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Friday, October 15, 2021

Michael Clogston Abroad

SHANNON HOBBS [CC BY 2.0] / FLICKR
SHANNON HOBBS [CC BY 2.0] / FLICKR
Concluding Japan, starting Australia

Nine weeks have passed since I began my working here in Sendai, Japan, through UC Davis’ Japanese Children’s Home Internship Program (JCHIP). The program has given me the opportunity to work, play, cook and learn with over 30 kids at Komatsushima Kodomo no Ie — a children’s home. I’ve spent over 290 hours with these kids so far, and I still have a week to go.

The entire time that I have been here, I’ve learned more about Japanese living, customs and the differences between these kids’ lifestyles and my own than I could have imagined. These children do not have the same opportunities as most of the other kids in Japan. Due to specific and unique circumstances, each of them has been placed in a children’s home, which is something similar to an orphanage, but it actually does not have an equivalent in America.

As a summer intern this year, my objective was to provide the children with a new friend and someone who could make their summer just as memorable — even if they don’t have access to the same resources that others may take for granted. I tried to provide this service the only way that I can: by letting them do what they wanted. They were given the freedom to make mistakes; I did what I could to entertain them.

There are things that I made sure I never did when I interacted with them: I never got mad at them, I always made sure to explain why something was wrong and I made sure they were having fun.

Something else that I learned that I didn’t necessarily expect was the amount of effort it takes to raise a child. I thought this retrospective look at child-rearing came up at a pretty pivotal time for me as a fourth-year who will graduate soon and head out into the “real world.” This made me consider my own experience and where I’ve come from in my almost 21 years of existence.

Raising a kid is hard. It takes a lot of resources, time and effort. Every time I go to work, I see the staff hard at work not only making food, but making sure that the kids are learning everything they need to do to survive in life outside of school. The staff makes sure they know how to make a few dishes, how to clean up after themselves and others and how to do their own laundry. All of this in addition to making sure the kids aren’t misbehaving and that they are getting along well enough.

They teach pretty much everything that I, as a kid who was determined to leave my hometown for college, was taught by my mother and grandmother and got me to UC Davis in the first place. It makes me appreciate everything that they’ve done for me up to this point that has allowed me to grow and flourish into the person I am today. My appreciation for my upbringing is also enhanced by the fact that I was even able to come to Japan for this internship and use these valuable life skills to go to Kyoto, London and, this coming fall, Sydney, Australia.

Though I’m sad to have to leave these kids soon, I’m sure that the memories I’ve made will be with me for a lifetime, not to mention the skills I’ve picked up here at this children’s home. Learning how to better interact with kids from so many different and unique situations, how to plan out meals and make food for over 30 people, and how to take the little victories as they come has been invaluable.

I will be going to Australia this Fall Quarter as part of the internship offered by the University Writing Program. I’ll be taking 18 units, six of which will be from an internship with Holman and Webb Lawyers, a firm with offices throughout Australia. I don’t expect this program to be easy. I have never expected any study abroad program to be easy. What I do expect though, is to be challenged both intellectually and as a person. To really make me think about the way I think and what I believe in — and maybe even change me in more ways than one. And I will certainly cherish the little memories and victories that come everyday, just like I’ve done here in Sendai, Japan.

Michael Clogston will be the Aggie’s foreign correspondent this quarter. Writing from Sydney, Australia, he plans on redefining the study abroad column as something that can be used a tool for both students interested in travel and not. An Aggie veteran, Clogston previously wrote a column on the role of the superhero in modern society. He’s going to parlay that experience to effectively communicate what it means to be an American student abroad today.

Written by: Michael Clogston — mlclogston@ucdavis.edu

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