On the Semester Language & Culture program, not only can you learn a years worth of Japanese in 5 months, but there are also internship opportunities available! Alex Rappoport, a spring 2016 student from Muhlenberg College, talked to us what his time interning at an after-school children’s program was like.
How did you come to participate in an internship on the spring semester program?
I was told by a JCMU alum that I should do an internship while I am at JCMU, regardless of what it is. After looking at the available options, I thought that interning at the “After School Kids Club” in Maibara would be the best choice, since I love playing with kids and my basic Japanese skills (I did not know any Japanese before going to JCMU, but that quickly changed) could be of use in a classroom setting.
What/where was the internship?
The internship was at an elementary school in Maibara, which was just a 10 minute car ride/20 minute bike ride from JCMU. The After School Kids Club comprises of children ranging from 1st to 4th grade, and there were usually around 40 children.
What did the internship entail?
My friend, Justin, and I created a schedule for our lessons. The internship met every Monday for almost 3 months, and we were asked to have an English lesson prepared for the children for each meeting. Some of these included teaching them colors and songs in English, teaching them games like “Leap-Frog”, “Rock-Paper-Scissors” (which we later learned translated to “janken”), and many others. We taught them about Valentine’s Day in America, and showed them a few Western songs, including Justin Bieber and Bruno Mars, which they all loved. They also drew self-portraits of us, which they presented to us at our “Farewell Party”. Apart from conducting a half hour English activity with the kids, we were able to talk to them, play their own games with them indoors, and have a recess with them where we played baseball, soccer, and many other games together.
What was your favorite part of the internship?
I would say, sadly, the Farewell Party. It was pretty bittersweet, since we made connections with so many kids and they really enjoyed us being around, but it was a very fun day. The kids put on performances for us, including dances and songs, and we made mochi (Japanese rice cake) with a hammer, which was really neat.
Oh- and not a particular moment, but another one of my favorite things about the internship was playing baseball with the kids. For those who do not know, “yakyuu” (baseball) is huge in Japan, and the kids love playing. Connecting with the kids through our mutual love of baseball was awesome, and it helped to expand my Japanese vocabulary as well.
Do you think participating in this internship helped you work towards your professional goals? How so?
This internship gave me an opportunity to get a new perspective on Japanese culture. Since I am currently focusing on environmental health/environmental justice and public health, this internship did not quite help in any career-oriented way, but it allowed for a richer experience in the four months I spent away from my public health studies.
What would you say to future students considering doing an internship on the semester program?
I would tell everyone to do an internship of some kind while they are studying at JCMU. You can be very busy studying all of the time, but you will be missing out at an opportunity for enrichment by forgoing an internship. My friends who interned at other places, like Fujitec, had a different experience than me, as it was in more of a professional setting, but I would say that no matter what you do, taking a chance and doing an internship at JCMU will highly enhance your experience in Japan. Making those connections with the kids and learning more about Japanese culture through the youth is something I would not have been able to accomplish without this internship.
Many thanks to Alex for sharing his experiences, we hope that this helps raise awareness on the potential that an internship can offer while studying in Hikone! For more information about Alex’s program, please visit the Semester Language & Culture program page.