It took only one question to bring out the scrapbook. Steven Budaflavi and Hannah Moore had such a positive experience in Japan that they couldn’t wait to share their stories. The two kinesiology students spent their second co-op work term working at the National Institute of Fitness and Sports in Kanoya, Japan, researching muscle prevention loss in the elderly through an exercise rehabilitation program.
The emphasis on singing was one of the more interesting aspects of the program. Steven and Hannah, along with the other employees and the participants, sang in Japanese to the tune of ‘I’ve been working on the railroad’ with words that translate as “now we’re lifting our legs.”
The program itself was a rewarding experience. Steven and Hannah explained how one man had been unable to walk properly when they arrived but was able to do lunges with minimal assistance by the time they left. They enjoyed a variety of excursions, including a ‘North American’ style camping trip where the participants experienced sleeping in tents and sitting around a campfire, roasting marshmallows.
Part of the allure of this co-op experience was the different culture and resulting experiences, but the language posed a barrier. Initially they were forced to communicate primarily through intricate games of gestures and basic translation tools. With time, they were both able to speak and read one of the three Japanese languages used.
Apart from the work, they will remember the kindness of the culture most. “Everything they do, from the smallest to biggest, they do with such joy, and treat everyone with such courtesy,” said Steven. “You would never see a grumpy cashier.”
For Hannah, this co-op experience has opened her eyes to what she would like to do with her own life. “This experience inspired me to do prevention when it comes to aging,” she said. “Physical activities can change the effects of aging, stress, diseases and I would like to be a part of that.”
Both stated they would go back in the blink of an eye and encourage other co-op students to consider the seemingly unconventional job experience. “The National Institute of Fitness and Sports wants to continue the partnership with Laurier,” says Steven. “I hope that Hannah and I convince other students to go, because you can learn so much about yourself and gain practical information about science and work.”
By Leah DeJong
Science Co-op, Biology, Class of 2014