Posted by: viaprograms | December 15, 2009

Changing Perspective: An Interview with AUSL 2008 Participant Kazuma Tani

Kazuma with a new friend at Sunday Friends

Kazuma Tani is a student from Chuo University in Tokyo. He will begin studying at California State University at Chico for 1 year in January, 2010.

1. What impacted you during VIA’s Asia-U.S. Service-Learning (AUSL) program?

There were two factors which impacted me and changed my perspective during AUSL. I had been interested in poverty problem and joined AUSL’s Homelessness and Poverty Group.

In this group I was able to meet many kinds of people who made my perspective change. The most impressive experience was talking with homeless people in the U.S. I met one old man sitting on a bench of a park. According to him, he was working on a company but one day he was injured his leg in the accident so he could not work for a while. Unfortunately he was fired because of his injury. He lost his family, money and housing. Now he managed to live, relying on some volunteer activities.

When I was in Japan, the main reason to be homeless was only being poor but I realized that actually there are a lot of factors which make people homelessness. Disease, mental illness, disability, discrimination are leading causes. I knew how my knowledge was superficial and childish about this problem.

The second factor is that I saw a lot of homeless children. Moreover, I had a chance to play with them. While we were playing hide-and-seek and folding paper in origami, they smiled and they seemed really happy. I thought that what happiness is. Most of them were poor and some of them do not have their parent, money, even their clothes. “If I were those children, could I smile like them?” I asked myself. This question still puzzles me.

In my case I have enough money, food and housing so there is nothing to worry about living. Many people think and state that people are equal but considering our actual world we are not equal. I believe that cooperative effort to save the poor people is required in the 21 century.

As I mentioned above, I could learn a lot of invaluable things and had unforgettable experiences. It is not exaggeration to say that this experience changed my life.

2. What convinced you to change your direction after the program?

When I participated in this program, I did not have good command of English and I only know a few stock phrases. So I could not do good performance and express my opinion in my group discussions. I was in trouble. To tell the truth, I felt that I did not deserve this excellent program and sorry for VIA staff and coordinators. So I decided to improve my English skill and let them see my growth someday.

Furthermore, my friends especially came from other country could speak English very well. They always asked questions to lecturer and made a speech proudly at every opportunity. I’ve really respected them and I’ve thought that I would like to catch up with them. I set up my goal which is studying abroad for a full year after AUSL program. I studied so hard to accomplish my goal and finally I could get opportunity to study abroad. Without their existence, I cannot imagine what I’d be doing now.

I would like to express heartily my thanks to VIA staff, coordinators and participants. Thanks to all of them I can change my life. Many people helped me to get where I am now. I would like to show them my growth.

3. What do you hope to accomplish by studying abroad in the US?

I will major in business and also study Spanish. Now I’m really interested in Environmental Economics so I would like to investigate how environmental programs affect our economy and life. Of course improving my English skill is one of my goals but in this experience, I would like to acquire self-confidence through getting over many hardships that I will encounter. I am convinced that these experiences make me strong and grow up as a person.

Next my goal is to get an MBA in the future so I’m thinking of studying in CSU is a first step to accomplish next my goal.


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