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)