Oxbridge Summer Camps Abroad



Japan 2008 volunteer: Polly Akhurst



Details: Polly Akhurst, 2nd Year French & Italian, St Hilda’s College, Oxford


Project location: Kobe, Japan

Previous teaching experience?: I didn't have any formal teaching experience prior to OSCA. While in sixth form I took part in an educational scheme in which we went into primary schools in deprived areas to give one-to-one reading support to children with learning difficulties. I also took part in a residential scheme which was organised to give city children a taste of the outdoors.


Why OSCA? A friend who had taught with OSCA the year told me about it and said that she wanted us to go and teach in the Dubai camp together. When I saw that there was a camp in Japan, I said that I wanted to go there, but she didn’t want to, so, I secretly applied to Japan instead!


How did you find the teaching? At first, I must admit, it was pretty tough when I found myself standing in front of a classroom of children, staring up at me and expecting me to do something! I was quite worried, as some of my lesson plans were too difficult for the students, but after a while, I eased into it, and found myself able to adapt my lesson plans easily to their level of English. It was so rewarding when my lesson plans worked, and when the students enjoyed them!


Weirdest experience: One of our camps was at a nature park, where the Japanese teachers organised the campfire. It was obligatory for the three of us OSCA teachers to dress up in cosplay i.e. costumes; princess Jasmine, ninja and a Japanese school girl. We had to dance around the campfire and perform a dance routine to Japanese pop music!


Best experience: Ironically, the cosplay was also the best experience!


Coolest thing about Japan: Toilets that play music, the fact that there’s a drink called “Pocari Sweat”.


What did you get out of OSCA? Without doubt, both the teaching and being so far away from friends and family gave me great confidence. I made many new friends with both OSCA teachers and Japanese students, whom I am still in contact with. I was also able to experience the crazy, eclectic culture of Japan, not from the perspective of a tourist, but as someone working in Japan.


What did you do after the camps? Although the camps were based in Kobe, after finishing the camps, the whole group went to Tokyo for a two day cultural exchange. We stayed there for a while, visiting the fish market, shopping in Tokyo’s ultra-hip districts and sleeping in capsule hotels. Laura (the director) and I then went off to explore the “Japan Alps” for a week. The peaceful, traditional towns there were a nice contrast to the bright lights of Tokyo. Then, I went back to Kobe for a few days to stay with English teachers that I had worked with during the camps.

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