Tattoos in Japan

I am a heavily tattooed woman, at least in the eyes of the Japanese culture. I have a half sleeve on my right arm, tattoos on my thighs, shoulders, wrist, and much more. Within the United States, it’s normal to be heavily tattooed especially within my generation. You can get jobs, you can be successful students, and live a normal life. There’s no discrimination against people who are heavily tattooed. I don’t have to worry about a career or being seen as professional when you work and live in United States. It’s just a different culture.

Before heading to Japan, I heard stories of how Westerners with tattoos wouldn’t be able to go certain places, get stared at, get kicked out of places, what have you. Which terrified me, especially when I heard the job market will be next to nothing if I ever wanted a full career in Japan. Unless, I wanted to cover myself up entirely to keep people from seeing my skin. However, Japan gets incredibly hot in the summer, and I’m not about to sweat to death. 

During my entire stay in Japan I was never kicked out of any place, but people definitely did stare, and my students did a lot of touching. Which, I didn’t mind! I was accustomed to my students and comfortable with them, and their curiosity was very cute to me. So, I let them indulge in how my skin didn’t feel any differently, and answered as many questions as I coud. I had to be a little bit more precautious when volunteering outside of the school, because I didn’t want to offend anyone. Which was ultimately my biggest drawback. It wasn’t that anyone made me feel unwelcomed, it was that in my mind I was scared that I was going to offend anyone. I didn’t want to go to bathhouses, even if I knew they were okay with foreigners with tattoos, because in my mind I thought I would make the other bathers uncomfortable. I wanted to be as reclusive as possible and not bring any attention to myself. So, I avoided bathhouses, gyms, and any place where I could make people in a close vicinity uncomfortable. 

That was really stupid of me! If you are a tattooed Westerner coming to Japan, don’t be scared. Indulge in your experiences, enjoy you time there. Within bigger cities, like Tokyo and Osaka, you’re fine to enjoy your time. However, please be conscientious of your surroundings and the environment around you. Don’t limit yourself and your experiences, but still be respectful and aware of the people around you. 

The View of Mount Fuji from Kamakura

I have always been enamoured by mountains since an early age, and it has been a dream of mine to see as many mountains as I can. So, as I embarked on my journey to Japan, I knew I had to see Mount Fuji. But a problem arose when I tried to decide at which spot to see Mount Fuji, as there were over 8 spots to choose from, which include:

Lake Kawaguchiko

Hakone

Kamakura

Fuji Shibazakura Festival

Iyashi no Sato

Gotemba

Fuji Q Highlands

Tokyo Sky Tree

Choosing from these 8 spots wasn’t easy but I finally chose to see Mount Fuji from Kamakura. I am glad I did and would wholeheartedly recommend it, if you have not already seen Mount Fuji. Here’s why:

Beaches

Kamakura boasts some spectacular beaches, where you can relax, indulge in some beachfront or waterfront activities, or enjoy a picnic while adoring the view of Mount Fuji.

Shrines and Temples

Kamakura is blessed with a rich and long history due to it being the political capital, alongside Nara and Kyoto, of medieval Japan. As such, there are many shrines and temples, for example: Hase dera temple, Meigetsu-in temple etc., of that era that one can indulge in as a break from viewing Mount Fuji.

View of Mount Fuji

Finally, the view of Mount Fuji from Kamakura is truly spectacular and a sight to behold. And the aromatic ocean breeze just enhances the experience.   

A closer view of Mount Fuji.

I hope you have enjoyed this post and will consider Kamakura when you decide to view Mount Fuji or as a weekend getaway.

An ode to the students of IC

The students of Ibaraki Christian University are a truly remarkable bunch. Their love, kindness and hospitality made living and teaching, over the course of these 3-months, in Japan an unforgettable and rewarding experience. They have made me feel so at home, that Ibaraki became my second home.

And as I leave IC and finish my internship, I have a written a poem to express my sincere gratitude to all the IC students who have touched me so dearly:

As I gaze deep into the night sky

From the window of this plane

I cannot help but remember

Remember those first few steps I took

Through the doors of 5100

Imagining a room full of little saplings

Eager to practice their English

To which I could help nurture

But instead you saw a little sapling within myself

Whom you showered with warmth and joy

Nurturing me and helping me to grow

And as these months passed by

I basked and grew from this love

And for this I will be forever grateful

And I eagerly await the day when we can meet again.

Oh students of 5100.

