Spending my summer working as a Global English Camp intern in Japan has been nothing short of transformative (cliche I know), but the weeks I spent participating in the program have been a journey. A year ago, the prospect of traveling to a foreign country alone seemed like a faraway dream. It was something I eventually wanted to do, but in the far future, restricted to the realms of my bucket list. As a result, since I had never flown by myself, landing in Haneda airport tasked with the goal of navigating to the welcoming week venue was like being thrown in the deep end. Since this is my first formal teaching experience, I spent week 1 nervously glued to the textbook’s curriculum. Looking back now, I was surprised by how quickly switching venues each week and tailoring my teaching style to a new set of students became normal.
Now that I have gotten the opportunity to travel, live, and work in Japan—to see Hokkaido, Tokyo, and Yokohama—and most importantly meet and work with so many amazing students and fellow interns, I have realized three main things:
1. The importance of packing light
Bringing all of the bags depicted in the image to the left was a mistake. I quickly realized I could have left half of the clothes I packed behind in the US. Trains are usually very crowded. This made hauling all of my things onto the platform every time I had to check out of housing the bane of my existence for the duration of my internship.
2. The 5 Day Difference is real.
English Camp has a 5 day curriculum that transitions from ice-breaker activities on Day 1 that get students more comfortable speaking English, to UN sustainable development goal discussions on Day 3, and eventually life mission presentations on Day 5, where each student gives a 5 minute speech in front of the whole class. Coming into the program, I was not sure how much of an impact interns could realistically have on their groups in such a short period of time, but each week teaching has pleasantly surprised me. Even just comparing Day 1 to Day 3, many of my students’ English speaking confidence has improved drastically. Students have gone from only responding to questions when called on to volunteering to participate, asking questions of their own, and even making jokes.
3. The program’s impact is definitely not just restricted to students.
Talking with students and helping them find and or articulate their life mission in English, as well as, listening to other interns present on their future dreams, has made me more motivated to achieve mine. Group discussions on global problems increased my awareness of issues relevant to Japan (like the country’s increasing aging population, the countryside’s decreasing population, and the nation’s doctor shortage).
Overall, although this was a teaching internship, I ended up learning so much from my students and coworkers. Working as a Global English Camp Mentor, somehow ended up solidifying my desire to merge travel, research, education, and medicine in my future career as a global health physician.