Author Archives: Jocelyn Tenorio

My homestay in Tenrymura, Japan: Beyond Service-Learning, by Diana Lam ‘21

Diana Lam ‘21 reflects on her participation in the Japan Summer Service-Learning Program.

          At the beginning of the Japan Summer Service-Learning (JSSL) Program, I did not expect to learn as much as I did. However, I quickly learned that this program exposes us to more than what I understood to be service-learning. I learned how to be independent by doing things like taking the train in Tokyo, and I broadened my perspective to appreciate Japanese culture and language by doing things like eating nagashi soumen and making connections with a host family. Those are just a few examples of the many experiences and knowledge I gained throughout my summer in Japan.

          One of the most memorable experiences I had in the JSSL Program was going to Tenryumura, Nagano. During our time in Tenryumura, we had the chance to do a homestay with local families to experience daily life in a small mountain village. At first, I was quite worried that there would be a language barrier. However, the host family I was with made me feel as if the language barrier was non-existent. The host family used basic English and Japanese words along with body gestures to communicate with me. I realized that besides language and culture, it all boiled down to human interaction and the desire to communicate. As a result, I ended up building a deep connection with my host family.

          When I arrived in Tenryumura, I was taken away at the natural landscape; how beautiful and different it is from what I am used to. Born and raised in a big city, I did not have many chances to go to rural areas surrounded by nature. While I was only there for a few days, the daily flow seemed to be different from what I know.  The day seemed to be less structured around clocks and external schedules – and more around tasks at hand and relationships. Personally, I am so used to completing tasks one after another that I often forget what I am doing in the present; I am always focused on the future. Being in Tenryumura made me reflect on my life and the present; it made me aware that sometimes, it is important to have simplicity in life. I intend on taking the lessons I’ve learned this summer and applying them to my life at home, beyond the meaningful cross-cultural service-learning experience in Japan.

Diana Lam ‘21 with her homestay family

Rural Fun Delivery: My Local Privilege & Poverty Internship, by Claiborne Beary ’20

Claiborne Beary ‘20 reflects on her experiences as an Addison County Privilege & Poverty Intern with Mary Johnson Children’s Center as their Rural Fun Delivery Program Manager

Rural Fun Delivery (RFD), a Mary Johnson Children’s Center program, provides free, healthy lunches and engaging summer programming to kids 18 and under in mobile home parks in Starksboro, Vermont. Last summer, RFD expanded to offer afternoon activities on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays and provided each site with a Little Free Library full of books donated by local non-profits. Eight weeks into my internship, I am thrilled to be a part of RFD’s fifth summer delivering food and fun to the kiddos in Starksboro.

I began my internship with RFD by planning activities for the summer and preparing promotional materials with my co-lead intern Lily Barter ’19.5, in addition to helping out with the Mary Johnson Children’s Center’s after-school program at Middlebury’s Mary Hogan Elementary School. Having served with Middlebury College’s Page One Literacy Project, I was especially excited to build on the existing Little Free Libraries and offer a new summer reading challenge to help foster a love of reading.

We began delivering lunches – prepared by the Mt. Abraham Union School District – three weeks into my internship and centered that week’s activities around community. That included playing blob tag and creating a collaborative poster! We have since traveled through space, explored nature, and transformed into superheroes. This is currently our fifth week and we are going under the sea by learning the classic game Captain’s Coming, creating slime, and perfecting our water balloon toss. I have greatly enjoyed building relationships with the kids so far – getting insider knowledge about all the animatronics in the video game Five Nights at Freddy’s, meeting a fantastic group of stuffed animals, and discussing our favorite superhero movies.

I look forward to drawing from my experience with RFD in my work with Middlebury’s Page One Literacy program and in future non-profit work with kids. I am so grateful to Anne Gleason, Director of School Age Programs at Mary Johnson, for this opportunity and to Lily for her creativity and enthusiasm.

