ICU students and foreign students from partner universities participate in service learning in the Village of Tenryu, Nagano Prefecture

Update: July 13, 2016

Group photo at the Village of Tenryu town hallGroup photo at the Village of Tenryu town hall

From June 29 (Wed) to July 5 (Tue), a total of 10 students from Chung Chi College, The Chinese University of Hong Kong* (Shatin, Hong Kong), which is a partner university of ICU's Service Learning Program**, Middlebury College*** (Vermont, U.S,), a partner institution of our exchange programs, and ICU students, visited the Village of Tenryu, Shimoina-gun, Nagano Prefecture, and carried out service learning activities*.

Last summer, a sophomore student stayed in the Village of Tenryu for one month and engaged in service activities as part of the community service learning program in Japan. This provided an opportunity for the Tenryu village office and ICU Service Learning Center to consider the formulation of a more systematic program utilizing ICU's international features, and after repeated discussions the service learning activity in the Village of Tenryu became a reality this summer.

During the program, the students interacted with local villagers through activities such as helping out with blueberry harvesting, planting of soy beans, which has been carried for generations in the village, attending a concert held at Tenryu Elementary School that has only 21 students, and a lecture on the construction of the Hiraoka Dam that gives you a feel of the history of war, exchanges with residents of the Sakabe area who have preserved the traditional rituals for 600 years as well as staying at homes of villagers for two days. The students experienced farm work, which they had never done before, and learned the village's unique culture, which was a totally different experience of Japanese culture and society from the one they would have in cities and proved to be an invaluable opportunity to take a fresh look at their own lifestyle and the way they perceive things.

After completing the activities in the Village of Tenryu, the 10 students returned to Tokyo and continued service activities for about two weeks at primary and junior high schools and facilities for the elderly in Mitaka City. They are scheduled to wrap up their experiences and lessons they learned from the service learning program at a report meeting on July 21 to which the Village of Tenryu town hall officials and those concerned in the Mitaka area will be invited.


Comments from students who participated in the service learning activities

  • Unlike Tokyo, which is filled with people and things and where we scarcely look at each and every one of them, I strongly felt that people in the Village of Tenryu cherish even small things and encounter with people. They not only welcomed us in a warm manner, they also tried to have a lot of communication with us and they always made me feel warm, which I rarely feel in Tokyo. I would like to be able to pay attention to each and every happening like the people of the Village of Tenryu and offer warmth to people around me. (An ICU student)
  • The reason why I participated in this service learning activity is that I wanted to find some answer to the question of how we should drive forward regional reconstruction and international exchange. I was playing the role of an interpreter while staying at a local household in the Village of Tenryu, and I felt that what is important is the passion to convey to the counterpart more than one's language skills, and if you have the passion, you can overcome language barriers and become like a one family. Also, I was exposed to various ways of thinking through conversations with the people of the village and I feel that this gave me lots of clues for thinking about my future. (An ICU student)
  • As I have lived in cities so far, I initially felt resistance to life in a farm village like Tenryu, partly due to the problem of insects. However, as the time passed, I realized that I was able to adapt to life in a farm village. Moreover, I was able to improve my Japanese language skills through communication with villagers and it was such a valuable experience. (A Middlebury College student)
  • We had an opportunity to participate in a concert hosted by a primary school in the Village of Tenryu. We were told that the school had 200 children 30 years ago, but the number has come down to about 20 students now. While I felt an indescribable sadness about the current situation of the village's dwindling population, it was impressive that the villagers, even though there are fewer children and more elderly people in the village, were always very lively and living by their own values, which was filling the entire village with energy. (A Middlebury College student)
  • The people of Tenryu do not have walls between themselves and did not build one when we visited them either and welcomed us warmly. And my host family told me the truth, without concealing anything, about the village's dark history during World War II, when many Chinese and Korean soldiers lost their lives. Our stay at the village, in which we learned the village's daily life and interacted with the villagers, came to hold a special meaning for me, who is Chinese. (A Chinese University of Hong Kong student)
  • During our stay in the Village of Tenryu, I experienced a very unique lifestyle in a farm village, witnessed my host family shopping on the Internet despite living in a farm village, tasted the life in the midst of nature surrounded by mountains and rivers, and experienced the villagers kindness in warmly receiving us, who came from abroad and do not speak their language. Every experience was exceedingly valuable for me, who lives in a city like Hong Kong, and I believe that these experiences will have a positive impact on me in the future. I wish we could have stayed there longer and further deepen our friendship with the villagers. (A Chinese University of Hong Kong student)


*Chung Chi College, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, is one of the four colleges of The Chinese University of Hong Kong, which ranks 13th in the college ranking in Asia (source: Times Higher Education), featuring education based on Christianity.

**The service learning is an educational program in which students experience service activities (service and voluntary activities) for a certain period of time and utilize what they have learned in actual service activities and gain new insights regarding their academic endeavors and careers from the actual service activities.

***Middlebury College ranks fourth in the U.S. Liberal Arts College Ranking (source: U.S. News Education) and is known for its high-quality education and strength in the science field.

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