Thank you to all the students at IC for making this internship a truly rewarding experience.

Joy From Soy: The Guide to Kikkoman Milk

Before coming to Japan, I was sure that soy-milk could only come in five flavours; unflavoured, vanilla, chocolate, coffee and, if you’re lucky, strawberry. But oh boy I was wrong. 

Kikkoman (yes, the brand that makes soy sauce) is not just a condiment creator. The manufacturer also makes a variety of soy-milk flavours. So, over the last three months, my mission was to find the good, the bad and the down-right-dirty flavours and give you the scoop hereImage result for kikkoman soy milk

17. Yomogi (Mugwort): This is just not enjoyable. Nope. Bitter and grassy tasting in soy-milk – it is no wonder that the herb is typically used in beauty products.

16. Mixed Fruits: I have no idea what fruits they were thinking about when making this flavour, but the taste is incredibly ambiguous. The fruit flavour was somewhat overshadowed by the soy-milk flavour.

15. Red Bean Soup: Slightly salty, slightly sweet, this flavour is probably best enjoyed in the summer. It really is a liquid version of the real thing!

14. Amazake: This is probably the one flavour that doesn’t really need to exist; Amazake is a Japanese rice drink, so this is literally a milk trying to be a different ‘milk’!

13. Strawberry/Melon/Black Sesame Seed: These were all delicious, but to me they ranked at roughly the same level. Their consistencies felt a little watery, but the taste was true to the label each time.

12. Chocolate/Green Tea: These two cartoons are probably the most easily found, and also tasted as one may expect. However, I must say Alpro (the UK’s leading soy-milk brand), does a better job with producing a chocolate beverage.

11. Cherry Blossom : This variety is based on preserved cherry blossoms, rather than the fresh sort. The sweet and salty combination can only be compared to pickled plums, but somehow works better than some of the other slightly savoury soy milks on this list.

10. Malted Coffee: It is not as clean cut tasting as coffee itself, but offers a nice change!

9. Annin-tofu (Chinese-style almond jelly)/Black Tea: These two types of soy-milk tasted really similar, but not bad! Although I have never had annin-tofu, I definitely want to try it now!

8. Mango: After the disappointing mixed fruits experience, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the mango taste is like a less thick mango lassi, an Indian drink.

7. Chestnut: As a lover of chestnuts, this flavour was a bit of a disappointment. It is better described as “sugar with a hint of chestnut”, but it is saved by the lingering chestnut aftertaste. Yummy, yummy, chestnut.

6. Banana: A delightful, banana-y flavour that isn’t as overpowering as I initially anticipated.

5. Coffee: I must confess, my favourite drink is coffee. Ever. The only reason this isn’t higher on the list is because of the noticeable lack of caffeine.

4. Cinnamon: This is a flavour which was released this winter, so I was very lucky to be able to try it! This would immediately get the number one place if it was piping hot.

3. Sweet Potato: Cinnamon is followed by another seasonal (but less festive) flavour which is only available during the autumn season. Sweet potatoes are often used in Japanese confectionary, and not without good reason – they are delicious!

2. Vanilla Ice Cream/Almond: These are only a hair’s length behind my number one flavour due to their excessive sweetness. Plus, the Vanilla cartoon is a wicked, intense blue colour!

1. Coconut: This flavour is simply phenomenal. The level of sweetness is just right; the coconut taste is soft yet present, but it is thick and creamy. Nothing short of sheer bliss. This is absolutely something I wish existed in the UK. Maybe I will have to write a letter to Alpro in England…

Image result for soya milk meme

By Amy Furney

Hiking in Hananuki Keikoku

Hello, my name is Uria Thomas and I interned at Ibaraki Christian University in the fall of 2018.  I knew when I came to Japan I wanted to find some good hiking spots, especially because I was interning during the fall. I am from Texas, so there are not many good hiking spots. If you want to hike in Texas you have to travel FAR, and good luck finding fall leaves to look at. Needless to say I wanted to find a good spot in Japan to hike and see the fall leaves, it wasn’t hard at all to find a place near by!

If you come to Japan during the fall I highly recommend traveling to some sort of hiking location! The leaves in the fall make for some beautiful scenery! Even if you’re not someone who really enjoys hikes, there are places you can go that require very little walking. I went to Hananuki Keikoku in Takahagi, which is about a 20 minute train ride to from Omika, and a 15 minute bus ride from the Takahagi station. There are a few different hiking trails once you get off the bus. One trail leads to a beautiful waterfall, and it’s around a 2 minute  walk from where you are dropped off. I think the waterfall is one of the most beautiful locations on the hike, so if you’re not much of a hiker this will allow you to enjoy a nice view, take some pictures, and grab some local food at some of the food stands.

