My Internship Experience in a Japanese Hotel

Thinking of interning abroad? Check out this student's experience interning for two months in Japan!

Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve had the privilege of traveling to Japan many times, thanks to my travel agent grandmother. My grandma has been going to a particular hotel in Japan for the last 50 years, and she would always say the place was like her second home and the staff members were her closest friends. I remember my first time staying at the hotel in fifth grade and how amazed I was by all the people dressed in suits bowing to us as we passed and how everyone greeted us by name with warm smiles. Since that time, I have been fortunate enough to return to the hotel several times, and I always leave with fond memories and a desire to work in a place where clients are the top priority.

To my pleasure, this past summer I was given the opportunity to intern there for two months in the Sales and Rooming Division. During my internship, I faithfully updated my personal blog with fun pictures of all the things I was experiencing and how this internship was truly a dream come true, while also mentioning some of the struggles I faced. Here’s a recap of some of the highlights and lowlights of my internship.

Related: Internships: Your Dream Job Diving Board

For the first month, I was placed in the International Sales Division among a team of bright, energetic young workers. My main task was to observe sales calls and visit competitor hotels to compare facilities and services. It honestly felt like I was playing more than working because I got to see the “behind the scenes” of other prominent luxury hotels in Tokyo. In addition, because I only really had direct contact with the Sales team, I didn’t worry so much about making Japanese language errors because I wasn’t in front of clients. While there were certainly challenges and things I wish I could have understood better during this time, I left the International Sales Department confident and excited.

Then things got real. For the second month, I was placed at the concierge desk, where I would be directly representing the hotel brand and giving the first impression of the hotel to incoming guests. The concierge is responsible for fulfilling any special requests, giving information about the inside of the hotel and the surrounding area, making reservations, etc. Not only was I suddenly hit by so much information about the hotel and Tokyo that I needed to memorize, but I had to convey all of that information in a polite manner using my second language. To be honest, the first week was rough—I was super stressed because there were so many things I didn’t understand and couldn’t do because of my lack of knowledge and language skills. I remember dutifully making a script of all of the commonly asked questions and practicing my responses at home to make sure I wouldn’t continue making the same mistakes over again.

I wish I could say I got all of the basics of the concierge position down after the first week, but it was an extremely stressful process, and I continued to make new mistakes the entire time. I questioned if I was really meant to work in a hotel someday and why I had even studied Japanese for so long since I continued to struggle. However, focusing only on my failures would be a complete disservice to how much I actually strengthened my skills during my two months at the hotel. I improved my Japanese listening skills, knowledge of business language, hotel mannerisms, and my overall confidence communicating with clients. I remember one day while I was working, another employee from a different department came up to me and said, “The way you bow to guests is beautiful.” That compliment boosted my morale and reminded me that for every mistake, I made up for it by humbly learning so that I could improve.

Related: Making Your Internship Work for You

Although it was short, I am so thankful for this experience because I not only got to spend it in my favorite hotel, but because I was able to reflect on my strengths and weaknesses as a person. I learned that I’m not quite as fast a learner as I previously thought I was, and sometimes I need to be told something two or three times before I can get it perfectly. I learned that I sometimes don’t ask enough questions out of fear of being misunderstood. But I also learned that I am a resilient person who is able to smile even when I have zero self-esteem and just want to go home and cry. I am a good listener who is able to have a conversation with a client just for the sake of getting to know him or her and making their stay more pleasurable.

I am someone who, thanks to her grandma, was able to fulfill a dream that I never thought was possible. I hope to find a new dream to chase after in the near future.

What’s your dream internship? Let us know in the comments!

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About Naomi Hong

Naomi Hong graduated from Occidental College in 2018 with a degree in International Relations and Japanese and a minor in Economics. She currently works as a concierge/front desk agent at a luxury hotel in Southern California. She's passionate about hospitality and travel and hope to continue my career within the hotel industry. She also enjoys writing articles about career advice, studying abroad, and learning new languages. 


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