Mufunde '12 Teaches English and Dance in Tokyo

A passion for women's education and empowerment led psychology major and Zimbabwean native Chiedza Mufunde '12 to Asia this past summer.

Mufunde spent the summer teaching English at a women's university in Tokyo, Japan. Mount Holyoke's McCulloch Center selects one student applicant each year to participate in an international internship program founded by MHC alumnae at the Tokyo Women's Christian University (TWCU). Mufunde, who speaks English as a second language, felt honored to be chosen as an English teaching intern.

Before arriving in Japan, Mufunde had never spoken a word of Japanese. She arranged ahead of time to meet weekly with student volunteers at TWCU who would teach her Japanese. She was surprised to find how quickly she picked up the language.

“Learning Japanese was important to me because I wanted to connect with the people and show them that I appreciated their language,” said Mufunde.

During the internship, Mufunde discovered that she had two different ways of expressing herself to students at TWCU.

“On the one hand, I was a college student from the United States, and on the other hand, I was a young Zimbabwean woman,” she said. "I believe my unique cultural context contributed positively to the TWCU community."

While abroad, she gave a presentation entitled “Dreams of a Young Zimbabwean Woman,” in which she related her story of dreaming beyond the situation of one's country to her young Japanese students.

Although the logistics of traveling to Asia—along with the fact that Mufunde was unable to depart on the right day—contributed to a stressful start to her summer internship experience, she said she never questioned “should I be here or not?”

Mufunde designed her very own dance class for students, faculty, and staff at TWCU. The initiative involved incorporating the music of her native Zimbabwe with the modern Zumba style of dance. “Dance brought a sense of community,” she said.

Facilitating the dance class made it easier for her to establish relationships within the TWCU community. Participants enjoyed themselves and became more comfortable with one another. Mufunde became interested in the ways in which intercultural education applies to dance as well.

“As a teacher, I was able to contribute so much both in and out of class,” she recalled.

She first heard about the internship through the Weissman Center's Speaking, Arguing, and Writing Program, where she is a peer mentor. Students who have accepted the position in the past have frequently, though not exclusively, been peer mentors at Mount Holyoke. Laura Greenfield, director of the Speaking, Arguing, and Writing program, recommended Mufunde.

"SAW prepared me in every way," said Mufunde.

Mufunde wants to pursue a career in international educational development. Her experience at TWCU had a major impact on her long-term goals. Because of her experience, she is now focusing more of her efforts on lining up teaching positions for directly after graduation, and later attending graduate school in social work.

"I've learned that I can really make an impact through teaching," she said.