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.

Summer 2023 Applications now open!

Apply now to be part of JSSL 2023! Applications are due March 7, 2023.

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.

JSSL 2023 will be a three-week program in Mitaka and Tenryumura Japan. The program will begin on July 4 and end on July 26 – with some on-line or Middlebury specific activities happening in April, May, and/or June. Middlebury applicants are required to have one-year of Japanese language study (or an equivalent skill level) to participate.

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 will deepen their cultural knowledge and understanding of Japan and will have significant opportunity to use and develop their Japanese language skills, but program instruction and group reflection will be facilitated in English.

We will accept up to four Middlebury participants for the 2023 session. Because of funding support from the Davis Collaborative in Conflict Transformation, program travel (including transportation to and from Japan), room, board, and program supplies will be provided at no cost to participating students. Participants will be required to have purchased 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.


Summer 2023 applications are open! Applications can be submitted here

Applications are due on or before March 7, 2023.  We expect applicant interviews to be scheduled for the week of March 13; and acceptance decisions to be made the week of March 20.

Please email Kristen at with any questions.

How It Works

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