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Growing Community Since 2002: The Nikkei Community Internship Program - Class 11 - Summer 2012


Mika Kennedy - San Jose Japantown

Who are you?
I'm originally from Fremont, CA, though I now live and attend college in San Diego. I'm majoring in Literatures in English and Russian and minoring in writing (primarily non-fiction), biology, and Russian/Soviet studies. That might seem like a weird menagerie of pursuits for someone doing an internship with Japantown, but I'm also very active in UC San Diego's Nikkei Student Union, which is easily one of the best and biggest parts of my university experience so far; I'm also interested in culture and the arts generally, and am an editor for UCSD's Journal of Translation, Alchemy. I read medical dictionaries for fun, am too interested in lobsters, and am currently applying to graduate school in 20th century American literatures and comparative ethnic literatures.

Where you interning at?
I'm based in San Jose's Japantown; we do things a little differently in the South Bay, and rotate our host organizations and supervisors every week according to different aspects of what makes a community--health and education, media, culture and spirituality, business, government, etc.

Who's your supervisor?
My main supervisor is the lovely Sophie Horiuchi-Forrester of Yu Ai Kai, a senior care organization in San Jose Japantown.  We don't get to see her that often, but she's quite possibly the nicest person on the planet.  The votes haven't been tallied, but I doubt it's a close race.

What projects have you been working on over the past few weeks?
As a result of our different format, we don't have as many projects that carry over week to week, though we've been doing some graphic design for the San Jose JACL.  We've also spent lots of time cataloguing artifacts and taking oral history at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose.  Our biggest long term project is probably the extensive and broad-ranging interviews we've had the opportunity to conduct each week.

Any memorable experiences so far?
Too many to even begin to enumerate.

Thoughts on the NCI program as a whole? 
I have learned so much about what Japantown has to offer, who offers it, and what challenges and considerations must be met in order to do so; so much about both the group- and individual power that has written our history, populates our present, and has given us the active reminder to be part of our future.  Most importantly, we've been able to see how all of these different aspects of community braid together, form the gestalt that make Japantowns more than just a place, or a business, or a neighborhood.  I can't count the number of times I've thought, "I want to be a part of this," "I want my [as yet non-existent] children to have this."  I know sentiment is simply sentiment until you act on it, and people say these kinds of things every year--then disappear. I'll be back in San Diego, then wherever graduate school takes me.  (But who's to say that won't be the South Bay?)  But this much I know for sure: It may take some time.  But I'll be back, Japantown.  Well, probably tomorrow.  But I'll be back in the further future, too!  Thank you to everyone who's made this experience possible.

Any advice for next year's NCI interns?
STAY ON TOP OF YOUR BLOGGING DUTIES.  And make sure map-reading is one of your strong suits; it's easy to get lost and never fun.

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Mika Kennedy
UCSD '13
Nikkei Student Union Historian

Based on this original

Mika Kennedy - San Jose Japantown
uploaded by llan
Photo courtesy of Mika Kennedy. More »

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