I was a foreign research student in Japan when an opportunity to take part in an Empowerment Program as a Group Leader came up. The perks of the program - homestay experience, teaching opportunities, and cross-cultural convergence - were just too exciting.
Aaron's professional experience mainly lies in the areas of education and youth empowerment. He's been a teacher at different levels (basic education and higher education) and in different academic areas (Social Sciences, Global Education, and English Communication) in the Philippines and Japan.
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
ISA, GPI-US's parent company, was incredibly supportive of me and assigned me to different programs across Japan through which I have gained a great deal of teaching and facilitating skills. In just one year, I was promoted as a Facilitator of Empowerment Programs.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Try every opportunity to learn. Explore various programs. Along the way, you meet people with whom you develop a great sense of camaraderie!
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
For a 3-day Empowerment program, we usually spend 5 hours or more. Each session's objective varies depending on the curriculum prepared for that specific EMP. We conduct discussions, cross-cultural conversations, and fun presentations. At the end of each day, we're free to explore the city/ town.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
When I moved to Japan for graduate studies, I thought I would quit after three months. It was also my first time to live independently. But I overcame my homesickness and have realized that there's a lot to explore out of your comfort zone. I have learned to appreciate my family even more.
What did you learn during this trip?
I have learned to focus on mutual interests and go beyond differences. Cheesy as it may sound, love makes the world go 'round. Respect, understanding, and patience matter.