Teaching My Children-English Camp in Japan


As I mentioned before, I was picked to be a participate in an English camp and it will definitely be an experience I will always cherish.

(Find out what training was like in my previous posts)

TUJ student, Anthony, encourages the YN students with a smile :)

TUJ student, Anthony, encourages the YN students with a smile :)

Teaching the lessons was new for me, but when partnered with at least one other TUJ student, we always bounced ideas off of each other and got the activities finished. I learned that if the lessons are fun, the students are more likely to want to learn and participate, so we got the students involved as much as possible. For example, for the Olympic Games lesson, after the students finished one of the worksheet activities we had 3-5 of them come to front of the class and when we gave them an Olympic sport, they would model it. As an alternative, we would model and the students would have to tell us which sports we were acting out. It was something that made the rest of the class laugh and put them in good spirits because it was fun (and who doesn’t like fun, right?) so they participated more.

We got the students to speak more English with a game of Pictionary.

We got the students to speak more English with a game of Pictionary.

We also rewarded the students whenever they conversed with us in English. Each student was given a card with 10 circles and each teacher was given stickers. We gave the students stickers only if they approached us and spoke English. However, this couldn’t be a simple “Hi, give me a sticker.” They needed to engage us in conversation by asking us questions and talking about themselves. These Q&A sessions mostly took place during mealtimes and in between classes but it was about more than giving them stickers. It gave us an opportunity to bound with the students. I met a student who absolutely loves Elvis Presley and the Jackson 5 despite only being 15 (Yep, good music has no age limit). I also met students who enjoy the same anime and movies as I do. I got to know a lot of the students and we shared a lot of the same interests.

Overall, I think all of the TUJ students came to the consensus that during these two days, it really felt like we were celebrities. Crowds of students would surround us to ask us questions and take pictures with us. During the last day, there was time set aside for picture-taking before everyone was free to leave so once finished, a fellow teacher and I started to make our way back to the main building where our luggage was. Within five seconds, three students came up and asked to take pictures with us. We finished and two seconds later, another five students approached us for the same thing. At some point we decided to run and after managing to get five feet closer to the building, SURPRISE, more students and more pictures. Once finished, we ran while saying to each other, “No more student. No more students. No more students!” Despite our short-lived celebrity status, we had the chance to write short personal messages of encouragement to the students and I truly felt like I was their 先生(teacher) . 私の心は幸せでした。(Watashi no kokoro wa shiawasedeshita = My heart was happy.)

私の学生が大好きです! (I love my students!)

私の学生が大好きです! (I love my students!)

I’m extremely glad I got to participate in an English-teaching event while in Japan. I think it has furthered my desire to want to teach here after I graduate. As a teacher, I became a different person. The quiet, reserved person that most people know me as became loud and animated for her students. The students at Yamato Nishi High School were wonderful and I feel like even though it was a two-day event, we really bonded. I see so much potential in them and I hope to see them again in the future. However, if I don’t, I still wish them all well in whatever they pursue.

Yamato Nishi High School English Camp Training Session-Day 2


While Day 1 of the training sessions focused on introductions and providing the participants with an overview of the English Camp, Day 2 provided more in-depth explanations and a chance for us to ask questions, strategize, and learn from the advisors and each other.

We were given a tentative schedule for both days, which also informed us of what classes we would be teaching, what times we would be teaching, and who our teaching partners/groups were. Seeing as how most of the students didn’t know each other, we did the next best thing to try and match names to faces; we called out names and looked around to see who answered. Yep, that’s sure fire way to find your partners.

Half way through the session, we separated into our topic groups and each advisor reviewed their lesson plans. For my group, we went through each activity, from introducing the Olympic Games to giving feedback at the end of the class period. Our advisor, Jeff Hulihan, walked us through each worksheet as if he were teaching the high school students himself. He gave examples of how he would model or demonstrate things for the students and encouraged us to do the same in order to make the lesson more understandable and to get the students to participate more. This was a new lesson plan created by Jeff, so what I really appreciated was the fact that he gave us room to adjust the lesson plan if we needed to, as long as we didn’t veer off topic (since we only have an hour for each class). The lesson plan is made for us, but it feels nice to have some wiggle room in the delivery.

