The Japan Summer Service-Learning Program (JSSL) is a collaborative, intercultural service-learning program that brings together undergraduates from Middlebury, International Christian University (ICU), and multiple member universities of the Service-Learning Asia Network.

Japan Summer Service Learning is not running in 2024.

JSSL will not be run over Summer 2024. Check back in spring 2025 for information about the Summer 2025 program.

The Japan Summer Service-Learning (JSSL) program is a collaboration among the Service Learning Center at the International Christian University (ICU) in Mitaka, Japan, the Middlebury College Center for Community Engagement (CCE), and the Middlebury College School in Japan.

While we do require Middlebury College applicants to have studied Japanese language at Middlebury for at least one year (or to have a similar minimum proficiency), this is not an immersive Japanese language program.  Participants deepen their cultural knowledge and understanding of Japan and have significant opportunity to use and develop their Japanese language skills, but program instruction and group reflection is facilitated in English.

Because of funding support from the Davis Collaborative in Conflict Transformation, program travel (including transportation to and from Japan), room, board, and program supplies are provided at no cost to participating students. Participants are required to purchase health insurance as described in the program application.

JSSL is a collaborative program of the Service Learning Center at International Christian University (ICU) in Mitaka, Japan, the Middlebury College School in Japan, Middlebury’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE), and Middlebury’s Japanese Studies Department.


JSSL will not be running in Summer 2024. Check back in Spring 2025 for information on JSSL 2025.

How It Worked

The program has four primary phases.


This includes the general aspects one might expect of any program:

  • Recognizing, exploring, and establishing goals
  • Sharing and addressing concerns and challenges
  • Establishing group guidelines and agreements
  • Providing the information and resources necessary to the health and safety of all involved

As a service-learning program, the orientation also includes community and cultural introductions. Students are introduced to the demographics and current and historical contexts of the communities in which they will be working. Core principles and practices of community engagement and service-learning are both incorporated and discussed:

  • Reciprocity
  • Community collaboration
  • Ethical and competent communication
  • Learning about the communities with which we will be working
  • The experiential learning cycle
  • The importance of reflection to deepen, expand upon, and integrate the learning

Elements of intercultural competence—such as communication, self-awareness, knowledge of other cultures, postponing evaluation, and perspective-taking—are introduced, explored, and experienced throughout the program. These explorations begin during the orientation phase and continue throughout all phases and activities.

Service and Learning in Mitaka

These activities with local community collaborators have included the following:

  • Classroom programming in local elementary schools
  • Volunteering at elderly day care facilities
  • Working with community farms and environmental programs

Service and Learning in Tenryumura

One notable aspect of life in the Village of Tenryumura in Nagano Prefecture, in addition to being a rural mountain village with one of the highest rates of depopulation in Japan, is its challenging and complex history during and before World War II—and how the residents have coped with the war memories over time.

Wrap-up and Evaluation

This includes a closing presentation to which all community collaborators are invited. It’s also a time to say goodbye as a group.

What Participants Have to Say

Hear from recent program participants on our blog.


Email Kristen Mullins at