions for applying through Handshake:

    1. In Handshake, search and apply for the “Community Development in Asia 2019” under internships.
    2. Apply for the position and upload a resume (one page).

A selection committee will evaluate the applications. Select applicants will have the opportunity to interview.