Jeff Hulihan, Academic Coordinator for AEP, demonstrates how he would teach the Yamato Nishi High School students.

Jeff Hulihan, Academic Coordinator for AEP, demonstrates how he would teach the Yamato Nishi High School students.—“The main thing is to always be active. Walk around, give praise, suggest answers and encourage the students.”

The Olympic Games group! Ready to go!

The Olympic Games group! Ready to go!

Finally, it was time to learn about the Halloween and Picture Drawing lesson plans for the second day. AEP instructor Danica Young reviewed the Halloween lesson plan, which consisted of yes/no questions, crosswords, conversations, etc. For parts that seemed to lack excitement (like The Story of Halloween, which we are to read to the students), she told us to make it fun and dramatic. By doing so, we will create a fun atmosphere in which the students are more likely to enjoy the lesson rather than feel like they’re sitting through a lecture. When it came to the picture drawing lesson plan, Ashley and Carly, two students who participated during previous years, told us about their experiences, including which activities worked and which ones didn’t, how they adjusted their lesson plans, etc. From this, both participants and advisors learned something new. For instance, the pairing method stated in the lesson didn’t work for their classes last year, so Ashley and Carly adjusted it to instead make groups of four and found that worked better. It’s always beneficial to hear from those who have gone through the process before and have a clearer idea of what we can expect as new participants.

AEP Instructor, Danica Young, teaches the participants how to make a seemingly dull lesson fun.

AEP Instructor, Danica Young, teaches the participants how to make a seemingly dull lesson fun with a little enthusiasm.

Today concluded the teacher training session for the Yamato Nishi High School English Camp. All that’s left is the actual camp on the 26th and 27th, where we will finally put our teachings into practice. I’m hoping to apply for the JET program after I graduate and this is a great opportunity to gain some first-hand experience on what it’s like to teach English in Japan. Although this is only two-day event, it will give me a glimpse into what I can expect in the long-run.

Finding a Balance Between Work and Play

This is what happens when you don't have a balance of work and fun. Work from Korean, Japanese, Ideology, Drawing...all of it piles up.

This is what happens when you don’t have a balance of work and fun. Work from Korean, Japanese, Ideology, Drawing…all of it piles up.

It’s time for a rather serious topic. With half of my time in Japan already gone (Wait, what? Already? Where did it go?), I’ve noticed that at times I find myself forgetting that I came here as a student and not as a tourist. Yes, I have been going to concerts, going shopping, and doing everything else that has made me feel like a kid in a candy store, but when it comes down to it, I did not come here to do those things. I came here as a study abroad student (and you’ll note that the words study and student always come before and after abroad). It seems as though I’ve mixed up this order and put the abroad aspect above everything else.

Don’t get me wrong, I did come to Japan with an initial plan. I was going to focus on my studies during the weekdays and use the weekends to explore the wonders of the country and have a little fun. That was how it started and for a while it seemed to work, but I found myself drifting further from this practice as the semester progressed. Maybe it’s the excitement of being in a new country and trying new things, but I can’t let it overwhelm me. The fact of the matter is that although I am in Japan, I’m here by myself, with no parental guidance. I have to take matters into my own hands, behave like an adult, and make adult decisions. One of those decisions being how to find a balance between work and play or being able to decide when it is best to sacrifice one’s wants for one’s needs. I’m having trouble with this so I decided who better to ask for some tips than my fellow TUJ students. Here’s what some of them had to say:

“I incentivize things. I’ll study for an hour or so and then eat three chips or watch an episode of ‘The Following’ then go back to studying. It’s like setting short-term goals and rewarding yourself for achieving them.” -Lilly

Study abroad student, Lilly, likes to set short term goals and incentives for studying.

Study Abroad student, Lilly, likes to set short term goals and incentives for studying.

“There’s a lot of studying involved but I prioritize what I need to do and tackle that first to make sure it gets done. I also get my work done between classes so I know I’ll have time on the weekends and won’t have to rush.” -Nina

Japanese Admission student, Nina, sticks to the classics and prioritizes her schoolwork.

Japanese Admission student, Nina, sticks to the classics and prioritizes her schoolwork.

