Intern Name: Jeremy Jahn '20
Major(s): Peace Studies, Asian Studies
Title/Place of Internship: Concordia Language Villages - Japanese Village
How did you find out about your internship/fellowship/etc.?
I had heard about this job position (I had applied it as internship credit, so technically this was a paid internship) from my Japanese professor who had worked for Concordia Language Villages years prior, and when I saw that they were an employer at the annual MN Private Colleges' Job & Internship Fair in spring semester of last year, I decided to attend.
What were your responsibilities at your internship/fellowship/etc.?
My official title was a Japanese village (i.e. camp) counselor, but in reality I had numerous responsibilities that went past just being a "summer camp counselor". Nearly every day barring Sundays, I had to teach two Japanese language courses in Japanese (no English!), as Concordia Language Villages operates as a immersion-based program. Other counselors opted to teach club activities (e.g. Japanese-related cultural activities, etc.), but I wanted teaching experience and thus I decided to stick with teaching the language courses. Before each class I had an hour to lesson plan, which was really the only time to prep given our busy days.
Aside from the teaching element, I constantly was involved in planning village-wide activities for the day (e.g. we had "yoru-puro", which were nightly "evening programs" that we were assigned to design and set up at least three times during the course of the position).
There was not a lot of time for relaxation! It was a non-stop environment of designing and participating in activities for the villagers, eating group meals that focused on serving culturally-authentic food, etc., all the while speaking the target language of Japanese.
As counselors, we were in charge of engaging villagers and constantly being at 100% energy, aiming to get them to talk Japanese, and be engaged in all the variety of activities we did. If students had disputes, we dealt with those usually in English for easier communication. As the sole male counselor with mental health training from orientation, I also dealt with students that were homesick, had difficulty fitting in, etc.
What was the most beneficial aspect of your experience?
Having teaching experience was an incredibly beneficial aspect of my experience, because many of the jobs I am applying to are ESL teaching positions. I loved that I was able to experience the harsh realities of being a teacher: stress finishing lesson planning, the difficulty of engaging students in class, etc., so that in the future if I do more teaching, I can improve on my past teaching styles.
What was the most surprising thing you experienced or learned during your internship/fellowship/etc.?
I was surprised at how good my non-Japanese native coworkers were at Japanese! Honestly, it really made me feel insecure at first, as the Japanese minor I have completed at CSB/SJU is nothing in difficulty compared to the Japanese programs my coworkers have been in.
I was surprised because many of them were close to being fluent, and here I was with a conversational-Japanese level only. I realized that achieving language fluency was possible, but it would take a hot second to get there, because I ultimately would need to go to graduate school or self-study a ton to improve myself.
How can you apply what you experienced at your internship/fellowship/etc. in the future?
The teaching and counseling elements of this internship are going to be vital to future positions that I would theoretically want to take with any teaching or youth mentorship program.
Twenty-four seven I was surrounded by villagers who truly were invested in learning more about Japanese language and culture, and I was their mentor. I was part of the leadership staff who were in charge of engaging students and making them feel like they belong, and that leadership experience will ultimately prove vital to any position I apply to.
I cried so much during our graduation ceremony, and all my students thanked me for being their teacher and whatnot, which goes to show that I did make a difference in their experience at the camp, and hopefully in their desire to continue learning about Japan. It makes you feel like you did something beneficial!
What advice would you offer to future students interested in this experience?
The Japanese program at CSB/SJU is simply not advanced enough, and thus if you followed the curriculum and nothing more (e.g. only doing the homework and not studying aside from that), there is little chance, in my opinion, that you would receive this position.
You need to self-study in order to have a chance, as this position requires a good grasp of the Japanese language. This isn't meant to discourage anyone, but if you want this position, you need to be committed to language learning.