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.