I realize for each person it’s going to be a different experience but as study abroad students (and students in general), it’s imperative that we learn to find the middle road between schoolwork and having fun. You may have been waiting to see AKB48 (or even Miyavi) live in concert but they’re not going to be the ones who will explain to your professor why you were too excited to study for you midterm and got a failing grade. A lot of the time that you are here, you’ll find yourself saying, “I want” to see this or “I want” to do that. However, ask yourself, considering your circumstances, do you really “need” it? It’s about priorities and since we’re in a foreign country we need to have them more than ever. There’s nothing wrong with indulging in a bit of fun after a week of studying, but like everything, we need to do it in moderation. With this in mind, I’ll definitely be trying Lilly’s incentive approach. Time to prioritize, hit those books and earn my fun!

Odawara Castle


Since our boat trip to Hachijo-jima Island was canceled because a typhoon was forecast to interrupt the trip, a group of friends and I planned a backup trip to Odawara Castle to experience a more traditional side of Japan. For the most part, areas in the Tokyo Prefecture are very modern with the exceptions of spots of shrines placed throughout the city. Odawara Castle is probably the furthest outside the city we have been thus far. Considering that it was more than two hours away from campus, the trip was pretty inexpensive (only $13 one way).

Odawara Castle has a long history as a strategic headquarter in the late 15th century. My host mother explained that a Shogun wanted to unite all the clans in Japan and form a peace treaty; however, the Hojo clan refused to conform.

"The Three Dragonscales"is the emblem of the Hōjō clan. Apparently Zelda's Triforce symbol came from this design.

“The Three Dragonscales”is the emblem of the Hōjō clan. Apparently Zelda’s Triforce symbol came from this design.

Eventually, the Hojo clan was defeated in a large siege around the 1590’s by a large force under the command of Hideyoshi. Apparently, the story of Hideyoshi is well known and quite popular throughout Japan is seems to be a timeless story. Our visit to Odawara Castle certainly made me realize how little I know about Japan’s history. It was certainly interesting to learn about the history of another country, and to retrace the steps of mighty feudal lords.

As you enter the site, you are greeted with sakura trees on one side, and construction on the other side (they are still excavating the outer castle). The original castle was largely destroyed by the Meiji government in 1867 (with the exceptions of its stone walls and moats), however the restoration process began in the 1930’s. Nowadays, the interior of the castle is used as a museum, and the surrounding area has become a popular location for sightseeing and experiencing traditional Japan.

Speaking of experiencing traditional Japan, the location had a site set up where you could rent and wear kimonos or real samurai armor!

Ready for combat!

Ready for combat!

This has got to be one of the most unique experience I’ve had so far in Japan!

Unfortunately, since the inside of the castle was a museum, we weren’t allowed to take any pictures. However the museum had countless historical artifacts, beautiful pieces of art, and weapons with interesting stories of romance, revenge, and heroic feats. We were allowed to take pictures at the top of the castle though!



There were also a lot of gardens and markets around the area!

A very pretty looking bridge!

A very pretty looking bridge!

We stopped by a famous restaurant that was recommended to us. The food was surprisingly affordable despite its exotic appearance! The drinks on the other hand were not (it was 600 yen for a cup of coke!! And refills aren’t a common thing in Japan!) It might be a little too adventurous for some friends back home, but we figured this was a once in a lifetime experience.

I guess being in Japan has made us all open up to new experiences.

I guess being in Japan has made us all open up to new experiences.


Anyway, I would definitely recommend Odawara Castle to visitors who would like to experience a bit of feudal Japan! We all had a great time, definitely got a lot of cool pictures!

Yamato Nishi High School English Camp Training Session-Day 1

"Interested in teaching?" Why, yes. Yes I am :)

“Interested in teaching?” Why, yes. Yes I am :)

I knew when I entered college that I wanted to go to Japan and teach English, but I was convinced I had to wait until I graduated in order to do so. Luckily, through another study abroad student, I learned about a two-day English Camp held by TUJ’s AEP (Academic English Program). More than the money (although, getting paid is a bonus,) I wanted to know what it was like to teach English in Japan since I plan on doing the same after I graduate. I wanted to take this opportunity by the horns, so I went to the AEP office, requested an application and scheduled a time for my interview.

