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I’m finally back from Japan and slurping my beloved aamras after a long time as I start typing. To describe my internship experience in short: It was a wonderful experience of working on a core chemical project in a corporate company, with exposure to rich Japanese culture!
About the company
Sumitomo Chemical Co. Ltd. (SCC from here onwards) was established in 1913 and is one of the top chemical companies in Japan. Its business is widely divided into following sectors: Petrochemicals & Plastics Sector, Energy & Functional Materials Sector, IT-related Chemicals Sector, Health & Crop Sciences Sector, Pharmaceuticals Sector, Others.
Being successful in business for over 100 long years is not a cakewalk and an opportunity of internship in such a company is a golden opportunity for every engineering student.
This year was the second time SCC arrived the campus with internship offers. Unlike last year, where the selection process involved resume-based shortlisting followed by a PI, this year the recruiting team decided to introduce a GD. Also this year the company opened the JAF for Mechanical Dual Degree students as well, along with the Chemical Dual Degree ones.
Resume shortlisting is mostly done on CPI + core profile criteria. My resume had a 2nd year summer internship at BARC, a couple of core projects under profs. and BioSynth which covered up my middle class CPI in clearing the first stage.
To add to the surprise, no one was eliminated after the GD stage! (Although they note down every single point discussed by you in GD and they become a part of your PI questions).
The PI comprised of a few technical questions regarding the projects/internships in your resume followed by more of HR questions. Since the Japanese prefer very slowly spoken, easy English it’s advisable to talk at 0.5x of your normal speaking speed.
· GD: Remember it’s not a Roadies GD! Speaking 3-4 logical statements was enough for me to crack every single GD I gave before! Although obvious, people tend to forget it out of nervousness.
· Be thorough with your resume points (technical as well as non-technical)
· Go through the SCC website to get an insight of the company business
· Senior fundae from previous interns (after shortlist is out) worked wonders!
Regarding PPO: it’s still a mystery whether SCC offers one or not, since the last batch of interns were dual degree students who will be going through placements in the upcoming December.
About the internship program
Once you are selected for this internship program, you are in for one of the most memorable 45 days of your life! SCC makes sure you are allotted the project most apt for you through thoroughly scrutinizing your resume apart from your interview.
A few weeks after my selection, I was asked to send them a more detailed description of my internship and project work to get insight in my previous work experience in engineering. In my interview, I had expressed my desire of working on a project involving experiments, rather than theoretical work. So I was allotted similar projects which I will describe later.
So, after we reached Japan, our initial two days were in Tokyo where we had to undergo a one-day orientation program. It involved training on basic survival Japanese as hardly anybody ever speaks English in Japan. It was followed by visit to Advanced Materials Research Lab, Tsukuba on next day. During these two days, we interacted with a couple of IIT alumni in SCC about their work experience, living, travelling etc.
The next day involved travelling to our respective internship locations: Niihama or Osaka as allotted. This was followed by initial introduction/orientation, internship work, final presentation at Tokyo head office followed by the conclusion procedures.
More about my work
SCC majorly had improvement projects, wherein you have to optimize a part of the plant process by coming up with some innovative solutions. They are basically looking for fresh outlook to modify certain unit operations. Interns in SCC are allotted with live projects wherein they’re supposed to give solutions to the problems currently faced in the plant synthesis.
I was allotted two experiment driven projects. The first project involved lab synthesis and analysis of polyethersulphone (PES) polymer. The next project involved enhancing the filtration characteristics of LBR (fungicide) – water slurry.
Since my projects were experiment driven, I was exposed to state of the art technology through innumerable apparatus in SCC laboratories. To name a few are Gel Permeation Chromatography, Gas Chromatography, Pressure filtration test, Automatic titration device etc.
My guide made sure to give me a big picture of my work in the context of the whole project. SCC employees are indeed very helpful and friendly and guide you generously throughout your internship period. Although very few know English here, you tend to become comfortable eventually.
SCC invests generously in their internship students by paying a handsome stipend and in addition provides good accommodation, hotel stays, mobile phone, pocket WiFi and return flight tickets. Apart from these, you do get many treats during your internship from your group members. All these bounties and luxuries do come with a responsibility of delivering extra-ordinary results. If you feel impatient staying in S-2 bay for 3 hours conducting experiments, believe me that’s just a warm up! Our lab courses were very helpful during the course of my experiments. Just to (de)motivate you, I was supposed to be in lab for 12 hours straight for a couple of days (one of them being my birthday).
Life in Japan
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Weekends are meant for fun, so I’ll suggest do spend them like weekends. Japan is a beautiful country to travel around. The stipend is enough to travel on every weekend, do infi shopping and still save money; provided you plan it well enough. My friends and relatives called me Japanese Santa seeing the number of gifts I got, so it will pretty much give you an idea!
Japan is an awesome country to live in. The Japanese people are modest, unimaginably helpful and extremely punctual. Trains and buses are so perfect on time, even being late by few seconds may end up missing it! Travelling around is convenient and comfortable. Also there are many Indian seniors working in SCC, so you can ask for their help before planning any long trip.
Language can be a problem initially, but Google Translate is the savior. Knowing some common Japanese phrases is a boon. Although few Japanese do understand English, but as I mentioned earlier you need to speak at a slower pace and get used to their accent.
Food can be issue for vegetarians, so it’s suggested carry more than enough! You will hardly get any vegetarian food apart from bread materials and you may end up regretting later if you haven’t carried enough. I’d recommend that you carry more of instant/ready to make meals. For the non-vegetarian foodies like me, trust me its heaven! Try every traditional Japanese dish you can since it tastes very much better than the one you tried in India. Takoyaki (octopus) was my personal favorite. If at all you get senti about Indian food, there are Indian restaurants around to eat the typical spicy food.
In conclusion, SCC offers a very well planned and enriching experience, seeing the short duration of the internship.
(Slurping my aamras again) J