Danielle Ponsot Internship with Aoyama Gakuin University
Name: Danielle Ponsot
Major: Secondary Education and English
Hometown: Arlington Heights, Illinois
Interning with: Aoyama Gakuin University
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Position: Chat Leader
What are your everyday responsibilities as an intern?
I facilitated conversations in English so that Japanese students could practice speaking
English. We had different conversation topics every day like "culture," "TV/ Movies"
and "manners," with about twenty questions to talk about with students. I facilitated
hour long conversations with beginners, intermediate and advanced college students,
as well as adults who were able to take free lessons at Aoyama. The university had
many other schools on campus, too, from elementary to junior high school to high school,
and we spent a lot of time in those schools, as well. In the elementary school, we
walked around the English classes and helped students with their questions. After
school, we led the "English Club" which was playing board games in English with the
students. In the junior high school, we also walked around in classrooms, and ate
lunch with students while talking to them in English. In the university, we hosted
an American cultural event where we brought in homemade rice krispie treats and taught
the Cha Cha Slide line dance.
How did you land this internship?
I applied to the Freeman Asia internship program, interviewed, and was accepted!
What drew you to this internship?
The opportunity to travel abroad while working in a position that fit my interests
so well! I want to be an English teacher, and at Aoyama Gakuin University, I was able
to teach English to students as a second language, while in Japan!
How did IWU prepare you for succeeding as an intern?
Illinois Wesleyan helped prepare me to succeed by forming partnerships with places
like Aoyama Gakuin University and offering the Freeman Asia Internship to students.
I felt prepared for this internship because of my Education classes, which taught
me how to carefully observe students and write daily logs while helping in the classroom.
My Education advisor filled in the gaps by supplying me with articles about how to
teach students who speak English as a second language, and she was able to answer
my questions and guide me in our weekly Skype sessions.
What do you hope to gain from this internship experience as you look forward to being
I gained real world experience from this internship, which I will apply to my future
classrooms. Working as a Chat Leader, I learned that students are most engaged when
they connect to the material and when they're having fun. As a future teacher, I'll
make sure to start off classes with a short energizing activity, use partner work,
and switch activities if the students lose interest. I also want to bring this cultural
experience into my classroom, by showing photos and videos of Japan. Practically,
this internship taught me a new level of responsibility; we had to commute 45 minutes
to work, teach all day, create activities, document each day's activities in a daily
log, present PowerPoints about our lives in America, create new chat topics, and devise
and host a cultural event.
What's been a particularly rewarding experience as an intern?
It was extremely rewarding to see my students become more confident in their English
skills. My favorite part of the internship was making friends with the Japanese students
at the University, especially when one of them told me, "You are the first person
who I feel comfortable speaking English with." Another of my favorite moments was
seeing about forty Japanese students at our cultural event (which happened during
their lunch, and they all attended voluntarily!) learning the Cha Cha slide, dancing
in unison and laughing.
In your opinion, why is it important for students to experience internships?
Internships are important to experience because they are a sneak preview into the
real world. This way, you can learn if you actually like the job or not, without having
to work full time. Plus, they are important to have on your resume when you apply
for jobs. For me, it was so interesting to meet students and teachers from a different
country, and hopefully maintain some relationships for the future!