I recently had the honor of participating in Miyazaki’s first World Camp. 120 high school students applied for the thirty available spots at the camp and, in the end, the camp decided to accept ten more students because they simply could not decide. Though similar to a lot of the English camps at which I’ve volunteered, the World Camp placed a heavier focus on the students practicing communication skills and being internationalized. The camp was a total success and there were several important factors to its success.
First, the students applied. Unlike many of the camps I see, the students actually wanted to be there because they have an interest in not only English, but internationalism in general. For most of the other camps, students are required to attend the camp as part of their schooling.
Secondly, the students did not wear uniforms, nor were they allowed to mention their school when introducing themselves. This was important in allowing the students to interact person to person without all the preconceived notions they might have about the various schools in the prefecture. They were allowed to interact and use English as they would in the real-world, outside of the microcosms that is high school. They also felt that they had Japanese as a safety net and as a result were much more willing to try English and make mistakes.
Thirdly, there was a focus on getting the students interested in studying abroad, not just in studying English. Two of the three days of the camp we all traveled to Miyazaki University. The students heard a presentation on the benefits of studying abroad as well as how it could help them, regardless of their field of study. They got to interact with a lot of the international and exchange students, which was especially great considering most of the ALTs in Miyazaki are American. There were international students from Poland, India, South Africa, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka. Most of the students knew nothing about these countries or had only stereotypical images of them, so it was really great to see presentations from the exchange students provide a different perspective.
For me, the camp was also really great because the ALTs were given much more freedom than I’ve ever had at another camp. The first day of the camp we had three hours to go to lunch or do whatever we wanted. When we were not needed, we were allowed to relax and we were not unnecessarily shoehorned into activities where we weren’t really needed. After our long break on the first day we played ice break games with the students. Four of the ALTs had planned a variety of games, but my favorite was the relay race that Jon and Makaya planned. The students had to run through a variety of obstacles and collect flags to bring back to their teams. It was a great way to build comradery in their small groups.
We then had another long break until around 8pm. During the break, all the ALTs got together and went for a walk to the beach.
Around 8, we were back on the clock and we formed small discussion groups on various topics with the students. I was in charge of talking about culture with the students, which was an incredibly vague topic. There was no direction I had to go in, just something about culture. I tried to stimulate a discussion, but I don’t seem to be very good at getting kids to talk in depth if they really aren’t interested. They were even allowed to use Japanese, but they didn’t seem into it. Besides, everyone, myself included, was incredibly tired.
Finally, it was time for the students to head to bed. This was when the teachers and ALTs were finally allowed to shower. The problem was, though, that our only option for bathing was the big public bath in the dorm. I have still never been to a public bath here and I really don’t think I want to. I’m way too self-conscious for that. So I had to time my shower just right (and beg one of the other volunteers to give me five minutes in the shower by myself) and ended up taking one of the quickest showers of my life. Somewhat clean, I toweled off and headed back to the bedroom to sleep.