If you are taking the bus be aware that the last bus to the train will leave shortly after 2:00 PM! So, going earlier is better, so that you will have enough time to see everything you want to. I arrived at Hananuki Keiko at about 11:00 AM and got the bus back just after 2:00 PM. So, I had three hours to hike and explore. DO NOT MISS THE BUS BACK TO THE STATION! Once you exit the bus there will be a sign that tells you when the last bus will depart. So, make sure you definitely keep an eye out for that.

I went during the fall and it was beautiful! The leaves were changing colors, so I was constantly surrounded by beauty. Some of the most beautiful and worthwhile spots are the hardest to get to. I unknowingly went up a rather difficult trail, and it took me about 50 minutes to make it to the top of the trail head. However, it was the most amazing view. I have shared some photos below. The waterfall picture (above) is the closest to the drop off location. It’s probably one of the prettiest spots, but I do recommend hiking a little further to some of the other locations as well. Ultimately, Hananuki Keiko is great for someone who doesn’t want to do much hiking, or for someone a bit more experienced. Either way, you will be able to see some beautiful leaves and scenery.

The bridge is the most popular spot at Hananuki Keiko. To walk to the bridge it takes around 7 or 8 minutes, and it’s a bit uphill. There is also a beautiful stream and waterfall below the bridge as well. It was very packed when I went, because I decided to go on a Sunday. It might be less crowded if you chose to go during a weekday, but I am not sure.

If you decide to go across the bridge and walk a little further there is a bathroom and picnic spot, as well as the second parking lot. Just after the restrooms is another trail on the left side. This is the trail that I went up.
It is a very difficult hike, uphill the majority of the way, but at the top is a beautiful view of the mountains!

 

Pros and Cons : Homestay and Apartments

Hello everyone! Thank you for your interest in this blog post. I hope the information below will help you in deciding between an apartment or homestay during your internship. I’m writing this post because I was lucky enough to experience both options. Both were great experiences, but one could benefit you more than the other, depending on the kind of person you are.

 

HOMESTAY PROS

 

JAPANESE

As a Japanese major, I preferred the homestay and that is because I was able to practice and learn new vocabulary on the spot with my homestay parents. They will always be happy to teach you new words, phrases, or fix your grammar. They will want to learn some English too, from time to time, and that’s a pleasure as well.

 

SPECIAL INFORMATION

Not only will your homestay parents enjoy teaching you Japanese, but they will teach you many other things as well. If you are with a homestay family, you can find out where the cheap but good local restaurants are, the rip-offs and tourist traps, as well as the places that are worthwhile. Essentially, you will be brought up to speed on things regarding Hitachi and Japan as a whole. For example, Mr. Sagawa told me about the best ramen place to go to in Tokyo. I haven’t been there yet, upon writing this, but I passed the information on to my girlfriend. She said it was the best ramen she’d ever had in her life. When she went, the owners were surprised because they don’t get too many customers from abroad there. It’s called MARUFUKU ramen, for your information! Of course, you can find out many things from the students as well, so please ask them too!

 

GOOD FOOD

In a homestay, you have the chance to try many different Japanese dishes. If there is anything you want to try, your homestay parents will do their best to provide. Mr. Sagawa found out that I love fish eggs so he got a whole bunch just for me. Eventually everyone else got tired of them, but for the time being I was grateful. They’re so expensive in the USA, ya know?  Among what I liked, there were many pleasant surprises too. Sama is an awesome grilled fish dish! Beef Curry! Sushi! Ramen! Shimesabe, and plenty of other fish that I hadn’t heard of. If you are worried about portion sizes, don’t worry! They will fill you up. Actually, if you are on a diet or want to lose weight, a homestay might be a bit tough because they provide you with a lot. Of course, they’ll also assure you that leaving food on the plate is fine.

It tasted really good.

 

THE JAPANESE BATH

Taking a Japanese-style bath is a blessing. After a good day of hard work, you can rinse yourself off with a nice bucket. Not being constantly hit by shower water is nice and it feels easier to clean yourself in a Japanese bath. Why? I don’t know, but the fact that the water is not constantly running makes me feel okay to take my time. Then after you’re all washed up, you can sit and relax in the tub that will keep your whole body warm. You can do this in the apartments too, it’s just not ideal! I will explain that later.

