July 9, 2018
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — From the bustling streets of Tokyo to the lush greenery of a farm in rural Philippines, Illinois Wesleyan University students are immersing themselves in the lives and cultures of people halfway across the world this summer as Freeman Asia interns.
Thanks to a renewed $400,000 grant from the Freeman Foundation, the Freeman Asia internship program at IWU is enabling 36 students – the most in the program’s four-year history at Illinois Wesleyan – to take part in all expenses paid summer internships at sites in Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines and Thailand.
While gaining valuable experience in areas such as teaching, research and social activism, students are engaging with the locals as part of their work, whether it is by meeting campaigners in Thailand fighting against one of the largest coal mines in Southeast Asia or by trying their hand at tilling and plowing rice fields with the help of Filipino rice farmers and a water buffalo.
“Before starting this two week field trip, I was both excited and worried, but I honestly had no idea what to expect,” said Grant Park ’19 (in his blog), who visited Filipino households with field researchers from the Food & Nutrition Research Institute to conduct a national survey on nutrition and dietary habits. “Sleeping on floors, showering with a bucket (tabo), and having to manually flush by pouring water into the toilets are things that I have never experienced. I’ll admit, spending about a week in the field has more often than not been a struggle, but I can easily say it’s been one of the most humbling experiences of my life.”
Depending on the prevalence of English in these countries, interactions with locals can sometimes prove challenging. Though many interns are mentoring students in English while also gaining experience with the country’s language – even when the language barrier is apparent – interns have found those around them to be patient and helpful.
“I completely fumble my way through Japanese or just end up smiling and say ‘sumimasen’ because I do not understand, and then everyone is so incredibly sweet back!” said Elisabeth Williams ’20 (in her blog) after a day trip to Nagoya, Japan. “Kindness here is contagious.”
While adjusting to new languages, new customs and new people, Freeman Asia interns also have had the freedom to explore a wide range of places and activities during their travels. Students have used their spare time to dine at a floating restaurant in the Philippines, climb the Doi Suthep mountain in Thailand, witness the Dragon Boat Festival in Hong Kong and much more.
Despite the culture shock of a new country, Illinois Wesleyan students are remaining enthusiastic and open to the myriad of experiences stemming from this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“Those first few days can be really tough, but remember why you wanted to travel in the first place,” Nathan Vartivarian ’20 told blog readers after finishing his first week in Japan. “That initial stress is temporary, but the amazing experience you’ll have will hopefully be one you’ll never forget.”
Discover more about each intern’s experiences in the complete list of student blogs below:
Kanda University of International Studies - Self-Access Learning Center — Japan
Emma Asta ’20
So Easy — Japan
Connor May ’19
Technos International College — Japan
Nathan Vartivarian ’20
World Friendship Center — Japan
Ziyao Chen ’19
By Rachel McCarthy ’21