I was fortunate enough to try two different experiences for my community involvement project with KCJS. I started my CIP experience by attending Klexon, a language exchange club for Japanese people who are interested in learning English. Although I enjoyed meeting new people and forming friendships, ultimately I felt as though I would prefer a different experience. Nakata-sensei helped me to locate an elementary after-school program called Doushinjidoukan near my apartment.
Before becoming a volunteer, I had to make a phone call to the program. I was very nervous about this because I had never made a phone call in Japanese before and I try to avoid phone calls as much as possible even in English. I was not confident that my speaking and listening abilities were adequate enough to handle a phone call with a native Japanese speaker, but Nakata-sensei kindly helped me practice and I was able to make the call. I was so proud of myself for being able to arrange my first appointment over the phone in Japanese. Without the CIP experience I probably never would’ve had to do anything like that.
Once I started volunteering the kids seemed somewhat wary of me at first, but ultimately they welcomed me in and had lots of games they wanted to play with me. Many of them wanted to know more about America, or wanted to show me their favorite games or toys. One day, I played restaurant/conbini (Japanese convenience store) with several of the kids which involved them serving me various different dishes and pretending to work at a conbini. It was interesting to see the similarities and differences in children’s play between Japanese and American children. For example, I had played similar restaurant games with American children, but because convenience stores do not have the same popularity in America, convenience store games are not common among children in the United States.
I was very sad that I had to leave so abruptly due to covid-19, and never got to see the children again or say goodbye to them properly. When I arrived, they were all so excited that I would be coming every week until the end of April, but in the end I was only able to go a handful of times. Despite this, I will never forget the time that I was able to spend there and the people I was able to meet.
I would advise future KCJS students to think carefully about what they want to get out of their CIP when trying to decide on what to do. In my case, I wanted to try and volunteer with children because I was living in an apartment and would not be able to interact with different generations in a host family. Also, I would advise future KCJS to be outgoing and as friendly as possible when they get to their activity. Doing so will make everyone more comfortable and will make your experience flow more easily. Although it can be difficult at first, when people are not really sure what to make of you, if you show up consistently and work hard, they will ultimately appreciate your dedication.