Visiting a Hedgehog Café, donning a ceremonial Japanese wedding kimono and meeting people from other nations. That’s how Emily Berry spent part of her summer, or as she refers to it “The best time of my life.”
Berry, of O’Fallon, experienced traveling abroad for the first time this year, and she vows it won’t be her last. She intends for travel to be part of her life itinerary.
A junior at McKendree University with a double major in Spanish and psychology, she is eager to learn about different people and cultures. In addition to Japan this summer, she went to Cuba for a week. Last year, she went on a church mission trip to Guatemala. During spring semester, she will study abroad in Seville, Spain.
“I want to learn so much,” she said. “I like learning about cultures. Opening yourself up to communities with different people, it opens a whole new world. I love getting to know people.”
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With an enthusiastic sense of adventure, this burgeoning global citizen made the most of an opportunity through her college to be part of a two-week summer exchange program known as Technos Week 2018 in Tokyo, Japan.
“All these new friends I met from other colleges and countries,” she said.
As guests of Technos International College June 9-24, she accompanied Zahrah Dinkins, a biology major from Chicago, and Amy MacLennan, associate professor of art.
None of them had been to Japan before. That was a requirement, as was being a freshman or sophomore. A teacher had to recommend the students. Berry said students who apply must be interested in Japan and the culture and be able to represent McKendree in a positive way.
Every summer, two McKendree students and a faculty member travel to Japan to participate in the Technos trip, which includes one week at the college and another week exploring facets of contemporary and traditional Japanese life with students from other schools and countries.
A spokesman for McKendree said the interaction creates a valuable opportunity for exchanging ideas and worldviews. The group tours many sites and neighborhoods in Tokyo and the surrounding areas.
Once back in Lebanon, Technos trip participants share their stories and insights about their experiences, usually at a Brown Bag lunchtime presentation on campus.
She also wrote a blog: https://technosmck2018.wordpress.com
“The best part was getting to meet so many people, it was great – sharing laughs,” she said. She said she knew three Japanese words – “Hello,” “Goodbye” and “Excuse Me.”
“I was always saying ‘Excuse me,’” she said. “I wish I knew more. I tried, but it’s so hard.”
She particularly enjoyed “Free Days.” That’s when you could explore what you wanted to, courtesy of a driver. She liked visiting Shinjuku, a ward of Tokyo, with shrines, gardens, parks and other sites all within the shadow of Mt. Fuji.
“There were so many people there. It felt like New York,” she said.
She also liked trying new food and enjoyed getting to eat plentiful amounts of edamame and sushi. After eating tempura at one restaurant, she learned to make non-edible wax figures that looked just like it.
“They display their restaurant meals in wax,” she said.
She experienced the first-ever Hedgehog Café, which had the tiny spiny mammals on display, not on the menu.
Berry said grasping the customs took some getting used to, like you can’t walk and eat at the same time, and you can’t talk on the mass transit trains.
“I just observed other people. They either read, watch anime on their phones, text or sleep,” she said.
The Technos college has different programs that train students for careers, and so the visiting students could check out hotel management, flight attendant, wedding planner, animation and other hands-on learning experiences.
“We took turns going to different classrooms,” she said.
Berry participated in a simulated wedding where she wore an elaborate ceremonial kimono and pretended to get married.
“It was really hot but really fun, too,” she said. “I linked my arm but found out the woman walks three feet behind the man.”
The Brown Bag lunch presentations are what drew her to apply for the trip. A special series of talks between noon and 1 p.m. every Wednesday in the PAC building, it is open to students and faculty. Some teachers assign them for extra credit, she said.
“I have learned so many cool things at the Brown Bag Lunches, I really wish more students would go,” she said.
“Learning about different cultures and beliefs has changed me as a person. I want to learn more about the world and make a difference. Getting to hear people’s stories about their lives is interesting,” she said. “Getting to know one another, and communication, is key to understanding.”
She is a big fan of TED Talks too.
“I learned that people who speak a different language, think differently,” she said. “It can open so many doors for your mind.”
Berry moved from Swansea to O’Fallon about 10 years ago. Before that, her family lived in Maryland, Virginia and South Carolina, where she was born. Her father, Kevin Berry, works for a company at Scott Air Force Base. Her mother, Cory Fletcher, works at the YMCA. She has a twin brother, Harrison, and a younger sister, Katie, who is in high school. Emily is a summer camp counselor at the Y.
She attended O’Fallon Township High School, was a member of the Spanish Club, and selected McKendree for the academics, she said.
One perk is that she is close to home. She lives on campus and likes the size of the school.
“I love McKendree. I have made so many connections. It’s been great,” she said.
Her career goal is to work in an institution or school.
“I just want to help people. I’d like to spend more time abroad – travel and learn. I want to go to South America. Maybe work in the Peace Corps.”
Her Cuba trip was not through McKendree per se but organized by a Spanish professor. Two faculty, two alumni and a classmate also went, and it was an eye-opening experience about the changes taking place there.
During the week stay, she said they couldn’t contact people and have their cell phone in use.
“It was such a good detox,” she said.
She left Japan wanting to return.
There is a custom of a wishing tree they have — ‘It’s to meet you again,’ she said.
“I definitely want to see the people I’ve met in Japan again,” she said.
Emily Berry survey
Q: Do you have words to live by?
Treat people the way you would like to be treated.
Q: Whom do you most admire?
My friends and family.
Q: If you could spend time with a famous person, past or present, whom would it be?
Q: What is the last book that you read?
When She Woke by: Hillary Jordan.
Q: What do you do for fun and relaxation?
Exercise, bake, or create art.
Q: What is the usual state of your desktop?
Cluttered but in an organized fashion.
Q: What did you want to do career wise when you were growing up?
Veterinarian, teacher, then occupational therapist, and now I want to be a counselor.
Q: What do you think is your most outstanding characteristic?
Listening to others.
Q: What irritates you most?
Q: What type of music do you listen to?
Anything with a catchy beat- my playlist is all over the place: Spanish, hip-hop, pop, rock, indie, classical, show-tunes, etc.
Q: What do you like most about your job?
I work at the YMCA as a camp counselor during the summer, so I enjoy listening to to the campers and helping them create an unforgettable summer.
During the fall/spring I work on campus as a Spanish tutor and a game room attendant and I enjoy helping the students and getting to know them.
Q: If you were independently wealthy, what would you be doing?
Traveling, learning, and helping others.
Q: When they make a movie of your life, who would play you?
Q: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would you have with you?
Pencil and paper- to write/draw/or practice origami.