Steven Moffat once said “We are all stories, in the end;” and the 10 days spent in JENESYS 2016 is no exception. While dozens of people may go through the program, there will never be the same story twice. Today, I am more than honored to be sharing with you my version of the tale.
The plot of this story revolves mostly around learnings and openness to new people. Funnily enough, this learning process began long before I even departed for Japan. Getting into JENESYS was no easy success story for me. In fact, I got rejected twice before finally being accepted into the program. Each failure came as a blow to my heart, but also served as an inspiration to keep revising my application and improving upon it until it so graciously became good enough to stand out from hundreds of other submissions. It instilled how resilience and perseverance are truly key to opening doors of successes, and if lucky, maybe even tickets to plane rides.
The setting was simple enough- May 15-23, 2017 in Tokyo and Fukuoka, Japan- or so I thought. Despite having planned the timing so that the trip would not have infringed on any school requirements, I found myself having to choose between going on JENESYS or taking my final exams for class, when the schedule of the latter was postponed to fall on the exact same dates. This is how JENESYS, again even before its official start, already reminded me of the importance of prioritizing and seeking the help of other people. I had to endure sacrifices to make it happen, but choosing JENESYS is a decision that would not hesitate making if in the same situation again.
Naturally, the climax of learning happened during the program proper itself. More than the technical knowledge I gained from the different company tours and talks regarding recycling, hydrogen energy, and gas liquefaction, among others, what struck me most are the realizations and observations that I had about Japan, particularly with regard to the culture and its people.
The Japanese have always been thought of as a creative, disciplined, and fun-loving people. I confirmed all these notions during my short stay in the country, but also uncovered so much more. I grew to admire- and at one point found myself envious of- their unparalleled love for their country. This alone has always been enough to drive any changes for progress that they needed to bring about. No matter how difficult it was to implement a plan of action, it was always doable because of the innate volition from the Japanese people to see it through. I particularly recall one of our resource speakers being asked how they were able to get the support of the community to comply with their project. After that question, he just seemed so dumfounded, as if he could not understand why it was even an issue. For their community, the main driver was the fact that they just wanted to create a good future for their children. This was all the motivation they needed, and this kind of thinking is something I wish we could have in this country as well.
Another key takeaway about Japanese people is their innovativeness in finding solutions to age-old problems. They have a knack for recognizing issues and addressing them before they grow any larger. With the support of the community and also their government, they have led in advancements in technology and still continue to do so. Despite being one of the world’s superpowers, Japanese people remain so humble, so much so that they create programs like JENESYS to be able to share their knowhow with others in the hopes of having the knowledge aid in the development of other countries.
Like any story, my JENESYS experience was made much more colourful and memorable because of all the characters that played a role in it. From Miki-San and Mayumi-San, our most gracious JICE coordinators who looked after us like their own children, to my fellow delegates from the Philippines, whose faces reminded me of home despite having met them only a day prior to our departure, and of course to all my new friends from Timor-Leste and Thailand, with whom I shared most of the journey in Fukuoka. Each person I met over the short 10 days grew beloved to me. They all taught me something new and made the journey that much more worthwhile and difficult to come home from.
I would find myself looking forward to each meal time or bus ride, excited to see who among my co-delegates I would be able to sit beside and chat with for that given moment. It was a rich experience to be able to learn about the lives and countries of the other people, and likewise share my own experiences with them. Though language barriers were present and could have been a hindrance to our interactions, I quickly came to learn that the expressions of kindness, respect, and passion were ultimately universal and could easily transcend any barriers to communication.
I’d like to believe that all the lessons learned and new friendships formed make JENESYS not just a closed chapter, but rather a prologue for much better things to come. Although I was the heroine of this story, I want nothing more than to have this journey go beyond myself. The most important thing I carry with me now is the recognition that it is part of my responsibility to look at the bigger picture and think about what I can contribute to my community and country. It may be daunting, but it’s comforting to have this experience remind me that I am never alone in the challenge of lifting our nation forward.
The most powerful stories are those that are able to touch their readers’ hearts and spark some form of emotion- be it joy, sadness, anger, fear, or something completely new. JENESYS 2016 was no 500-page novel; in fact, it was just a practically negligible 10-day fragment of what I hope to be a very long life. Albeit short, it has easily become one of my most beautiful stories to date, one that could only be had once in a lifetime, and the one that I would never get tired of retelling time and time again.
Written by: Andrea Yu