Alumni Profile: Jacquelyn Wong, Japan 2015

Jacquelyn at FCDI in Madison

Jacquelyn Wong ’16 studied Genetics and Genomics and was a summer 2015 intern with RIKEN Quantitative Biology Center in Osaka, Japan. She currently works as a research specialist at Fujifilm Cellular Dynamics, Inc. (FDCI) in Madison, WI.

After some years to reflect, what were some highlights or key takeaways from your IIP internship?

1. Take advantage of the opportunity to travel. During the weekends (and sometimes weekdays if I wasn’t too tired), I would pick a spot in Japan and take the train there and spend the day sightseeing, shopping, eating, etc.
2. Really get to know your coworkers or even neighbors. My coworkers were the ones that knew where to eat and travel and when all the festivals were.
3. Never turn down an opportunity to learn. Whether it was work-related or not, bringing back that knowledge helped me get to where I am now.

How did you end up where you are now?

After graduation, I started working right away and didn’t start out at Fujifilm Cellular Dynamics, Inc. (FCDI). I was working at a Contract Development and Manufacturing Organization (CDMO) that did drug substance testing. I ended up not liking what I was doing there and wanted to get back into research. FCDI had a few openings, and I applied to all of them. I ended up with two interviews with them. I now work with extracellular vesicles as a therapy for cardiac diseases which is something I’d never worked on before or heard of until I interviewed.

Why should undergraduates consider interning abroad?

You get the best of both worlds (literally): traveling and gaining work experience.

What message or advice do you have for students preparing to intern abroad? 

Learn the language the best you can before going. Because my internship started right after my finals, I didn’t have the time. Just knowing common phrases or menu items is helpful. I had to depend on my coworkers too much. Even with the Google Translate scanning function (which was very new at the time), it didn’t always make sense.

Jacquelyn at dinner with her RIKEN team

What advice would you give to students interning abroad including how to use their experience to enhance their professional growth?

Keep in touch with the people you work with! I was able to go back to Japan after two years and met up with my coworkers and supervisor for dinner to catch up. I wasn’t able to see the Principal Investigator (PI) since he was traveling, but he was the one who sent me a letter of recommendation for FCDI after four years.

Is there any custom, food, tradition from your host country that you still enjoy now?

As much as I loved eating out in Japan, it was definitely expensive. I ended up buying ingredients to make bento boxes. I remembered some of the brands and was able to find them in the U.S. I still make bento boxes for lunch every day for work.

In honor of the International Internship Program’s 10th Anniversary, we will be bringing you profiles of IIP alumni who have interned all over the world! Find more alumni profiles here.