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More than a job

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Nine students from the Kadena Language Institute recently worked as interns in various base locations such as public affairs; services marketing; Information, Tickets and Travel; Karing Kennels; the youth center; Risner Fitness Center; arts and crafts center and the Banyan Tree Golf Course.

I was one of the nine students and worked at public affairs and the teen center. During the first week, it was not easy getting used to the American work environment. Sometimes I had a trouble communicating in English. Even if I understood, I could not express myself well. I sometimes wanted to avoid speaking in English, but I didn't. I was there to improve my skills and myself. My coworkers listened patiently and corrected my English when I made a mistake. They were so kind and fun to talk with. They always made me laugh. I thought that Americans are so friendly and always try to have fun with their work and their coworkers. My image of a workplace was strict, quiet and stressful; so it was totally different than what I imagined before.

Both public affairs and the teen center were perfect workcenters to improve my abilities. By working at different places, I gained more diverse experiences. At the teen center, I worked mainly with teens. One day, a boy called my name and said hello to me. I didn't expect him to remember my name, so I was surprised but felt really happy. It was just a small greeting but it made a world of difference in my attitude toward those students. At that moment, I decided to remember everyone's name. I then got to know the students better by calling them by their first name and talking more with them.

I also participated in various meetings and ceremonies -- a change of command ceremony -- as part of my duties in the public affairs office.

I learned that working in a society is not as easy as being a student. When I was a student at KLI, people didn't expect much from me. Teachers and classmates encouraged and praised me for my academic work, which I don't think I actually deserved.

However, when at work I'm always under pressure to do everything my job requires me to do to the best of my ability. Even if I don't want to do it, I have to because that is my job. Work requires more personal responsibility.

I still don't know what I want to become in the future, but I realized one important thing: the types of jobs I have known were limited but I now know there are more doors to my future career. It is hard to learn about all of them in a short period. But, I believe there is something I can do--something only I can do.

This internship was not only a good experience to improve my English, but it also provided a great chance to prepare for the future. Above all, I gained a new perspective toward the base in Okinawa.

I'm thankful to the 18th Wing for giving us interns such a great opportunity. Our work experience on Kadena helped us gain much more confidence. On behalf of the KLI students, I'd like to thank everyone who supported our internship and all the wonderful people we met through this program.

KLI is a two-year municipal school for Kadena town youth to study English. It also teaches Chinese, Spanish, social manners and computer skills. There is no school fee and, furthermore, students are given allowances, as a scholarship. In return for those advantages, they are not allowed to have a part time. Every year, the second year students take part in this internship on Kadena to help broaden their knowledge and improve their working skills. Since part-time work is prohibited while going to KLI, for most, this internship is the first opportunity to get a full-time position.