Mikans and Money: The Ehime AJET Scholarship
I feel I am very lucky to come from the UK. I have always taken for granted how close I am to other European countries and the ample opportunities to travel and work abroad (not so much anymore — I’m still pissed off about the whole Brexit thing). Since my first journey outside of the UK at the age of 6 months, various family holidays, school trips, and travels with friends have taken me to approximately 20 countries around the world, and I have had the opportunity to encounter festivals, events, languages, cuisines, and cultures that I certainly would not have if I’d stayed home in my quiet corner of the English countryside.
I never realized how much I took this for granted until I came to Ehime, where a surprising number of people have never traveled outside the country, let alone to another continent. Students especially, with summer holidays that seem to consist of going to school six times a week for club activities, miss out on invaluable opportunities to experience people and places outside of Japan. We, as ALTs and CIRs, benefit in so many ways from being immersed in a culture different from our own, and the AJET scholarship allows us to give our students that same chance to experience the world.
Started in 2015 by former Matsuno JET Eriko Stronach, the scholarship provides one high school student in the prefecture the chance to study abroad during the summer. Applicants research and select their own programs from a list provided by the committee. This flexibility allows students to become fully involved with their study abroad experience from the outset — they can choose the details such as how long they wish to stay away (usually between 1-3 weeks), which English-speaking country they want to visit (Canada is currently top of the polls), and even things like the classes they take and whether to stay in dorms or with a host family. The scholarship fund’s yearly goal is 200,000 yen, and the committee holds a variety of fundraising events throughout the year in collaboration with Ehime AJET. Fundraisers include activities as varied as a Matsuyama Scavenger Hunt, a Hawaiian Luau in Uwajima, Girl Scout cookies sales, and pub quizzes. AJET has also been invited to open stands at local international events, providing opportunities to raise money for the scholarship fund as well as awareness for the cause. Without the support of these local organizations, like ICIEA in Imabari and Uwajima`s Hawaiian Festival, the scholarship would not be as successful as it is now.
The scholarship has been awarded to two students since its establishment. Both Akihito (2015) and Narumi (2016) travelled to Toronto for their chosen programs, and while they studied at different institutions and stayed in different areas of the city with different host families, their written reflections share many commonalities. They both, for example, experienced some trepidation prior to their first long-haul flight. They both had misgivings about their English proficiency and how they would be able to communicate in an English-speaking country. And they both admirably overcame their concerns and fears, actively participating in their classes and communicating with their host families and new friends from all over the world. They both also expressed a noticeable improvement in their listening skills, even after just a week. One of the highlights for Narumi was being able to help a family of tourists who were lost in the station.
For the scholarship recipients, studying abroad is an opportunity to explore more than just language and culture. As an aspiring engineer, Akihito found that the city of Toronto opened his eyes to new, innovative designs he had never seen before in Japan (he specifically mentions traffic lights and handrails. It’s always the little things that make an impression, right?!) The experience was more than a study abroad program; it became, in his words, “fuel that will drive my future.”
About the contributor: Anna Tattersall is a third-year Saijo ALT from England. She is a member of Ehime AJET. If anyone has any questions or is interested in helping out the scholarship committee in any capacity, please get in touch with her or one of the other committee members by emailing email@example.com.
About The Mikan: The Mikan is a blog written by and for Ehime JETs. For more information, or to contribute, contact editor Anna Sheffer at firstname.lastname@example.org.