Interview with Past Mentors
This month, we interviewed a few past interns about the English Camp program and their experiences in Japan.
What was your favorite teaching moment during the English Camp program?
Olivia: Playing card games with my students during lunch! I taught them Go Fish and Blackjack. One week we had an UNO deck, and they taught me various Japanese card games that I mysteriously never won, probably because the rules seemed to change against my favor every time I played. We also bonded through origami “competitions” during breaks to see who could fold the most perfect crane or jumping frog. Word of advice: bring your favorite card game or portable board game (chess, checkers, or GO, anyone?) to enjoy with your students during lunches and breaks. It was during these relaxed and “non-academic” times that I bonded with my students the most.
Jendayi: My last group of students were by far the wildest bunch with such an amazing range of personalities. My favorite moment was at the end of my second week of teaching. One of my students became so overwhelmed with the program ending that he cried for an hour. He hugged me over and over and thanked me in English and Japanese and just could not stop crying. He was so earnest and sweet, so of course I cried, too. It was the moment I realized that what I was doing with these kids was something they'd all wanted but never had: someone to get to know them, to understand their strengths and weaknesses, and just care for them.
What is your favorite Japanese food?
Olivia: Tied between “Pablo” a cheese tart spot in Osaka (whose delicacies I craved so much that I made mock Pablo cheese tarts in my own kitchen in Chicago) with this restaurant in Osaka that serves mountains of karaage (Japanese fried chicken) and heaps on heaps of takoyaki. I honestly can’t remember the name of that place—whether it even has a name or if it’s some sort of divine intervention to earthly cuisine, I never will be sure—but drop me in Umeda and my internal compass and American stomach will guide my way to gluttonous paradise. Also, Ichiran has the best ramen in Japan; prove me wrong. I dare you.
Jendayi: The 100 yen bread in conbinis that is stuffed with sweet cream cheese is my guilty pleasure. It's just so perfectly fluffy and yummy!
Do you have any teaching advice for Global English Camp?
Jendayi: Patience. At the end of each teaching week, I always felt so close to my students, and I know I wouldn't have gotten to the level of personal comfort with them had I been less patient and understanding.
Julia: This camp is all about teaching confidence; a little kindness goes a long way, and will make the students remember you. Tell them they are awesome at English, teach them to compliment each other and themselves, and watch them grow.
What do you like most about Japan?
Julia: I love the omotenashi, or hospitality. I felt it when the owner of the school I taught at in Tokushima gifted me her family’s yukata. I felt it when I was lost trying to find my share house and I knocked on a random door and the woman who answered stayed outside with me in a thunderstorm until I found my share house. I felt it in my host family and with complete strangers. I also love the souvenir culture, where every small town has its own custom products. There were always too many tempting things to buy! Finally, okonomiyaki and endless yakiniku.
Why are you returning to English Camp? Why is this program meaningful to you?
Julia: I am returning because of how meaningful I felt last year; I was sometimes the first foreigner that my students had ever talked to. In the future, I want to work in public diplomacy at the U.S. Department of State, and this gave me great experience in cultural adaptation, in representing America, and in learning about the benefits of educational exchange programs (which I would love to be involved with in the political sphere).