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Launching careers through a unique internship in Japan

4 Mins read
Composite image of a rocket launch and Tokyo nighttime skyline

Thanks to a long-standing partnership with Mizuho Leasing, each year one GPS student can gain real-world working experience in Tokyo 

Since the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) was founded in 1987, one special internship has paved the way for many students to launch their careers by living and working in Japan. 

Each year, Japan’s Mizuho Leasing selects one GPS student for an in-person, yearlong position at their Tokyo office. The selected intern is paid the entry-level salary for Japanese banks.

“Having a partnership with Mizuho Leasing provides an opportunity for students to work in a different country, experience the culture and learn about business,” said Stephanie Boomhower, director of GPS’ Career and Professional Development Center. “This is the only internship program at GPS that has been in existence since the founding of GPS — that says a lot about Mizuho Leasing and the students wanting to keep the legacy going.” 

Ulrike Schaede, professor of Japanese business at GPS, noted how prestigious and unique the internship program is.

“Typically, a student applies in their first year and interrupts their education here for one year of immersion in the Japanese workplace. Then they return to UC San Diego to finish their coursework and go into the job market with a special experience on their resumes,” Schaede explained. “In some cases, second-year students apply and go, as a transition to working in Japan or in finance. Either way, the intern moves to Japan for one year and becomes part of the Mizuho Leasing team.”

The work the internship involves is tailored to the person selected and Mizuho Leasing’s needs. 

“Sometimes there is a need for English language-related work, such as report writing, but most of the time, the intern is charged with real-life assignments, ranging from new market exploration around the globe to specific leasing project tasks,” Schaede noted. 

This internship has proven to be an excellent springboard for GPS students who want to enter the Japanese workforce, particularly in finance. 

“While in Japan, our students can network and build connections, and this helps expand their global job opportunities,” Schaede said. “This is incredibly valuable as our students make the cross-cultural transition. Indeed, GPS has many alumni in Japanese finance, and this internship is one contributor to that.”

How it all began

Chris Enbom was in the very first GPS class in 1987 and chose Japanese as his language of study. 

“We were mostly in temporary classrooms, and it was an exciting time for everyone with a new program,” Enbom said. 

During his graduate studies, Enbom took a part-time internship with a Newport Beach-based real estate developer called the Koll Company, which primarily developed office complexes in Southern California. 

“The Koll Company had many Japanese lenders, so I had them arrange for an internship for me in Tokyo for a year so I could get business experience and learn more Japanese,” Enbom explained. “I expected to have a job in a bank, but I ended up being placed into a leasing company affiliated with The Industrial Bank of Japan called IBJ Leasing.”

As part of the internship, Enbom worked in the real estate department of IBJ Leasing, which also did Japanese leases to international airlines. 

“I ended up leaving GPS and taking a job with an affiliate of IBJ in structured aircraft and rail leasing, and I spent nearly four years in Tokyo,” Enbom said. 

After the economic crash in Japan in the 1990s, many banks merged, including IBJ, which became Mizuho Leasing, he continued. 

Enbom directly attributes the internship experience to launching his career. 

“I still work in the equipment finance and leasing industry 35 years later,” Enbom said. “And I just recently found out that I inadvertently created an internship program that exists today! Even though I never finished my master’s degree, I learned a huge amount at GPS that I still use today. I will never forget the incredible professors, including the great Chalmers Johnson and Peter Gourevitch.”

Continuing connections

In a Zoom gathering in late February of IBJ/Mizuho Leasing alumni, the former interns noted the positive impact the internship had on their careers, carrying them into positions around the world in a variety of sectors, from finance to tech and government. 

During the call, current intern David Mendoza said he began at Mizuho Leasing in September 2023. Mendoza earned his Master of International Affairs (MIA) degree in 2023, specializing in international politics and Japan.

“It’s been quite a steep learning curve, especially since I’m learning about finance in Japanese,” Mendoza explained. “I did not come from a finance background, so the amount I’ve learned up to this point has been invaluable.” 

Schaede said she and her counterparts at Mizuho Leasing hoped to give those who participated in the Zoom gathering the chance to network with each other and continue to build connections long after their graduate studies have ended.

“As faculty, I am a contact person in the annual selection process, and happily I have come to know most interns over the years — but the interns do not necessarily know each other, unless they are still in Japan and part of our great alumni group there,” Schaede said. “This was a great opportunity to reconnect and realize what fabulous careers our former interns have developed.”

Overall, former students agreed the continued partnership between Mizuho Leasing and GPS continues to pay off for anyone selected to participate. 

“To learn what one wants to do going forward is an important part of the learning experience here at GPS, and this internship is an important opportunity toward that goal,” Schaede concluded.

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About author
Virginia S. Watson is the Assistant Director of Communications for the School of Global Policy and Strategy. She has spent her entire career in editing, writing and design, both in industry and higher education. She holds a master's in technical and professional communication from Auburn University and a B.S. in journalism from Troy University.
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