A home-stay washroom!

 

CONS

EATING HOWEVER YOU WOULD LIKE

One thing that I appreciated about the apartments was that I could eat however I wanted to. In a homestay, you eat together. Sometimes I just wanted to eat a quick snack while working on a project, whereas with a homestay, dinner time is the main time that you and the hosts communicate, so it’s a little rude to just take their food and get to work or do work at the table during dinner. If you are really pressed for time, I am sure they will understand if you tell them beforehand.

 

COMMUNICATION

If you do not know Japanese, homestay families will still do their best to communicate with you, but it might be really tough depending on how good your and your homestay family’s communication skills are. If you are someone that really wants to be a part of regular family activities like watching TV and dinner table discussions, that will be there for you! Just don’t expect everything to be perfectly clear.

 

APARTMENT PROS

EATING WHATEVER YOU WANT

You choose what you will have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Homestays will accommodate you from time to time, which is great, but if you like that freedom of decision an apartment is a better choice. I personally loved being surprised during my homestay but having the decision to pick from a large variety of Japanese cuisine on my own was also fun. If you would like to cook a variety of things then I would still recommend the homestay. A homestay will have more cooking tools for you than the apartments will. The apartments only have one gas stove, a toaster oven, microwave, and rice cooker. It depends on the room that you get, but you might also land one with an electric stove, and possibly without one of the things that I mentioned above. In addition, your host family can provide cooking tips, and it could turn out to be a fun family activity.

 

FRIENDS AND PARTIES

Some homestay families would rather not have you bring a guest (or guests) over to their home for various reasons. In any case, with an apartment you can have small parties or make quick plans to go out anytime! You can stay up as late as you want. You can do so in a homestay as long as you are quiet. The walls are thicker in the apartment so you can sing and dance with a medium noise level there.

 

CONS

THE BATHROOM IS SMALL

I was just spoiled by the size of the bathrooms in the homestays. You have plenty of space to stretch and wash every inch of your body without worrying about getting dry things wet in a homestay because the washing area and the toilet room are separate. I suggest not having too many things in the bathroom, or to just be highly aware of your surroundings when washing yourself. That being said, I was still able to enjoy a Japanese-style bath at the apartments. Instead of filling up the tub and washing myself by using a separate water source (which is what you do in a homestay), I just filled the tub a bit more and pulled water from that with a small bucket. You could just wash yourself with the shower and then fill the tub up but I prefer the bucket way. After washing myself, I could sit in the bath without waiting for it to fill up, and relax. The bath itself is not wide, but it’s deep so it’s still great!

The space of the bathroom in comparison to my body.

The bathtub!

COCKROACHES

The apartments are actually really clean! The cockroach is more of a common bug here than a sign of uncleanliness. That being said, you are more likely to see them in the apartments! Maybe the neighbors were messy though? Or it might have been because the building is old? I’m not sure as to why they were there but I haven’t seen them in a homestay yet, so if you can’t handle bugs then maybe the homestay is the way to go.

 

COIN LAUNDRY

The host families I had did my laundry! They had great machines to do so, too. The machines at the apartments are a bit weak. Try the ones on the third floor though, they are newer. Drying will take one hour to an hour and half. Paying a fee to use them is one thing, but when the machines only accept 50 or 100 yen coins it can become a problem to save those specific coins for doing laundry. If it becomes too much of an annoyance to do so, you can always try the laundry service across the street.

 

Thank you for reading! I hope this helps you or was at least entertaining!

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If you are interested in learning more about apartments I recommend this intern’s post.

http://intern.gendaieigo.info/2018/07/25/living-in-an-apartment-in-hitachi/

Mount Fuji-A Worthwhile Challenge

The walk to the distant mountain

An early hiking trail-still flat

A proud mountain climber

The top of the mountain

A rest stop near the top

Watching the sunrise

During my internship, I could not miss the opportunity to climb one of the world’s most famous mountains in Mount Fuji. Not knowing any specific information about the climb, I was surprised to learn that most climbers choose to take a bus up to the fifth of the mountain’s ten stations to cut the hike short. I also learned that a previous intern had succeeded in making the hike from the bottom of the mountain which inspired my sense of adventure to take on the challenge.

