Japan Medical Placement – James McCullam

Posted on the 10th March 2017

When did you volunteer and what placement were you at?

I volunteered from September 2015 – February 2016 at Saiseikai Kumamoto Hospital.

Describe what you did on an average day at your placement.

My duties in the hospital varied day-to-day, but in general I did a lot of bed making, taking patients to examinations, accompanying doctors and nurses on the trauma round where we saw some very interesting patients and injuries, helping with lessons for the children in the nursery, and observed many surgeries/procedures. I spent at least some time during the placement in most departments, and if I asked my supervisors about specific parts of the hospital I would like to see, they were very good and often arranged something for me.

In general, the rule was that the better your Japanese ability, the more responsibility you were given. In this respect, I would also recommend to anyone doing the hospital placement to study as much Japanese as possible whilst there to keep things interesting!

What did you and your fellow volunteers do in your spare time away from your placements?

I travelled to different cities with volunteers from some of the other voluntary placements, including to Beppu, Tokyo and Osaka which were all different and each amazing. I took a couple of solo trips too! In total, everywhere I went is shown below as red dots!


volunteering in japan

gap year travel in japan

Why did you decide to volunteer in Japan with Lattitude?

I was initially looking to study medicine and was interested in Japan at the time, so I searched both together in Google and Lattitude Global Volunteering came up as one of the top results. I already knew I wanted to do it after looking at it for a few minutes, and applied a couple of days later.

Did your time in Japan meet your expectations?

It exceeded my expectations in pretty much every way. I really was expecting one of the most amazing times of my life, and it turned out being the best. It did, and still is changing my life in a way that I could have never guessed that it would.

What are you doing now you have returned to the UK?

I’m studying for a master’s degree in chemistry at Cardiff University. I’m still learning Japanese and am hoping to take (and pass!) the JLPT N2 exam in December.

How did your time in Japan with Lattitude help you on your career path?

I’ve put a lot of thought into this, and was very keen to study in a Japanese university after my placement. However, to increase my language level I am going to study some more Japanese whilst at university, start work after I graduate and then look to see if I can get an international transfer to live/work in Japan after a few years.

Would you recommend Japan to other young people?

Wholeheartedly. The countless positive experiences completely offset any negative points I had in those 6 months.

james mccullum enjoying a hospital work placement in japan

(James snowboarding in Shimane)

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