A short interview and an application submission later and I was accepted into the program (やった!or “yatta” which means “I did it!”) But they wouldn’t just unleash us onto innocent freshmen. We had to prepare and what better way to prepare than to go through the training sessions. Here’s a recap of Day 1

The first training session took place on October 15th and with about 35 TUJ student participating, it consisted of providing introductions and basic information on what we’ll be doing. In pairs of two, we’ll be teaching four classes of first year students at Yamato Nishi High School in Shibuya. But what will we teach them? While we will be speaking in English, we’ll be split into four groups to teach one out of four topics: Trips and Travel, Food, Olympics, or Social Media. In addition to teaching the same lesson four times during the first day, those who will participate in both days will have two additional lessons to teach on the second day, one picture drawing lesson and one holiday lesson. Yours truly was placed in the Olympics group. To be honest, I wasn’t too happy about this at first. I don’t play sports (I didn’t even like gym when I was in school), so how can I teach something I know nothing about? All I could think was どうしようですか?(What am I going to do?)

After I received the lesson plans I realized I may have been getting a little ahead of myself. The plans were well written, easy enough to follow, and looked fun. The advisors for each topic met with their groups and walked through the plans, giving suggestions on what we could do. Overall, it would just be a matter of familiarizing myself with the materials and practicing. (See? I totally wasn’t worried about anything!)

Just a little preview into the lesson plan for the Olympics group (Sorry, no spoilers guys)

Just a little preview into the lesson plan for the Olympics group (Sorry, no spoilers guys.)

Among the TUJ students, there were those who had taught English to Japanese students and were able to provide some advice from personal experience, such as:

1) Smile and encourage the students to speak English (even if they make mistakes).

2) Speak slowly and use short, clear sentences (keep things simple).

3) Use gestures as you speak (to help them understand better).

4) Have patience and give them time to respond (English is not their first language).

In order to practice some of these techniques, we paired off and were given a lesson on Halloween. We had to read over the material and then take turns paraphrasing the contents as if our partners were one of the students. This was a good exercise because I think as native English-speakers, we take for granted the fact that we started learning from the time we were infants so we don’t fully understand how difficult it is for non-native speakers to learn the same language. This is definitely something I’ll have to keep in mind when I review the lesson plans. I’ll do my homework, look over the lessons, practice how I’ll teach and prepare myself for Day 2 of the training sessions. Look forward to it!

(View my Day 2 training post)

Gaijin Stories Part 2


Food Etiquette:

Even with all the research I did beforehand, sometimes habits are just hard to adjust to. Although I was fully aware of their tradition of saying “itadakimasu” (a phrase used to give thanks before a meal) and “gochisou sama deshita” (a phrase used to express gratitude for the meal) I often forget to say one or the other. Fortunately, my host family is very understanding and usually initiates the phrase so I don’t forget to say it. However, there are a plethora of other unfamiliar rules and exceptions that come in Japan’s food etiquette. For instance, a friend of mine and I once went to a small shop in Shinjuku. After staring at a menu outside for a couple minutes, an old man ushered us in to talk with him. He didn’t speak English at all and spoke with an Osaka ascent. Luckily, my friend and I were able to piece together what he was saying to us. Apparently he was the president of Generali (the largest insurance company in Italy) Japan’s division! Anyway, back to the topic of food etiquette, he explained to us that when you are eating soba, it is polite to slurp your noodles. It shows that you are enthusiastic about the meal.

Am I suppose to make the slurping sound for this one?

Am I suppose to make the slurping sound for this one?

However, I discovered that this rule doesn’t apply to all noodles when my host family give me funny looks as I was applying this rule to pasta. I think in the future, I’ll just wait until someone else takes the first bite to figure out what I’m supposed to do.

Lost in translation:

One night while Alfonso (a close friend) and I were trying to figure out what we wanted to eat, we found a Spanish restaurant near campus. Being in Japan, you typically wouldn’t expect to see a Spanish flag in front of an establishment, so it caught our attention and we decided to read their menu outside to see what they had. As expected from Japan, once we were near the door, a worker approached us to urge us to come in. What we didn’t expect was for him to greet us in Spanish. Alfonso, being from Venezuela, was excited for the opportunity to speak Spanish with someone for the first time since arriving in Japan, so we decided to give the place a try.

