Although I am still extremely jetlagged and somewhat disoriented, I'm finally starting to settle back into my routine here in Calgary. There's so much that I missed about life in Calgary: my family, my friends, the language, the food, and of course, my bed. Not sure if I really miss the snow, but hey, it's home. For those of you that have been following along with my posts, you know that I have been homesick for pretty much the entire trip. I was so excited to see my family again, so excited that I couldn't even sleep during the long flights. I remember running through the airport as soon as I got off the plane, rushing to meet my family who came to pick me up. The first person I saw as I came out of the arrival gates was my 88 year-old grandma, and neither of us could stop the tears from streaming down our faces as I rushed to hug her. In the car on the way home, I couldn't stop pulling things out of my bags, trying to show my grandma everything that I had bought, many of which were for her. I had also arranged to go to wushu practice, although I was a bit late to the class due to the arrival time of my flight. I was a bit out of practice due to not training for two and half months, but it was wonderful getting to practice again and to see my coach and all of my wushu friends.
Looking back at the program, the two months flew by so quickly. We got to learn so many new things and gain so many new experiences. We met many wonderful people: our homestay families, the staff at the universities, the people at the elementary and jr. high schools, the student tutors, and even just the community in general. In Iwamizawa, we had some problems at the beginning with the schedule that the university gave us, due to time conflicts with our online courses and struggling to balance the times we were to spend in schools with the time we needed for our homework. However, our liasion was absolutely amazing and helped us to work out our schedule. Getting to experience two different homestays (one in Sapporo and one in Iwamizawa) was amazing, with both my homestay families being extrememly nice and helpful. It is an extremely difficult thing to do to open your home to a stranger and to have them stay with you for a month, so I'm really glad I got to expereince it. The staff members and the students at the schools were incredibly welcoming and friendly. Students were usually shy about talking to forgeiners in English, but were also enthusiatic in greeting and getting to know us. Our student tutors were absolutely amazing, constantly helping us find our way and helping to translate everything. We spent our last week and a half in Japan slowly wrapping up the program, having our last school visits and picking up some last minute things to prepare for our return to Canada. The university even threw a farewell party for us, and invited many of the people that we've worked with during our month in Iwamizawa.
There are so many new ideas and experiences that I have gained through this program. Getting to learn basic conversational Japanese definitely helped me to have an easier time communicating and getting around, especially since I did not know any Japanese before going on TAB. And of course, when the basic Japanese we knew wasn't enough, Google Translate was often able to save the day (I swear, Google Translate will be your best friend). Getting to see English being taught as a second language in schools reminded me of when I took French back in Jr. High and High school. I'm not quite sure how, but I found that the students here are much better at English than I ever was at French, especially since I've forgotten pretty much all the French I've learned back then. We also got to see many different activities that were used in the English classes that I am likely to use in my own teachings. It was also super impressive getting to see how disciplined students were and the responsibilities that students had in schools. Students would lead most of homeroom, serve school lunches to each other, clean the schools themselves, and were extremely fast at listening to instructions and getting organized. It sometimes makes me wonder if we are underestimating our students here in Canada and are babying them too much.
Tips that I have for future TAB students going to Japan are:
- Transit: Make sure you look up all possible transit routes, including walking ones (Google Maps will be another of your best friends). Different transit companies have different routes and costs. Walking, or biking if you manage to get your hands on a bike, will help save you a ton of money. Trust me, transit costs add up quickly if you're taking the bus/train everyday
- Food: If you're looking for cheap and quick lunches, convenience stores are the place to go. Convenience stores in Japan are amazing. There are many different convenience stores, such as Seicomart, Familymart, Seven Eleven, and Lawsons, and they're everywhere. I got most of my lunches at convenience stores and they're delicious and quite cheap.
- Homestays: Make sure to take the time to get to know and bond with your homestay families. As busy as you'll probably get with homework, don't just hide in your room. Take the time to talk and hang out with them. They're likely to become one of your strongest pillars of support while you're there
All in all, I had an awesome time doing TAB. Thanks for following along on my adventures, and I look forward to seeing the blog posts of future Tabbers. Sayonara!