Upon emailing said intern, I was further intrigued, and a little intimidated, by the details she provided me. She described that overnight hike as an increasingly steepening 12 hour trek to the top to see the rising sun. She also pointed out the massive temperature changes, saying that at the base she was sweating in shorts while at the top she was cold under 2 layers. After hearing this account, I was motivated to take on that hike and saw it as a tremendous personal challenge and truly unique Japanese experience.
So, I took a train to Tokyo on a Friday evening in late July and then transferred to a bus that took me to Kawaguchiko, one of the towns at the mountain’s base. That evening I stayed in a capsule hotel, and the next day I stopped by an onsen to relax before I began the hike.

I then began hiking from the onsen at around 4:30. I followed a main road and eventually another road, reaching the start of the trail within about an hour. During this time, the sun had began to set and twilight descended. It was near fully dark at around 7, during which time I was guided only by my headlamp in the woods for about 2 and a half hours. It was a somewhat eerie yet peaceful experience I can’t say I’ve experienced an equivalent to.
Eventually, the forest cleared and I stopped at a station featuring an overlook and a shop selling snacks. There, I bought a chocolate bar which is one of the best things I have ever eaten given how tired I was. At that point I was beginning to worry that it may be difficult to complete the hike. However, I was determined to see my goal through, reminding myself to continue to pace the hike.

While the forest part of the path featured many steps, the next part became significantly steeper and was coated in gravel, making progress much slower. This was especially disheartening after I realized how tired I already was at that point. After reaching the next station, I was surprised to see signs indicating that the top of the mountain was only 5 km away. As a high school cross country runner, I had to walk many 5ks on pre race course tours, which generally took only 45 minutes to complete. Knowing that I wasn’t supposed to arrive for 6 hours, I was worried about what lie ahead.
At this point, the area was lit up by fellow hikers and their headlamps. The whole trail was covered in hikers and the path to the top was completely illuminated. However, at this point the trail wasn’t so congested; it was possible to hike around slower walkers. This would change; if memory serves it took me over an hour to cover the final kilometer. The trail became extremely congested to the point where I spent long periods of time just standing still in line.

My arrival was worth it. I received a major sense of accomplishment upon the completion of the hike. While the sunrise was partially covered by clouds, the view was still spectacular and my tiredness made it all the more satisfying. In addition to the view, the top of Mount Fuji itself is a spectacle to see. Hiking trails circumvent the volcano’s crater and the ground is covered in very distinctive red volcanic dust. It also features a Ramen shop, which after completing my hike, proved to be some of the best Ramen I had in Japan.
I am very happy that I went through with this hike as it has proved to be one of my proudest accomplishments. If any readers ultimately end up interning at ICU and would like more information about the hike, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at matt.curry56@gmail.com.

Private Chat Hour

One of the most rewarding aspects of this internship for me was getting to work one-on-one with students during privately scheduled chat hours. During these times, you and a student will work on test prep, conversation practice, or writing practice in the intern office, an empty classroom, or—in rarer circumstances—an empty table in the cafeteria or the student lounge. In my experience, private chat hours are both challenging and rewarding: being able to thoroughly explain grammar points in basic English, understand each student’s individual needs, and balance private chat hour duties with other duties can be difficult; however, getting the opportunity to help students on a more personal level was definitely the highlight of my internship experience. Throughout my three months as an intern, I helped a total of seventeen different students during private chat hour; at one point, I had five regularly scheduled private chat hours a week. There’s still a lot I have to learn in regards to teaching and running these private sessions, but I hope that this guide will prove useful to others!

Continue reading “Private Chat Hour”

Living in an Apartment in Hitachi

General Information

Having lived in Hitachi for two sumers now in an apartment, it’s easy for me to say that it is extremely convenient and enjoyable to live by oneself in Japan. I stayed in Sagawa-san’s apartments, other known as the “Maison d’Espoir” complex. Sagawa-san is the landlord, and he is very friendly and helpful. On your first day in the apartment, he will guide you through everything that you need to know, including when/how to throw out the trash, where to put recyclable PET bottles, how to use the stove, etc.

