For my CIP activity, I volunteered as an English conversation partner at Hello Village at Hiyoshigaoka High School. Hello Village is a center at the high school that encourages Japanese high school students to practice their English conversational skills. Originally, I intended to take a bus every week after class to go to the school to practice English conversational skills. However, because Japan’s academic calendar differs greatly from that of the American academic calendar, there was a long gap in which I was not able to volunteer because the students were on spring break.
Regardless, I’ve had various interesting experiences during my time as a volunteer, and also discovered many similarities between Japanese students studying English and American students studying Japanese. I particularly remember one time when an ALT was helping a student prepare for a pronunciation test. Seeing the difficulties with pronouncing certain consonants in English such as “v” and “b” reminded me of my own struggles with pronunciation in Japanese such as with “su” and “tsu.”
Also, what was interesting to me was that there was differing types of students that I would meet at Hello Village. Some students were particularly more outgoing than others and more excited to speak English: some were because of their participation on the English debate team and others, I found out later, were known to be the “boisterous” of their class. But many students I encountered were more reserved and self-conscious about their English ability, and it was interesting to see that whenever I spoke with them, they would often consult each other as a group first before responding as a whole. However, even with the vastly different personalities, every student I encountered at Hello Village was eager to practice and improve their English. Their eagerness inspired me to examine my own reasons for wanting to learn Japanese and doing study abroad.
Even though there were difficulties because of differences in academic calendars, I still found my time at Hello Village to be a worthwhile experience during my semester in Japan.