YFU Japanese Camp 2009

Sunday, August 09, 2009
After not being able to participate last year because I was studying abroad in Japan, this year I was once again a staff member at the YFU Japanese camp at UW-Richland (in Richland Center, Wisconsin). The camp is a 10 day English camp for a group of Japanese students who are preparing to spend a year in US high schools. So, the camp basically acts as a buffer between Japan and the United States for the Japanese students.

The participants can basically be divided into three different categories:
Japanese students - High school students from Japan who will be spending a school year in the US. After camp the get sent to high schools all over the United States.
American mentors - American high school students who participate in most of the same activities as the Japanese students. The idea is that they model how students in US high schools will act, and give the Japanese students an idea of what to expect before they're thrown into a true high school environment. I did this once a long time ago, in 2001.
Staff - Work "behind the scenes" to make sure that everything runs according to plan. Staff also have plenty of opportunities to work with both the Japanese and American students if they choose. This is what I did, and I had the same position in both 2006 and 2007 as well.

Camp was both a lot of fun and really interesting for me this year. In 2006, my first year, I was a little bit quiet and unsure of what my position was, so I probably didn't do the best job I could have. In 2007, I was better, but after camp was over I felt that perhaps I hadn't divided my time amongst all of the students as well as I could have. I made some good friends that year, but felt that I could've done better. And I really feel that I did an excellent job improving in that respect this year.

Before it started, I was actually a little worried about how things would be this year. At the staff meeting the week before, I discovered that besides the director, I was the only returning full time staff member. Sally (a YFU camp legend) had done a lot of the planning, but she had other obligations and couldn't help out this year. This put me in a position of more responsibility, which I was a little apprehensive about, but everything managed to work out all right. Also, seeing as it had been two years since I was last at camp, and I was two years older, I was a little worried about how I would relate to the students this year. I also didn't have any trouble doing that (I guess I'm still really immature!), so that made me happy.

Like I said above, this was an interesting camp for me. There were two big things that I think helped me connect better with the campers this year. First of all, during the past year I've spent a lot of time with international students and other people who aren't originally from the United States. I think this extra exposure made it easier for me to see to individual differences within the students quicker, rather than seeing them as a massive group of foreigners initially. (This might sound stupid, but trust me, it happens when you happen upon a group of people from a different culture.) Additionally, I also now had study abroad experience of my own, which meant it was easier for me to understand what the students were going through.

I'm intrigued to see how my experience at this camp will compare to my experience with kids in Korea. I'm pretty sure I'll have less individual interaction with the students. Also, camp is so short, there is no time for the initial excitement of it to wear off. When everybody leaves, people are still just getting to know each other. In Korea, I'll easily have time to reach the stage where the sheen starts to wear off of everything. And that's fair enough, it's part of life and experiencing new things. I know I can adjust and go with the flow.

Anyway, I guess I don't have a whole lot more to say. I just hope that I'll be able to see some of the people I met again sometime in the future. Many of them I may never see again, but if I ever go back to Japan for an extended period, I bet I can meet up with at least a handful of them. Also, I wish them all luck during their year in the United States!

A couple of pictures from camp to end with:

Until next time!


Hidenori Otake said...

Thank you very much!
It was very good camp!!