Memories of our Time Together
Manabu J. Taketani
64th Japan-America Student Conference
During the summer of 2012, I had the incredible privilege of participating in the student-led Japan-America Student Conference which I heard about through my Japanese language professor at Calvin College. Instead of detailing the academic aspect of each site that we visited: Dallas, Madison, Berkeley, San Francisco, and Seattle, I will summarize the personal connections that JASC cultivated. However, I must confess that no words will ever do complete justice in describing the Conference; it simply must be experienced to fully grasp the adventure of a lifetime. That being written, I will do my best to describe several memorable aspects of the Sixty-Fourth Japan-America Student Conference that I experienced.
Even before arriving in Dallas, I felt that I had already made friends through Skype meetings with my Round Table members and with the Japanese students I worked to help design the 64th JASC t-shirts. However, when I arrived at the airport in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, I was still slightly nervous about meeting people whom I had never met and had hardly if any contact with at all. My fears were quickly diffused by the friendliness of my fellow JASCers. I believe that when the barriers of distance and communication are overcome, people are able to become friends with each other if they put forth the effort.
After months of contacting each other via e-mail and Skype, we were all really excited to finally meet our Japanese counterparts. When the Japanese delegates arrived at the first site—South Methodist University; we had a special welcoming planned for them. Our welcoming was a huge success, as the Japanese delegates really enjoyed how we surprised them and surrounded them with chants of “J.A.S.C. This is where we want to be!” Then we headed back to our dorms and got ready for the awesome journey that was to come.
A fun unplanned moment that happened at University of California- Berkley stands out in my mind as one of the most interesting and memorable moments of JASC. Invoking the theme of the 64th Conference, “Share in the Present, Connect for the Future: Strengthen Ties to Inspire Change”, we jokingly called it the run that strengthened ties for mutual understanding. Because of the time constraint, we were told that we had to run from one event to the next which was a guest lecture— the only problem was that it was roughly a mile away and we were told that we only had about ten minutes to get there. While wearing our business formal-ware and shouldering our loaded backpacks, we sprinted the mile across campus laughing and gasping for air along the way. By the time we arrived at the lecture hall, we were drenched in sweat and did not feel like listening to a lecture but we respectfully did. However awkward and slightly painful it was at that time, it was worth it because it created memories to cherish.
Although we attended many lectures and had multiple round table meetings during JASC, I believe the lasting impact of JASC occurred outside of the official programming sessions—where the true friendships really had time to develop. There is nothing better in the world than being around friends that you care deeply about, and that is what made the Japan-America Student Conference an incredible experience. By the time end of JASC, we were all family to one another and sad to see each other go. While I cannot guarantee it, I certainly hope that we will all keep in contact with each other for the years to come. JASC was and truly is an experience of a life time