I Left My Heart in the Land of the Rising Sun

If given the opportunity, I would very much like to go back to Japan. I miss the children, the teachers and school. I learned to be efficient, and if I had stayed longer, I know I would learn a lot more about myself.

Dika College Early Childhood Education diploma student Komalam Visvanathan, 34, who interned at the ISchool Kindergarten in Kurume, Fukuoka Japan shares her experience as an assistant teacher and her fondest memories of her time in the Land of the Rising Sun.

I had for an assignment visited the Japanese School of Kuala Lumpur to interview the principal and learn more about their education system. I remember thinking to myself after the interview, how interesting I thought the Japanese education system to be. When an opportunity to do my internship in Japan came up, I knew it was a challenge that I should grasp; and I am glad that I did exactly that. I never would have imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be teaching at International ISchool Kindergarten in Kurume, Fukuoka.

When I arrived in Fukuoka on April 12th 2019, I only knew two words, Konichiwa(Hello) and Arigato(Thank you). I was unsure and nervous. I was worried if I would survive my time in Japan. When I left on 7th June 2019, I brought back with me a host of wonderful memories and an experience that has opened my eyes to all possibilities.

The International ISchool Kindergarten hires teachers from English speaking countries as the class teachers. Japanese teachers and those from non-speaking English countries assist as assistant teachers. As an intern, I was an assistant teacher for a class of three-year-olds. On my first day, the class teacher introduced me as Mala senseiwhich means Teacher Mala. 

The children are simply amazing. They are very well behaved. They are trained to be independent as early as when they are two years old. They are trained to do everything by themselves. For example, before lunch break, they would take out their napkin, place it neatly on their desk, and arrange on it a spoon, fork and chopsticks. They are happier to do it themselves rather than having the teacher help them.

They speak only Japanese but they are able to understand the English Language reasonably well. I would ask them questions such as How are you?or How is the weather today?, and they would reply in Japanese. I would give them an appropriate reaction such as a hug or a pat. I soon realised that language is no barrier and that care and love can be shown through signs and gestures.

I was extremely motivated and inspired by the work culture shown by my fellow Japanese teachers. They never wasted a minute, and they helped me a great deal during the internship. Every day at 3pm the Japanese teachers and management meet to update each other on the days events. The assistant principal heads the meeting and she provides advice and suggestions on how things can be improved. This was something I really admired. As the days went by, I began to feel less inhibited and more confident with what I needed to do for the children.

I also enjoyed the working culture in my school. Everyone greets each other every day without fail. The teachers are very respectful and professional. The management and principal made sure I was comfortable and happy working at the school. They would frequently enquire how I was doing, and if was everything was okay. When I needed materials to conduct my lessons, the assistant principle provided me with all the resources that I needed. Even parents are very respectful and made the effort to greet the teachers. Early Childhood Education (ECE) in Japan is a combination of education, discipline and culture. Outdoor playis very important. It is compulsory and it is a part of their daily life. On my way to work daily, I would pass by a high school and few kindergartens, and I would see the children playing outdoors. The homes in Japan are small but there is an abundance of parks, play grounds and fields. The Japanese also love singing. They have a song for every time of the day; songs for the morning, before lunch and when we say good bye at the end of the school day. What I learned in Dika certainly helped me a great deal!  It gave me the knowledge and confidence to carry out my daily responsibilities. 

For those who are thinking of Japan, I highly recommend that they pursue it. The city where I lived in is quiet and far from the modern hustle and bustle of Tokyo, something like what you would find in towns like Ipoh or Taiping. As we all know, the cost of living in Japan is higher than most other countries. A simple meal at a restaurant would cost RM30.00, so I cooked for most part of my stay, with the exception of weekends. The school sponsored the accommodation, transport and cost for a sim card, so that was a great help.  When I was there, it was spring and was quite cold, but it warms up as summer approaches. 

If given the opportunity, I would very much like to go back to Japan. I miss the children, the teachers and school. I learned to be efficient, and if I had stayed longer, I know I would learn a lot more about myself. During my last week of my internship, the principal and the assistant principal shared with me an appraisal. They commended me for doing a good job. I felt the tears well up in my eyes. It was so gratifying hearing the compliments from them. There are so many other interesting stories and encounters, but this was the icing on the cake. This moment was unforgettable and the happiest one for me.

I would strongly recommend for students to seize the opportunity to do their internships in other countries. Do not be afraid. It is a good way to bench mark after best practices and to bring these experiences back to Malaysia to further ECE here. For me, the experience has left an indelible impression and one I would remember for the rest of my life.

Established in 2003, Dika College is a pioneer in early childhood education and special education. It also offers a competitive business management course and the industry-linked Eduprenuer programme. For more information, call +603-80756223 or visit www.dika.edu.my.