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JUNE 2007

Volunteering at Tenri Cultural Institute
By Joshua Berkowicz

   I am a student of Global College, a program associated with Long Island University in Brooklyn. I came to this university because of my interest in Japanese language and culture. My school has a center in Kyoto and that is where I spent the last year and a half. Prior to my time in Kyoto I had studied Japanese for a year and currently I am in my third year of Japanese study. Also I plan to return to Japan to continue more rigorously. I will be graduating this semester and that is what brought me to the Tenri Cultural Institute.

  Part of my graduation requirement is to do an internship with an organization that is in the field of my study. Since my graduation thesis focuses on teaching Japanese to foreigners I was excited to learn that Tenri had both kokugo and nihongo classes. I knew that in coming here I would not only be able to engage with people and use my Japanese but that I would also be able to talk to the teachers about how they teach their mother tongue to others. I formally interviewed each of the teachers on their experiences and feelings about teaching Japanese. This has been an invaluable resource for my thesis and I am grateful for their contributions. Furthermore, since I am also interested in teaching language it has been a great experience working with them.

  During my time at the institute I have done various things. Mostly I worked on clerical tasks such as answering phones, updating student files, making student Ids, and updating the website. I even got to work on some translation which was a great opportunity and challenged me beyond my current level of Japanese. In the process I learned a great deal about Tenrikyo and some of its history. What I enjoy most about my tasks at the center is teaching English to the new teachers. Since I know what it is like to be in a foreign country for the first time, I can relate to the experiences of the new teachers. So I am not only helping them with English but I hope I am helping them adjust to New York culture. I am also getting to know them in the process and hope to remain friends in the future.

  I feel really fortunate to have been able to do my internship here. Everyone here is really friendly and a pleasure to work with. It is also a good feeling to know that I have been able to support an organization such as TCI. Although there is much for me to learn about Tenrikyo, it is clear to see that the staff is devoted to sharing Japanese culture and language with the greater community as well as engaging with the arts. I have enjoyed my time here and will certainly miss everyone when I am gone. So I thank you for the opportunity and for the time we have spent. Perhaps I will see some of you again when I visit Tenri in Japan.



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