For 3 years, I have been participating in the official school service activity of Animal Relief Club(ARC) with the intention to contribute on facing the issues related in Animals in general. Although the activity itself is open to any issues revolving around the topic of animals from local to global, I have been focusing on tackling the problem of sheltered animals for both reducing their numbers as well as finding them a comfortable life. However, since all the actions I took regarding this issue was through ARC, a school activity, I was not able to make drastic changes as I would have to act under the directions the ARC leaders have set. Therefore, unless there was an appointment I would not be able to directly attend adoption fairs or volunteer at shelters. Thus, on my 3rd year, my mindset has changed, as I was able to recognize that I could fulfill these tasks individually whether or not it was associated with ARC itself.
This is how I became associated with Animal Refuge Kansai(ARK) an NGO organization. I believe that working with ARK granted me the opportunities to take direct action towards a cause I have been meaning to support for a long time but struggled with how. For the entire day, I volunteered to participate in helping an adoption fair in a church in Roppongi. I was in charge of two main roles of looking after the animals(mostly walking cleaning) and interacting with the visitors seeking to adopt. As much as helping the animals directly did fulfill my determination to help unfortunate animals, I believed interacting with many visitors was what truly displayed my community engagement. While working in ARC and supporting the community indirectly by raising money does show commitment to resolve the issue, I felt as I was able to gain more knowledge. One thing that moved me was how I discovered the system of “foster pets”. Foster pets are basically animals that people take after in their personal time until they find a new pet. Until then, as I person who cannot adopt due to personal issues, I always thought the only way for me to help was to raise money. However, learning that temporarily looking after shelter animals was a possibility, it made me recognize that in a community, many people can help out in different ways. This was something I would not have found out, had not I joined an outside organization similar to the activity I do in school. It helped me recognize the importance to explore and connect in a community.
During the Summer I had spent a month traveling solo around Six nations across Europe. As a visual arts student who aspires to pursue the studies of arts in university, I had visited various museums during my time abroad. For several museums, I had attended on tours offered in either English or Japanese given that they are the only two languages I am able to speak and understand fluently. I was hit with a certain realization when I had attended the same tour in these two different languages when visiting the Sagrada Família in Barcelona, Catalonia. I had noticed how the tours although it was for the same exact place, had offered different facts and information. Although I was never able to obtain a primary resource for the intention of the different contents of the same tour, I assume that this was for the cultural differences that essentially caused a difference in perception of what appeals to a certain demographic or group. The Japanese tour I attended empathized more on how the contribution of Japanese designers and architects whilst the English tour only briefly mentioned such a thing.
This brought me to question how the knowledge you can obtain can drastically vary depending on the language it is offered in. I have always been intrigued by the art produced during the renaissance era. Therefore visiting Florence, Italy, was what I looked the most forward to prior to the trip as I was anticipating gaining direct knowledge from the heart of the Renaissance. Given that Italy was the next country I visited after Spain, this the experience regarding the tour in Barcelona lead me to question how I can obtain the maximum amount of knowledge at my level of understanding as a foreigner that does not understand the native language of the primary resources. This thought continued to haunt me even as I returned back to Japan, as much I enjoyed the trip the sense of the reality of how I had no possible way to get the maximum knowledge even when being emersed in the culture itself bothered me.
Ultimately, this triggered my will to learn a new language. Since I felt the most upset about only being able to experience the outsider’s view of my favorite field of art in Florence, I was determined to learn Italian to challenge myself to be able to be as close as possible to how the people native to the Renaissance perceive the subject. In fact, I was so motivated, I developed the want to receive higher education in Florence, Italy. With two goals, I began taking Italian lessons while also attempting self-taught sessions. Since summer, I attend 2.5hour lessons every 2 weeks in Berlitz corporation. I specifically chose this association for the reason to be able to connect with a person(teacher) that actually comes from the culture they teach. Furthermore, the lessons are fully immersive which allows me to avoid limiting myself as I am pushed to express my thoughts in their language. I believe that my motivation to learn Italian performs my will to communicate over linguistic barriers and to connect with an unfamiliar culture in a deeper level.