An internship can help you build professional skills and apply lessons you’ve learned as a student outside of the classroom, and even around the world. For KU senior Aristote G-Atata, an internship with a nonprofit in Tokyo, Japan during summer 2019 allowed him to use the interdisciplinary skillsets he’d honed as a global & international studies major to help local children growing up in institutionalized homes prepare for life outside the facilities.
Meet Aristote, and see what he had to say about his role as a nonprofit organization ambassador with YouMeMe, how classes in the College prepared him for the experience, and his plan to pursue a master’s degree in National Security Studies and Diplomacy.
Internship title and organization:
I did my internship as a nonprofit organization (NPO) Ambassador with YouMeWe in Tokyo, Japan. YouMeWe is a nonprofit organization that helps children growing up in institutionalized homes prepare for life outside the facility once they turn 18.
What were your responsibilities during the internship?
My supervisor, Michael Clemons, tasked me with two major assignments. First, I worked on a project related to the technological operations of the NPO. The organization furnished sixty institutionalized homes with dozens of computers. The organization also provided the facilities with access to the digital learning platform NIGHTZOOKEEPERS, which helps kids develop writing, drawing, reading, and creative thinking skills. My duty was to analyze the platform’s database in order to measure the traffic and then formulate any necessary recommendations, which may help in encouraging more homes into using the platform. Next, I worked on a business and development project of the NPO. I was in charge on crafting letters and monitoring the organization’s channel of correspondence with its partners. In fact, a few days before the end of my internship, I started working on a project with Netflix to explore the possibility of producing a documentary, which will highlight YouMeWe’s work in Japan.
What did you gain from the experience that will be valuable to you in the future?
The internship gave me exceptional insight into the structure of a nonprofit organization. Primarily, I learned that accountability is critical in order to keep donors engaged to the cause. Accountability is also essential to attract more donors. In such respect, I had the opportunity to participate in a funds raising event at the British School in Tokyo. Secondly, I acquired more communication skills by improving my writing capabilities along with interpersonal relations skills.
What was your favorite part of the internship?
My favorite part of the internship was the home visits. The organization has established a social bond with all the institutionalized homes, and volunteers are given the opportunity to visit the kids living in those facilities weekly. Volunteers participate in several activities such as assisting the kids navigate the online learning platform. However, we would also get involved in some very specific activities such as teaching “coding”. It was warming to witness so much passion and happiness in those kids’ eyes.
What is the benefit of being in the KU College alongside students studying sciences, arts and humanities?
Being in the KU College helps me get a glimpse of various areas of study. As a result, I get to learn about a variety of topics. Furthermore, I am exposed to a diverse set of ideas, which helps me in expanding my perspective in general.
How had the classes you’d taken at KU, and in your major, prepared you for the internship?
The GIST major emphasizes communication. It provided me with the necessary foundation to build my writing capabilities. During my internship, I was able to deploy the same skills in order to write official memos and letters. Moreover, Global and International Studies is an interdisciplinary major with areas of study ranging from political science, history, geography, sociology, to anthropology. Anthropology for example taught me about cultural relativism. Therefore, I was able to switch from my American perspective on seeing things to a more open-minded way in order to fit in a very traditional Japanese society with its own set of rules and customs. History gave me a prior insight of the Japanese society, and once I was in Japan, I became easy for me to understand what motivates some of the Japanese population’s behavior towards foreigners.
Have you been involved in any study abroad programs, student organizations, or had any other learning experiences at KU that you’d like to share?
I studied abroad for the first-time during winter 2019 in Rome, Italy. The program focused on the migration crisis across the Mediterranean. I discovered that the Mediterranean has been a gate to the European continent for centuries dating back to the Roman empire era. Even though the Area spring and the Syrian conflict have prompted thousands of refugees to take the risk to cross the ocean in the hope of a better life in Europe, the region has always been a hub for illegal migration and under the control of smugglers who utilize it to get people from the Northern African region to Spain, Greece, and Italy. The Arab spring and the Syrian conflict just created an explosion of the phenomenon and drew more attention to an unknown phenomenon.
What motivates you?
I think I am driven by my quest for success and happiness. Coming from humble beginnings, I understand the value of hard work and dedication, and I know that the United States is the place, which does not disappoint in that sense. As long as you stay committed, you will reach your goals.
What do you plan to do after graduation?
My next goal is to follow up my undergraduate degree with a master’s degree in National Security Studies and Diplomacy. I have applied to three different schools, and I am hoping to hear from them soon. I am attracted to Public Service, and at the end of my higher education, I would like to pursue a career at the US State Department as a Foreign Service Officer.
Be like Aristote. Find ways to give back to communities around the world. For more information, explore the Center for Global & International Studies and the Undergraduate Certificate in Intelligence & National Security Studies at the University of Kansas. Learn more about YouMeWe.