Session 1 Wrap-up

Time is always precious, but only in Japan does it fly by like the bullet train! As World Campus — Japan left Tama City, we said goodbye not only to our second city of the tour, but also to three members of our family. Although our time with Jackie from America, Lita and Amanda from Indonesia was relatively short, it was undeniably memorable. The amount of tears shed was indicative of the somber mood that morning. Even though my eyes were only red because of allergies, I was also saddened by their departure.

And so with a tearful goodbye to Tama City and our three international friends we brought an end to session one of the summer 2008 World Campus — Japan tour. Although we were all a tad melancholic, our merry band regained its pep again as we met a few new friends. This summer program is separated into two sessions and even though we lost three members, we gained six new participants.

And so it is with eager optimism that we welcomed two more representatives from Denmark, another from America, one from Switzerland, one from Turkey, and another from Japan. Anders, Signe, Amanda, Catherine, Mura, and Yayoi, on behalf of World Campus — Japan, we welcome you into our family. This program offers many things to different people but it is also up to each individual to make to the most of his or her experience.

Like life, this program is not always perfect and there will be difficult moments but sometimes the most rewarding experiences are gained by overcoming challenges. The easy path is not always the most satisfying or gratifying. All we can ask is that you apply yourselves and be open to the many opportunities in the next three and a half weeks here in Japan. We look forward to getting to know you and exploring Toride City, Mito City and Hiroshima City with you!

(Guang Yeung, USA)

A Sanctuary in Japan

One thing that is great about the World Campus — Japan tour is your involvement with host families. I have found that there are many similarities and differences between my host families in Ueda City and Tama. Maybe it is because each city is so different from the other; Ueda City is very much rural with its rolling mountains, and Tama is a suburban center near Tokyo. Despite the contrast in locations, both families were awesome! They were so caring and loving towards me.

In Tama, I stayed with the Kitami family. Mie was my host mom and Atushi was my host dad, they were so amazing and nice. I also had a 13 year old host brother named Shun and a nine year old host sister named Ami. The children were so nice and adorable. Even at the very beginning, I could feel that they really loved me, because they tried carried my super heavy suitcase up to the 3rd floor! I knew that they couldn’t do that and I told them that I could lift it by myself, but they still tried to be nice and helpful. Oh, so so so cute! They are also a very sporty bunch. Shun plays tennis, and he is in the tennis club, and Ami swims a lot and can do any type of swimming style you can think of. I was never bored with such active kids.

The parents truly cared for me. They gave me so much food because they didn’t want me starving and it was delicious by the way. They also really paid attention to my health, because they knew that I am allergic to cold and dust, so they always asked me about the house condition.

One of the best experiences with the family actually involved a few other participants and their host families! You know what they said, the more, the merrier! The Kitami family just happened to be quiet close with four other families who were also hosting World Campus — Japan participants. One evening the five families all went to a peaceful park to have a picnic and play with fireworks. The food and fireworks were fine but it was the families that made so enjoyable. The families also went together to Disneyland on Host Family Day! Oh how exciting that was! I was in Japan, in Disneyland! It was really unbelievable for me. I was in Disneyland!

The Kitami family really treated me like their one of their own. They would love me so much and they have become a tattoo in my mind and soul.

(Aloysia Lita, Indonesia)

Tama City Theme: Where People Live – Populations and Community Structures

Tama exposed under a lovely spiritual awakening with university students

Our second city of the tour in Tama offered us front row tickets to experience modern suburban life of Japan. Tama is located just southwest of central Tokyo and is known for its green and safe environment. Although it is only a thirty minute train ride into Tokyo, Tama is completely different from the busy metropolis. We could easily sense a nice relaxed vibe from the entire community. Many of our host parents actually commute to Tokyo for work but this quaint suburb is their home.

On our first day in Tama, we got a chance to learn about the city’s history and culture. After a lecture, we split into two groups and went on a city tour. Local Japanese university students guided us and shared their knowledge about the city. My group went to a tranquil temple area near the center of the city. There were about five temples, each of them has a unique architecture and most of them were surrounded by a wonderful park with calm and peaceful atmosphere and beautiful flowers. An elderly woman was there painting a wonderful picture of the enlightened one by using soft colors to make an ideal work of art influenced by romanticism.

After the spiritual excursion, the students took us to their university to have lunch. The four-storied building caught us completely by surprise. The structure, you see, was full of restaurants only serving the student body! There was even a vending with a great variety of ice-creams and popsicles. And since we are in Japan the machine can even pick a random one for you if the choice seems impossible or you just like surprises! A great variety of food and a hip atmosphere spoke volumes about the lively university life. The university is a huge part of city. Although a large portion of the citizens are over fifty, the university students also make up a healthy part of the population.

