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expanding my horizons



I am studying abroad in Ohio, U.S. and I am spending my summer break here. I have four months for summer break, but since I can’t work because of my student visa situation, I volunteered at a music festival, a kindergarten, and the gardening club at the university I am studying at. I was not actually interested in these things at first, but I found my experience volunteering for them to be inspiring and stimulating. This time, I will share what I found out about expanding my horizons through volunteering at a music festival.

留学を始める前からアルバイトが出来ないことは知っていたから、就職活動をするときに履歴書に書けて、面接で役に立ちそうな経験をしておきたくて、空いた時間にボランティア活動をしようと決めていた。私のホストファミリーは、私が音楽好きということやボランティアに興味があることを知っていたので、この音楽フェスのボランティアに誘ってくれた。ホストファミリーはそのフェスにお客さんとして毎年参加しているそう。このフェスは、四日間に渡って行われる比較的大きめのフェスで、今年のヘッドライナーにはDeath Cab For CutieやMavis Staplesらが出演した。私はボランティアに参加する事でフェスのチケットが安く手に入るということにも魅力を感じた。ボランティアをしながら大好きな音楽を楽しむ時間が得られるのは、とても素敵だと思った。

Since I knew that I would not be able to work during my study abroad, I had already decided to spend my free time volunteering to get some experience that might be useful for my resume or any interviews in the future. My host family told me about the volunteer opportunity at the music festival because they knew that I like music and was interested in volunteering. My host family attends this festival as audience members every year. The festival was on the larger side, taking place over four days. The headliners this year were Death Cab For Cutie, Mavis Staples among others. The fact that volunteers could get tickets for a cheaper price attracted me too. I thought that it sounded great that I could have a good time listening to music and volunteer at the same time.



I chose to volunteer in the waste management area. This is where volunteers separate recyclable and compostable garbage from all the garbage created at the festival to divert them from landfills. The reason why I picked this area was that I did not have enough confidence in my English to work in the busier areas and talk to customers. We needed to work for four hours each day for three days, and we enjoyed the music festival when we were off our shift. The work consisted of collecting garbage bins, pouring it onto a conveyor belt, and sorting the garbage into food waste, plastics, and cans.


On the first day, we headed out to collect trash first. I saw lots of food waste that was made up of food from the food vendors. The trash smelled so horrible that I honestly regretted choosing to volunteer in waste management. My senses of sight and smell were overwhelmed by trash and it got difficult, but we managed to collect the trash and returned to the sorting area to lay it on the belt conveyors. The process of sorting the garbage gave off even worse smells than when we were collecting them, and I was seriously worried if I was able to keep going. However, the human body’s ability to adapt is a terrifying thing, and I was surprised that I was able to completely get used to the smell one hour later. I even enjoyed talking to the other volunteers while working.



While working in the waste management area, I naturally came to think about garbage. While sorting, I saw that people weren’t throwing away their trash in the right trash bins. For example, I found used diapers in the food waste garbage bin. I often thought “Why can’t people throw their things away in the right garbage bin?” These things made me realize that many people throw trash away unconsciously, and that these things can lead to environmental pollution. In addition, I came to think about companies that produce non-recyclable items and packaging that become trash. Now, I try to buy products made by companies that work hard to reduce trash. I am interested in companies that work hard on environmental issues. For example, LUSH collects used packaging to recycle and reuse, and they sell some of their products package-free. After finding out about this, I have bought a solid shampoo bar and conditioner at LUSH that doesn’t come in plastic, and I carry around a tumbler. I think that I became more became conscious of garbage issues, and it made me check how to sort my garbage and recyclables in my local area. In addition, seeing the people I worked with not treating garbage as something disgusting gave me a new perspective on trash.


When I go back to Japan, I will be in my fourth year of college, which is when job hunting starts. Most friends of mine had already started to do internships or participate in career fairs, so I felt pressured. I looked online about what I could do to start my job hunt but I was not sure what I could do, so I volunteered at the festival just so I could do something to prepare. However, I noticed how much it is important to just experience things. Honestly, I was never interested in sorting waste, but this experience taught me a lot and think it will be useful for me because I want to work at an event planning company in the future. I chose to volunteer in waste management only because I thought it would not require much English, so I did not expect it to expand my horizons. From this experience, I became conscious of how to properly dispose of and recycle, realized that people throw trash away unconsciously, and learnt about where trash goes. This experience has helped me be more positive about doing new things. Even if it is different from what you expect, the experience will be valuable, and will be useful in the future.


If you have something you want to do, but can’t work up the courage to do it, I recommend you to just go for it. Throughout this experience, I realized that any experience can give me new perspectives. I learnt that jumping into a new world can give me an opportunity to discover new things that I didn’t know before.

Images by Rio

Edited by Kiara and Hikari

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