For my fourth and final co-op experience, I’m living and working in Osaka, Japan. I studied Japanese for three years at Antioch, and am putting my learned language and culture skills to the test. My job is working at Suisen Fukushikai, a social welfare organization, at one of the organization’s daycare centers. Suisen Fukushikai was incorporated in 1956, and has since grown to 27 centers, serving infants, pre-school, and school-aged children, as well as children and adults with intellectual disabilities and the elderly.The organization’s mission is to “support people who have difficulties in a social life by applying the old spirit of settlement. We respect their independence and use social systems and social resources as a mediator for supporting them”.
Check out their website, in English, at http://www.suisen.or.jp/english/
My job itself is reminiscent of my first co-op where I went home to Detroit, Michigan, and worked as a kindergarten aid at a local alternative elementary school. My core daily responsibility, in both my first and present co-op, is playing with the children, promoting cooperation and fostering friendships, in an educational manner. Of course, now my responsibilities fall heavily on teaching kids English, as well. To do this, I’ve employed strategies such as holding ‘dance parties’ to English pop songs, reading English children’s books to the class, and creating educational posters that will hang in the classrooms after I leave.
Just as exciting, if not more: I have ample time to explore the Osaka area, seeing sights and soaking up as much of the culture as possible. I have never had the opportunity to travel abroad before (nor has any of my immediate family, so they’re all very curious!), so I’m trying very hard to see, learn, and do as much as I can while in Japan. I have been here for about a month and a half, and I’ve already done so much! Seen Osaka Castle, been to local music venues to see acquaintances’ shows, attended multiple community festivals, explored the train and subway system, tried (and liked!) a lot of local food, and found several restaraunts and cafes in different parts of the city I like. I rarely get home early ever. Whether I’m helping out at Suisen’s English classes, staying later at work, exploring a new part of the city, or going out to dinner with my coworkers, I’m always busy, always cognizant that I’m in an incredible and totally different place.
My biggest struggle so far has been the language, of course! Just like English, learning a language in a classroom is very different than how normal people speak. Real-life situations are quicker, with less opportunity to ask questions. The pace of conversation overwhelmed me, and in the beginning I had to shut out others’ conversations to hear and understand people closer to me. Not to mention the children at my work! Children’s Japanese is so far from what I learned in the classroom, the first couple days at work I understood next to nothing! But, just like children’s English, it’s just over-simplified grammar, with tendencies towards set phrases, so I came to understand very quickly. As for my life outside of work, I can more than get by. I’ve had conversations on trains with locals, been to several work parties, and have ventured to plenty of restaraunts and stores, where my Japanese language skills have served me well.
I look forward to continuing my stay at the daycare center (called a ‘hoikuen’) – I love the kids. They’re (mostly) so sweet, and smart! I can’t wait to show them the posters I’m making – I plan on giving them to the hoikuen right before I leave as a goodbye/thank you gift. In the mean time, the kids LOVE Justin Bieber, The Outkast, and Carly Rae Jepsen, and they always run up to me asking for certain words in English.
Being that this is my final co-op, meaning I’m starting my fourth year at Antioch, there’s a lot of added things I need to be thinking about – senior thesis, senior language capstone presentation, post-Antioch opportunities. I am working on finding a balance between preparing for my future at and after Antioch and living in the moment, making the most of my time in this amazing city, with amazing people!
Regardless, my time so far in Japan has lent me a great deal of adaptability, level-headedness, and independent motivation and ambition. I’m growing a lot as a person. Working with children necessitates that you are easily adaptable. Being in a different country, with unfamiliar surroundings and somewhat limited language skills, even the simplest tasks often become stressful situations, but my collected calmness had enabled me to maneuver these situations eloquently, in a culturally-sensitive manner. Oftentimes, it’s difficult to convey to my coworkers my plans and ideas, so I largely have had to move forward with my projects independently, instilling a great deal of independent motivation.
Here’s to more than a month left in Japan – I hope to continue seeing many new/old/unfamiliar/familiar things, meeting many more people, doing good work for Suisen’s children, and learning all that I possibly can. Who knows if I’ll get an opportunity like this again!
This co-op I had the opportunity to stay with and work for Antioch alumni in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I stayed with Joan Stockton, ‘65 and worked for Roger Ashodian, and spent time with many other alumni from the area – even got to attend a dinner party of the Philadelphia Chapter Alumni Association! The course I took this quarter was named ‘Work 331 – Sound, Sight, and Sentiment: The Phenomenology of Place’, with Brooke Bryan.
I worked at the Scholl Ashodian Regional Bankruptcy Center of Southeast Pennsylvania (RBC), as a hybrid of paralegal/legal research/general intern role. Day-to-day tasks of mine included mundane things like updating the firm’s court schedule, filing documents with the court, and performing client inventory tasks to more challenging work such as working with clients to file bankruptcy, embarking on various bureaucratic journeys to battle clients’ more uncooperative creditors, performing detailed analyses of aspects of clients’ financial status to advance their case, drafting memos to opposing counsel and various creditors, and even helping out at bankruptcy court a couple times.
One of my favorite aspects of the job were my co-workers. I had worked in a law firm in NYC for my previous co-op, but the Regional Bankruptcy Center was had the opposite environment. RBC is a much smaller firm, with 9 people, whereas the firm I worked at last co-op (Outten & Golden, LLP) seemed to have close to 100 in total, and took up two floors of a Manhattan skyscraper! RBC felt more every-day, easygoing, and accessible. Clients never seemed to have much reservation about just walking in unannounced to ask questions or give us documents or talk to Mr. Ashodian (sometimes to our dismay). Additionally, with such a small office, I had the pleasure of getting to know everybody else really quickly, making the adjustment period much shorter because I felt comfortable asking questions, as well as created a more accountable environment. Not to mention, everybody at RBC cared so much for the well-being of it’s clientele, and put in a lot of work to do what they could.
Now – how does/did my co-op job connect to Work 331? The goal of the Regional Bankruptcy Center is multi-faceted, as bankruptcy matters, like anything, are complicated, but we focus heavily on keeping our clients in their homes, and that’s what drew me into this co-op – i’ve been interested in homeownership and it’s effects for quite some time.
One reading that I connected well with in the course described place geographer Yu-Fi Tuan’s idea of ‘topofilia’ – the affective bond between people and place (Cresswell, A. Place, A Short Introduction. pp 8). That idea resonated with me because so much of my day-to-day obligations at RBC centered around the goal of keeping people in their homes – often described as sacred and safe spaces. ‘Home’ – in whatever form it may lie – is incredibly important to the psychopathy of those who inhabit it. How much space does one have to live their life, what kind of light flows through their lived spaces, what memories have formed there, and are specific to that place? There are a lot of things that make a home, a home, an important place.
Attached here is a link to the Urban Affairs Coalition’s Foreclosure Prevention Task Force, with who I had the pleasure of helping out and getting to know because Roger Ashodian (Antioch alum), and Ms. Allison Hughes (who is actually a co-chair of the task force) come from RBC. On this website there’s many resources for homeowners to gain financial literacy, connect to housing counselors, attorneys, and non-profits, and research surrounding foreclosure. Also attached is the mapping assignment we were tasked with during Work 331 – giving an overview of what I spent some of my time in Philadelphia seeing and doing.