Back in America, I have always been used to engaging in different activities unrelated to school on top of academics. During my sophomore year at Tufts, I ended up working 2 part time and 1 full time job. I don't mean to brag or anything, but I simply believe that there are so many opportunities one can take advantage and learn from, whether it would be engaging in volunteer work, working at a restaurant, joining athletic clubs, etc. Going to college doesn't equate to trapping yourself in 4 walls and studying 24/7. It's about exploring what you want to do in life, understanding that time is limited, bringing the best out of yourself through connecting with old friends and meeting new ones.
Therefore, when I arrived at Nagoya and settled down in my dorm about a week after, I started thinking about the kinds of activities I could engage in to best use my limited period of time here in this wonderful country. Besides from intensively taking 3-hour Japanese classes every day, I was more eager to get out of the classroom and start using Japanese in the most mundane situations. My wish was to befriend Japanese people and understand the culture through their perspective, each different from the other. Joining clubs was one possibility, but I also dreamt of doing an off-campus part time job as the means for me to escape the college bubble. However, where could I possibly work in with my lack of Japanese knowledge? I wanted to be able to take ownership of my schedule, but at the same time had the desire to help others and be of value to people. A type of environment that fostered communication, diversity and adventures. That thought enlightened me with the idea that I could use what I know best, which were my native Vietnamese and fluent English languages, to meet the demand for language tutors in Nagoya. As suggested by my senpais, language tutoring would best fit the criteria I was looking for. And it probably was the best decision I had made to make use of my free time.
My senpai Xavier introduced me to several websites that matched teachers and students in Japan, who wanted to improve on different languages. I filled out my profile with language lessons, rates, locations and background information on 3 different websites and surprisingly enough, the demand was actually there. At first, I didn't believe that these websites would lead me to any tutoring gig simply due to the fact that there were probably too many tutors expressing interest and the site may not have seemed very reliable. But within a week, I received an email from a 34-year-old man named Taizo who requested trial lessons in conversational English. I was skeptical about the safety of this whole process but went for it and replied to set up an appointment with him.
7pm at Nagoya Station.
I was lost at the station doing my best to find the cafe we were supposed to meet at. He emailed me offering me some help to pick me up within the station and leading me to the cafe. Waiting for about 5 minutes, I saw a tiny man in black clothing approaching me and asking if I was Kristie. We went to the cafe and ordered some beverages. I was nervous as I felt unprepared for the lesson and brought only a pen and several sheets of paper. But soon I realized that there was nothing to be worried about. With his previous English practice, we were able to carry out conversation on topics, from school, work to cultural differences, smoothly and I would now and then help him structure sentences thathe wanted to convey in a way that made more sense. Just after one lesson, I was surprised about how much I was able to learn about Taizo's personal story. Yes, the best thing about this tutoring job is the ability to hear stories from a stranger I just met and be fascinated by their journeys. The kind of feeling like being present at Humans of New York's street photoshoots.
"I work at a big company in Japan as an instructor for helicopter pilots, but I want to get an American license so I could work around the world. I want to travel and experience nature," said Taizo who has decided to fly to Hawaii, America at the end of next month.
Soon, we delved into a deeper topic about our hopes for the future. Since I had a vague idea of how my future should look like and believed that my plans might change once I experience and see more things, my main point was I would "go with the flow". Despite being a simple slang expression often used in English, Taizo found it amusing and thanked me for teaching him some interesting phrases. It made me excited that I was able to help him even just a little. No matter how small or grand the impact was, it made me happy that he wanted to schedule the next lesson right away. Thanks to Taizo, I understood that being a private tutor actually opened many doors to take some risk, meet new people and listen to their interesting life stories. No matter if we came from Vietnam or Japan, we were able to bond as human beings through shared values, open-mindedness to absorb new ideologies and simply empathy.
Thanks Taizo and good luck in America! Excited about my next Vietnamese lesson with a woman with two kids. New stories, new findings...
And here are some more pictures to Osu Kannon with my cousin from last time.
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<p>Hi there! I'm Kristie. Currently a junior at Tufts University majoring in Quantitative Economics and exploring other areas of passion like marketing, community service and photography. In my free time, I like coming up with cooking recipes using seasonal ingredients in the market to create dishes that have a hint of my Vietnamese upbringing. Reading food blogs, taking pictures, watching Miyazaki movies basically sum up my life. Having lived in Russia, Vietnam, America, I love traveling and always feel the hunger for a new adventure, a new place and new culture. From friendships to random encounters with strangers, I'm excited to experience it all during my semester abroad in Japan.</p>