“These interactions have really helped me understand the power of providing a safe space for kids to be kids.”

Service and learning with local community collaborators in Mitaka, by Chloe Fung ‘18.5

This blog post is a reflection from Chloe Fung about her participation in the Japan Summer Service-Learning Program (JSSL).

          In the beginning of July, we started the JSSL program with 14 students- four from Middlebury College, four from ICU (Japan), two from Assumption University (Thailand), two from Silliman University (The Phillipines), and two from Union Christian College (India). In the past two weeks, we’ve visited different communities in and near Mitaka city, including elderly homes, public elementary schools, and an urban blueberry farm. We’ve cut down bamboo plants for a Nagashi Soumen event, cleaned the classroom floors after school lunch with sixth graders, made takoyaki and tempura with host families… The program has given us an opportunity to glimpse into the lives of local people, which would not otherwise be easily accessible as a foreign tourist.

          Last week, our group visited two public elementary schools, Minamiura and Higashi. At the elementary schools, we participated in the activities prepared by the English teachers and also helped prepare for future activities. I was struck by the difference between the atmosphere and structure of the school compared to schools I had experienced or seen before. In my view, the students’ had learned a sense of responsibility already at an early age. This was most clear during lunch time, when all the students would prepare the classroom for lunch, bring food in from the kitchen, pass out food, and make sure everyone had a meal set on their desk. After lunch, students spread out to clean the classroom and also other rooms in the school. Even without explicit instruction or supervision, every student went to perform their assigned task. That diligence to me was incredible to see for sixth graders.

          Experiences like this have inspired me to reflect on my own schooling experiences, started discussions with others in the program about Japanese culture, group norms, and English education, and also taught me more about group dynamics and teamwork. Whether it is cleaning classrooms with children, working with native English, second-language English, and native Japanese speakers in translating materials or having cultural comparisons about the streetside farm stands that run on an honesty system, I have been learning a lot about myself, the different experiences of other program students, and about Japanese culture. I am looking forward to future fruitful discussions and to going to Tenryumura soon and experiencing a potential cultural shift as we move into a rural space with an aging population.

 

One of the Familia staff and a fellow program participant cutting down a bamboo plant for Nagashi Soumen.

 

Soumen (a kind of Japanese noodles) during the Nagashi Soumen event. In the picture, the bamboo is also pictured. In Nagashi Soumen, noodles are placed in the cut open bamboo plant while water is run through the ‘bamboo channel’ so that people stationed along the bamboo can try to catch some noodles with their chopsticks!

 

Making takoyaki with a local family who hosted us for the evening.

 

As we walked past this farm stand that ran on an honesty system (where there is no shopkeeper and customers place their payment into a box), we all had some laughs and interesting conversations about how this would not be feasible where we were from!

Completing Middlebury’s Privilege & Poverty Program, by Taylor Banaszewski ‘17

This blog post is a reflection from Taylor Banaszewski ‘17 about her completion of the Privilege &Poverty academic cluster and how it has impacted her current work post-graduation from Middlebury.

          During my senior year, I sifted through dozens of jobs trying to find a career path that would tie all my interests and passions together. I knew I wanted to positively impact the lives of others and I always had a strong interest in financially stability. I never imagined myself working at a bank, but I found being a Relationship Manager at Bank of America to be the best fit.

          One of Bank of America’s goals is to positively impact the financial lives of its consumers and as a Relationship Manager, I am one of the first faces a client sees when walking into a financial center. I am the person a client would go to with any questions they might have regarding their finances. While being in this role for over a year now, I can see how completing the P&P academic cluster has helped me become a better relationship manager. During my summer internship through Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty at Foundation Communities, I was able to explore my interest in financial literacy by working at a nonprofit that provided financial coaching. I was able to see how having somebody help you through setting a budget and explain credit to you can make a real impact in the lives of a person who is struggling financially. It is so important for that person to have somebody supporting and helping them through the process. The P&P academic cluster allowed me to explore these interests further in the classroom and conduct my own research on consumer debt for my senior thesis.

