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.

Participating students work, learn, and engage with local residents in the Tokyo metropolitan region as well as in Tenryumura, a small village in the mountains of Nagano Prefecture. While this is usually a four-week summer program, our summer 2020 session will be for three weeks, ending prior to the start of the Tokyo Olympics.

The Japan Summer Service-Learning 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.


The application for summer 2020 is now closed. Applications for summer 2021 will be available in the spring of 2021.

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—from Mitaka as well as Tenryumura—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

Center for Community Engagement
Middlebury College
Middlebury, VT 05753
(802) 443-3580