Why did you decide to volunteer with World Campus International in Japan?
Meredith : I decided to go with WCI because it fit my time constraints and it fit my budget. I was only able to do one summer excursion due to the fact that I had a summer job AND I couldn't commit enough time to do an entire semester abroad. The way that WCI was set out, the description of the activities and level of immersion that we were to have, and the language level (which for me at the time was about a second year student) all fit with what I wanted/needed at the time.
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Meredith: My main job was mostly just enjoying the time, representing myself as a country (aka being USA), and using my talents to benefit those around me/thank those that were so gracious to open their hearts and homes to me.
List of things I did:
- Taiko Drums
- Helped out with Handicapped individuals in a rest home playing games and musical instruments
- Made soba noodles
- Played traditional Japanese card games
- Made crepes for my family and had WONDERFUL Japanese food every evening
- Got to see a movie in Japanese (sadly no subtitles)
- Went shopping in a HUGE mall
- Rode the Shinkansen
- Visited the Pokemon Store
- Went to a festival at my "little sister's" school
- Helped clean the house and visit/walk around town
- Flew kites with kids in the park
- Visited shrines and watched a rain-dance festival
- Played the Shamisen with a professional artisan
- Wrote Calligraphy with a small-town master
- Learned Karate (and failed)
How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?
Meredith: I went during the summer of 2010 when I was simultaneously working at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg with the animal department. I have a bachelor's in Zoology and I'm working on a Science Education masters, so I can't really tell you WHERE Japan would fit into any of that, but it seemed like a good opportunity at the time. I'd always been fascinated with the language, the culture, music, and the beauty of the country, so I was dying to visit.
It positively impacted the way I interacted with others, my loyalty and understanding of customs and common interactions, and gave me a new appreciation for the somewhat testy but always important relationships that people from differing religious, ethnic, and racial backgrounds encounter. I still try to keep in touch with my two homestay families and receive letters every now and then for holidays. It really is amazing how closely we can be connected despite how far away we are from one-another. That was particularly true when the Tsunami came back in 2011. Both of my families were safe and I feel even more personally connected with those that were effected.