The following reflection was written by Kenzo Okazaki ‘21 as a follow up to his previous blog feature, which you can read here. Kenzo has been kind enough to share his understanding of community and the ways in which he’s managed to stay in touch with Middlebury after graduation. Kenzo is currently pursuing a Masters of Philosophy in Political Thought and Intellectual History at University of Cambridge, but has stayed connected with Middlebury College and the Center for Community Engagement through the Service Translation Project that he started in 2020 in collaboration with the Service Learning Center at International Christian University (ICU) in Tokyo. If you’re interested in learning more about the ways in which language can be used to forge long-lasting community relationships, you can visit the Language in Motion website or contact Kristen Mullins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My introduction to Middlebury was at convocation in 2017. I remember two points from President Patton’s speech: 1. Middlebury College cannot exist without our community, and 2. Middlebury is not just in Vermont; we are all Middlebury, and it is wherever we go. As a first year, I had no idea whether this speech would remain with me or what shape it would take, but as I reflect on my time at Middlebury it has become clear that these lessons truly were at the core of the time I spent there. These words conveyed responsibility upon myself and my classmates, and watching them take up the challenge of building communities within the college and serving the needs of the communities that they chose has profoundly shaped my aspirations today. My contributions have been modest in comparison to those of many of my friends and classmates, but the fact that so many of us took it as our responsibility to help others never fails to astound me. It’s difficult to say it without sounding trite or like I am writing an advertisement for our school, but I do feel that I was surrounded by people and groups who felt a social responsibility to do good and that my own efforts were bettered by my interactions with them.
Going to graduate school was always part of my plan, and Middlebury’s international focus (through language/study abroad) was key to my decision to begin my postgraduate studies in the UK.
I have been staying connected to Middlebury College mostly through the Center for Community Engagement and the students working on the project I started last year. We now have to account for EST, GMT, and JST time zones, so it is very challenging setting up Zoom meetings! I am very happy that my relationship to Middlebury and that of my project are stable and in good hands respectively, and I hope that this partnership will continue to grow. It is so important that students are involved in making use of Middlebury’s resources (which includes its community of students!) and connections because they allow us to influence communities in ways that we could never do on our own.