The walking tour gave us a great opportunity to learn about two different communities of Tama. The visit to the temples was representative of the calm nature of the society as a whole but especially the elder population. The lunch at the university offered a quick glance at the younger segment of Tama.

(Ilkka Peltola, Finland)

The Arigato Evento (Our Weekly Thank-you Event)

How to say thank you in a language you don’t speak.

At the end of every city, the participants alongside the staff put together a show to thank the community we are staying in for taking such good care of us. It consists of some cultural pieces from some of the included countries on the tour, as well as a few Japanese popular songs. The entire event is designed to be something for the host families to enjoy as a whole, from grandchild to grandparent. What the host families see are happy faces, good feelings, and hopefully a humongous sense of gratitude.

But to tell the truth; most of us are not on this tour so we can sing and dance at the end of each week. It’s easy to question why we have to perform in a thank you event at all. I mean; we’re all saving up money for quite some time, so we can travel through Japan and experience as much of its cultural life as possible. So when we are asked to learn a song in a language we don’t all speak, we’re not too excited. The first week is especially difficult as it is a lot of work.

We can endure a few hours, but when we practice that Japanese song that we really can’t pronounce the name of for the 12th time that day, it’s just plain old tiresome work.

But then, when the first event day finally arrives, what happens?

We get up on stage, and try our best, even though we have an extremely busy schedule and are tired already. People who would normally never touch a microphone go up front, have fun and sing in Japanese complete with sign language movement! Is it because a bearded Norwegian staff member asks so nicely? Or because Hiro, the CEO, gave a clever speech about how important the event is for the communities?

Personally, I’m sure we do it for the people who pick us up every day, and let us relax for the rest of the evening when we come home tired. The same people who invited us into their families and make us delicious meals. It’s those faces we see smiling back at us when we look out from the stage during a performance. It’s the voices we hear cheering when we do our parts in the event.

If the host families and the wonderful local community did not enjoy the performance, the participants would definitely not be trying as hard. It all comes down to this being a way for us to express our gratitude for all that the community shares when we are visiting for a week or so.

Suddenly, all that effort that we put into it has a whole different value. And it becomes a lot of fun! So I sincerely hope that the host families will keep on enjoying the show for many World Campus — Japan tours to come, because I know the participants and staff will be there to put our hearts in it and make it grand.

(Henning K.W Rodtwitt, Production Assistant Summer tour 2008, also known as the Bearded Norwegian Staff Member 🙂 )

Session 1 – Orientation

Although we participated in many community events and visited various landmarks, a major focus of the first two weeks in Japan was orientation. Orientation and training does not sound like much fun but it is essential for success in such a multinational setting. For the first session we have participants and road staff representing Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Norway, South Korea, USA and Uzbekistan!

Aside from the standard presentation on guidelines and regulations, the staff also eased us into everyday operations. Every morning we start off with a “You Know You’re In Japan When…” moment presented by each of the participants; however, I don’t think this short moment was enough to cover the numerous times each day when I found myself surrounded by strange mouth-watering meals, heated toilet seats, and men with perfectly-tweezed eyebrows. Of course, the day is not complete without a “watashi no story”, literally translated as “my story”. This gives an opportunity to a randomly selected World Campus – Japan member to tell his or her life story in about ten minutes. In such a way, we are able to know each other a little better and build some camaraderie even if it is by learning about someone’s most embarrassing moment.

During the first week or so we had an hour of Japanese class each day. Hiromi, our wonderful teacher, would patiently teach us basic survival Japanese. It was difficult but fun and useful at the same time. Incidentally enough, all Japanese people are astounded if we, as foreigners even mutter a word of Japanese.

During our stay in Japan, we are staying with host families. They not only provide us with food and shelter but we are also welcomed as part of the family. To show our appreciation we perform a thank you event, “Arigato Evento” complete with song and dance for the families and local community. The event consists of several parts including a cultural presentation segment where participants sing, dance, or just entertain the audience with cultural specific pieces. By watching the various cultural performances being rehearsed over and over, we really got to bond and learn about each other’s cultures. In addition to that, we also sing two English songs and a short series of famous Japanese songs.

Of course, when we were first presented with the overview of the event, we were a little overwhelmed. But with practice over the first two weeks, we were able to pull off the first event in Ueda City with glowing reviews from the grateful audience. My host-sister, Kazue, told me that the funniest thing she saw was our own version of SMAP, a Japanese boy-band. Lily Ha, a participant and friend from Denmark commented, “Being with everyone and presenting for the community was a lot of fun…” Ilkka Peltola, a fellow member from Finland commented, “It was pretty good – for amateurs”. I’m pretty sure everyone would agree.

Orientation is always difficult and can be tiring but it is worth it. 😉

(Jackie Alfano, USA)