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.
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
“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