Having been born and raised in the Philippines myself, I was excited to meet and interview Carolyn Glassman, the Minister-Counselor for Public Affairs, who arrived in Japan in August after serving in that other island nation. Chatting with her in the living room of her spacious apartment near the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, I was able to get to know about her personal life and career as a diplomat.
Working in the Philippines
Carolyn worked at the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines from 2015 to 2018. In her role there as Counselor for Public Affairs, Carolyn met many talented and creative Filipinos. She says that she admires the warm and welcoming hospitality of the people she met there. As a mixed Filipino, I was thrilled to hear all the great things she said about the Philippines.
Returning to Tokyo
Carolyn first came to Japan in 1997. Back then, she worked as deputy director of the Tokyo American Center and in the Cultural Section in the Embassy. Carolyn says that she loves Tokyo and appreciates the warmth, friendship, and kindness that she receives from people she meets both in her personal and professional life.
Besides the Philippines and Japan, Carolyn has lived in Hungary and Korea since joining the Foreign Service in 1995. While moving from one country to another is an essential part of her work, Carolyn says that being away from her family is the most difficult part of the job. Carolyn was raised in a close-knit family in Chicago, Illinois. That is why she makes regular contact with her family online or visits them whenever she can. Aside from this, she finds comfort and companionship in the community of friends she builds wherever she happens to be living.
Raising children around the world
Carolyn says that despite all the difficulties of moving back and forth between countries, switching schools, making new friends, and being immersed in new languages and cultures, her children appreciate the challenges that go along with her work as a diplomat. Carolyn’s three sons, who are now attending college in the U.S., are very positive about their overall experience growing up because they had many opportunities to meet and learn from people around the world. Carolyn continues to guide her children from afar by communicating with them regularly.
A handful of pets
When asked whether she’s a dog person or a cat person, Carolyn’s answer is “both.” Her two cats and two dogs keep her company in her apartment in Tokyo. She says that her pets help her to connect with other pet lovers wherever she lives. Since pet care in the United States can be different from pet care in Japan, Carolyn sees her pets as another opportunity to learn about Japanese culture.
Words of wisdom for Japanese young people
Carolyn encourages Japanese young people to have self-confidence, be open to new challenges, and seize every opportunity that presents itself. She says that since we only have one life to live, we shouldn’t let the fear of failing hold us back from doing what we love. “Explore the world!” she says.
Interviewing Carolyn Was a Highlight of My Internship
I have never interviewed anyone before, much less a diplomat, but it was definitely a worthwhile experience because I learned some important life lessons from Carolyn.
Although my father is Japanese, I was born and raised in the Philippines by my Filipino mother. When my family moved back to Japan seven years ago, I experienced culture shock, and although I didn’t always feel like I belonged, I decided to stay. I am now in my final year at college and preparing to pursue a career path in which I can use my multicultural knowledge and multilingual skills while being of help to people. To ready myself for what will come next, I decided to sign up for several internships, and the U.S. Embassy internship program is definitely the one that had the biggest impact on me.
As a student intern at the Public Affairs Section, I was presented with a lot of opportunities to find out what it’s like to work at the Embassy. From working on social media tasks to participating in cultural events, everything I did there was truly meaningful and enriching.
Soon after college, I will be embarking on my new journey as a working member of society, or as the Japanese people say , a shakaijin. Truthfully speaking, I have a lot of fears and uncertainties when I think about my future. However, I will always look back on my days as an intern at the U.S. Embassy and draw on these experiences to believe in myself and continue to move forward, wherever life takes me.
Internship opportunities are posted here.