The apartment itself is quite small, being that it is a studio. The kitchen has a singular stove, but Sagawa-san provides an abundance of cooking supplies and eating utensils such as pots, pans, plates, bowls, and cutlery. The bathroom has a classic Japanese-style shower/bathtub/sink combination, which saves a lot of space and is easy to use. There is air conditioning, and depending on the room, there may also be a fan. There are hangers for clothes drying, a vacuum cleaner, and a closet as well as other storage cubicles. There is also a TV (beware of NHK! Sagawa-san will explain this when you meet him). Additionally, Sagawa-san provides a fridge, microwave, toaster, water kettle, and a rice cooker!

Apartment Layout

During my two stays, I had the chance to see three different apartments. I can safely say that the layout for the apartments I stayed in varied only slightly. For example, in 2017, I had a desk and chair, and this year in 2018, the two apartments I saw had floor tables and no chairs. *I had to change my apartment once this year because my AC had broken down, and Sagawa-san swiftly helped me move into a different apartment the very next day. Both the apartments I stayed in this year were on the second floor, whereas the one I stayed in last year was on the first floor. If you have a request to have a table or floor table, I would make sure to let the Intern Coordinator and Sagawa-san know before it is arranged! I personally would have preferred having a chair this year, but it was nice to experience using a floor table and a seat mat (that I purchased at Daiso) seeing that I was in Japan! As for beds, my first and second apartments had regular beds and Sagawa-san provided all of the bedding. The third apartment had a sofa bed, which was slightly less firm than a mattress, but still very comfortable.

Location

The apartment is conveniently located about 25 minutes by foot from Ibaraki Christian University or 12 minutes by bicycle. A 5-minute walk away is a Daiso (100-yen shop) as well as a Mini-Stop (convenience store). I have found these two stores to be extremely useful. Daiso for things such as dish sponges, cups, and just about anything you will need in your apartment (even soy sauce, spices, and food!). Mini-stop is a 24/7 convenience store that will satisfy your late-night cravings or if you need anything when stores are usually closed. About a 20 minute walk away in two different directions are two supermarkets: Maruto and Sanyu. Maruto is larger, closer to the school, and slightly cheaper overall. I wouldsuggest shopping at Maruto. Sanyu is smaller but adjacent to a drugstore (drugstores in Japan also sell toiletries and amenities such as shampoo, make-up, soap, etc.).

Overall Impressions

If you prefer the independence and freedom, I would highly recommend staying in the apartments. If you like to cook, the singular stove is easy to work with (you can get creative with how to cook everything!). I have nothing but good impressions of the apartments and can say that if I were to return (a third time…) to Hitachi, that I would definitely return to the apartments.

Lunch at DCE

When I first arrived at the DCE, I was anxious about the lunchtime component of the internship and hesitant to sit with students that I didn’t know and might not connect with. As a generally introverted person, enthusiastically introducing myself to new people and holding the weight of starting new conversations does not come easily to me, and when I first sat down with students and tried to energetically connect, it felt uncomfortable and forced. However, after a half dozen or so lunchtimes at different tables with unfamiliar students, I realized that forcing myself to be enthusiastic and outgoing around new people and pushing myself out of my comfort zone became gradually less forced and less uncomfortable.

A series of things had changed: first, I was getting to know the students and making genuine friends, so that each time I sat down at lunch there were one or two familiar faces. Second, I learned which points of conversation were generally successful: asking for recommendations of where to travel and what to eat in Japan, sharing photos and watching music videos, and talking about my interests in Kpop and Tokyo street fashion almost always got students excited and more confidently speaking about their own favorite shows or interests. A balance of familiar (Japanese/Asian) and unfamiliar (Western) topics proved to work really well; discussing both Disney and Ghibli, Marvel and manga, kept students comfortable and confident but also challenged and engaged. Third, my enthusiasm and energy became more natural over time as I became used to regularly introducing myself to new people and sharing my interests with the students.

Of course, just as in any other situation, you can’t form a deep connection with everyone you talk to; regardless, if you’re friendly, approachable and willing to listen, it’s possible to have a good conversation with almost anyone. The experience is always tiring and conversations sometimes fall short – miscommunication and misunderstandings are common, largely as a result of the language barrier – but ultimately, it’s entirely worth it to expend the energy and put yourself out there. I’ve made some wonderful close friends at Ibaraki as a result of the lunchtime component of the internship, and I urge future interns to take advantage of the least-structured period of the day to really connect with students and have fun.

In summary, if you’re considering interning at the DCE but you’re nervous about interacting with unfamiliar students and putting yourself out of your comfort zone: fake it till you make it. With time and practice, forced enthusiasm can become the genuine enjoyment of eating lunch with your friends.