          As a Relationship Manager, I frequently find myself in situations where I am educating clients in regards to credit, savings, and borrowing funds. I help clients use the budgeting tools Bank of America provides to help them set goals and I set follow up appointments with clients to check in on their progress. I am using my position at a bank to become a trusted advisor to my clients while also helping increase their knowledge on various topics.

          I still strongly believe that financial literacy is a big issue and we need to be doing more to educate everyone on the basics of budgeting, credit, loans, etc. We don’t traditionally think of banks as having the responsibility of being an educator, but I use my role within my organization to educate people whenever I have the opportunity. The knowledge and experience I gained through the P&P Academic Cluster has been essential in helping me positively impact the lives others through my career.

Taylor Banaszewski ’17 receiving her certificate of completion from James Calvin Davis, Academic Director of Privilege & Poverty

Volunteering at the Dandelion School (a NGO middle school that serves migrant children) in Beijing, China by Lulu Zhou ‘19

This blog post is a reflection from Lulu Zhou about her CCE Cross-Cultural Community Service Grant-funded project in China.

          The Dandelion School—one of the most successful, exceptional migrant schools with its strong educational resources and international connections—is a NGO middle school that specifically serves migrant children in southern Beijing’s urban-rural fringe. While studying in Beijing during the Fall 2017 semester, I volunteered at the Dandelion weekly to tutor a 9th grade English reading class to contribute to students’ improvements in English speaking, reading, and grammar. In addition, I translated for Dandelion educators and Finnish educators during a 3-day international education exchange seminar/training, in which Finnish educators shared Finnish education theories and practices with us.

          China’s rapid urbanization has led to large-scale migration from rural to urban areas, in which inequalities are expanding between rural and urban citizens. The deeply entrenched residential registration system (“hukou”) restricts one’s social benefits (e.g., public schools, healthcare, property rights, etc) to one’s birthplace, dividing citizenship into rural and urban. Thus many migrants and their children—who make up a large percentage of the urban population—are unable to enjoy many social welfares in their new homes.

          For example, migrant children face many institutional barriers that prevent them from attending public schools in cities.  Dealing with issues such as poverty, exclusion, and instability, migrant children are an underserved, underprivileged group that has little access to quality education and social mobility. Individuals founded “migrant schools” in migrant communities in response to the education needs of migrant children.  Many migrant schools operate in the grey area because they do not have governmental licensures, which are extremely difficult to obtain in the first place. Indeed, migrant schools have been increasingly facing more restrictions politically, legally, geographically, and socioeconomically especially in mega cities like Beijing.

 

“I gained experience in tutoring English to English-as-second-language middle school students and pretending that I couldn’t speak Chinese when I interacted with them in order to “force” them speak English with me.”

“I tried Chinese-English simultaneous translation for the first time when I was translating for the Dandelion educators and Finnish educators during an international education exchange.”

 

“Translation was challenging but rewarding and helped me improve my language skills.”

 

“I hope to raise more awareness through my sociology senior thesis on China’s migrant education issue.”

 

“Contributing to education resources of an underrepresented, underprivileged group and engaging in cross-cultural exchanges are tremendously rewarding. I would recommend everyone volunteering at migrant schools and NGOs; they need more resources serving an under-resourced population.”

          Studying sociology and education at Middlebury has reinforced my academic interests in education equity and access, migration, and family and instilled in me a stronger sense of social conscience and responsibility. My volunteering experience at migrant NGOs has not only shown me the educational and social inequalities in a different political, historical and social context, but also broadened my horizon about education generally and my own education specifically. Migrant children’s education is a huge social issue that impacts millions of families’ and their children’s life paths. This was a humbling and inspiring experience that motivated me to do my sociology senior thesis on this topic—I have returned to Beijing during summer 2018 to do my research, which focuses on alumni who graduated from migrant schools.