This is part of series of posts by recipients of the 2019 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.
This entry is by Destinee Anderson, COL ’21
Through Penn, I had the life changing opportunity to spend 6 weeks of my summer traveling Japan with my internship under Nagase Brothers inc. Nagase Brothers is a Japanese education company that runs a program called “Global English Camp” which aims to immerse Japanese high school students in an English speaking environment to improve their comprehension and comfort. My role was as a teacher, I would directly work with kids to encourage them to think, converse, and present in English.
Building up to this trip, I had no clue as to what my expectations were. Would I be able to connect to my students? Will I be able to navigate around Japan without any knowledge of Japanese? How will my race be perceived? This would be my first trip to the Eastern hemisphere and my first time being away for so long. Was I ready?
When I landed in Japan, I was overwhelmed to say the least. With nought but my 47lbs suitcase and a 2G data connection, I had to figure out the train system and make my way to the hostel. By pure chance, I bumped into a girl from Duke University who was also participating in this program. Together we made our way to the Asakusa district of Tokyo. This moment really sets the theme of this adventure: Serendipity.
I was fortunate enough to have great students to work with each week. Although they were officially rated as beginners they were anything but. After working through the initial awkwardness I had a chance to hold really deep and engaging conversations with my students. I’ve had one student ask me about the role of religion in American society. I’ve had another student ask what stereotypes does the Western World have of Japanese people. I’ve even had the chance to fangirl over Korean boy bands with some of my students. Being completely honest I would forget that I was in Japan at times because our conversations were so fluid and natural.
The grand finale of the program is the life mission presentation. On the last day of English camp all the students would have to give a 5 minute speech on his or her dream for the future and their plan to achieve it. I felt like a mother hen watching her chicks fly out the nest. I was so proud of each and every one of them for completing 40 hours of English Camp. Tears were shed at the end of all my students’ presentations. The most impactful speech was the girl who wanted to become a psychologist and make Japan take mental health seriously.
The students I’ve met have big dreams, big ideas, and big hearts. I was nervous about not being accepted but I’ve never felt more welcomed. These students had so much enthusiasm for the world about them it made me reconsider my own aspirations and values. While I travelled overseas to teach them, they taught me so much about their world view. I am lucky to have formed such great connections. I am lucky to have been accepted into the Global English Camp program. I will be forever grateful to VPUL for not only funding my professional endeavors but also my personal growth.