Not sure if this was a Spanish dish, or a Japanese one. Either way, it was delicious!

Not sure if this was a Spanish dish, or a Japanese one. Either way, it was delicious!

The food was delicious but also a bit expensive so we only ordered one dish to share. In the meantime, we chatted with Taki-san (the worker who greeted us), who we learned to be the owner of the establishment. Taki-san introduced us to his wife and Momo, a student who was working there because she wanted to improve her Spanish. When Taki-san introduced us to Momo, he told us her name in Japanese means Peach and translated her name to Mandarina (which apparently means tangerine in Spanish). Alfonso, thinking that was a cute name, intended to tell her that she had a “kawaii namae.” Instead, he said “kawaisou” which translates to “poor thing.” (He was trying to say “kawaii sou,” which roughly translates to, “seems cute.”) I noticed the mistake, but the owner and Momo giggled, and my friend looked confident, so I thought maybe I was wrong. Besides, in my culture, it is rude to correct others in public. After we finished our food and said goodbye to the staff, I asked him if my translation was wrong. He stopped momentarily to think about what he said before. Upon realizing his mistake, he squatted down on the sidewalk, covering his face in embarrassment. Pretty sure, now is an appropriate time to use the term “kawaisou.

Language Partners


While my host family and coworkers always says that my Japanese is very good, my inability to read a book without picking up a dictionary every five seconds makes me disagree. I’ve completed Intermediate Japanese II at Main Campus so I was pretty confident in my ability, but upon arriving in Japan, I discovered that I still had a long way to go.

I bought this book a month ago. At this rate, I'll take me another semester to finish it.

I bought this book a month ago. At this rate, I’ll take me another semester to finish it.

I honestly thought keigo (honorific language) would be the most difficult for me to use while in Japan since it was a difficult chapter for me in the past. Instead, I found it easier to talk to adults and cashiers in comparison to talking to my peers! Since in class, we would always use masu form (formal language) with our professor, short form (informal language) had slipped from my mind.

Yearning for the opportunity to practice and review short form, I signed up for Temple’s Language Partner Program. Unfortunately, my partner was unable to meet at the originally designated time and I ended up without a partner. Fortunately, Meiji University was looking for Temple students to participate in its language partner program. Unlike Temple’s Language Partner Program, this program is held online, so while it was a little less personal, you could have as many language partners as you want. I certainly was in for a surprise! After typing up my self-introduction in Japanese, I ended up having four language partners! And their fluency in English really surprised me! Everyone from Meiji University seems to have almost completely mastered English already! Some of my partners have been studying English since middle school! They all seem very surprised to find out that I’ve only been studying Japanese for two years, and told me that they thought I had been studying it for much longer (but I’m starting to have a feeling that this is something everyone in Japan tells you no matter how terrible you are at Japanese). Honestly, I am really embarrassed that my Japanese isn’t at the same level of their fluency in English, but I will certainly do my best to catch up to them. An icebreaker I found fun to ask my partners was what the kanji in their name meant. My parents gave my sister and me Chinese names but never taught us how to write it. However, they did tell use the meaning. I know that my Chinese name means “spring water.” And my little sister’s Chinese name means “spring flower.” My parents told me that since water is necessary for life, the origin of my name is “to support others,” especially my little sister.

I sure got a lot of interesting responses! For instance, the kanji in Keiko’s name (慶子) means “happy child.” Incidentally, the kanji in Rika’s name (莉加) means “child that gives kindness to everyone.” I thought Tsubasa’s name was pretty cool too (翼). His name means “wings.” And Emi’s name was also quite interesting (宇田川 瑛実). Her last name uses the kanji for space, rice field, and river (so we think it means galaxy), while her first name means “faith crystal.”

Anyway, I really love talking my with language partners. It feels more like having pen-pals who love talking to you instead of practicing. I’ve made it a goal to reply to them at least once or twice a day, without using the aid of Google translate to write a response back. Using a dictionary takes much longer, but I don’t want to take shortcuts on the learning process. I definitely would love to meet them in person if the opportunity pops up.