Found in Translation
Dylan Tracy Explores Interests & Culture at 2009 Japan-America Student Conference
University of Idaho senior, Dylan Tracy has a wide range of interests. As a history major and math minor with a pre-med emphasis, and a fascination for Japanese language and culture, one might think he would have a difficult time finding projects and activities that bring all these pursuits together. However after hearing about the annual Japan-America Student Conference (JASC) from a teaching assistant in his Japan 210 class last year, the Eagle, Idaho native thought it might be the perfect fit.
Established in 1934, JASC is the oldest student-run conference between Japan and the United States. Although it was originally conceived to mend deteriorating relations between the two countries, it has evolved over the years with the focus of the 2009 conference being “Towards Global Awareness: Everyday Impact Through Interactive Empowerment.” To attend the conference Dylan, along with thirty-five other students from both countries, went through an extensive application process.
“We had to send in a resume, two letters of recommendation, fill out an application form, one long essay, and three short essay answers concerning what we think about any of the seven roundtable topics that would be discussed during the conference,” he explains.
These roundtables included topics such as: International Development, Environment and Sustainability, Global Education, and Food Security. Dylan was placed in the “Technology and Health” group, and prior to his trip he had to write a ten page research paper on the topic.
When the groups came together at the month-long conference in Japan, they discussed each other’s papers and worked towards a collective presentation known as the “Final Forum.” The presentation was the culmination of the discussions and an attempt to offer some solution or consensus from each roundtable. Dylan’s group discussed issues such as organ transplantation, hospitals and terminal care, pharmaceutical drugs, and the media’s influence on obesity, body image, and suicide. His group was also able to meet a doctor from Nagano who stressed holistic health and who treated patients according to four principles: physical, social, mental, and spiritual health.
Outside of the groups, the students enjoyed sightseeing trips and got to learn more about the Japanese culture and each other.
“We had several discussions about WWII. Two of the Japanese delegates had grandfathers who were kamikaze pilots in the war. So needless to say, there were strong emotions tied up in talking about the justification for Pearl Harbor, the death camps, or the atomic bomb from both the American and Japanese viewpoints. WWII is by no means a dead topic, and it was eye-opening to talk face to face with the people who used to be our enemy.”
However, he adds, “The discussions always seemed to end with a unanimous consensus that opinion sharing and perception of such events was valuable in and of itself. There was no need to prove someone's point; the goal was simply to broaden each person's perception of the war by hearing controversial issues from many different points of view. No WWII conversation has been more meaningful and powerful as those I experienced on this trip.”
He said that through those conversations and the other interactions with the delegates he made meaningful life-long friendships and developed a new insight into both countries’ cultures.
“Going into the trip, I think I was aware of a vague cultural distinction between the United States and the Japanese. Those differences in culture definitely do exist; however, I somehow came away with the perception that the Japanese are much more like the Americans and vice versa than the two cultures are different. My Japanese friends are college students just like I am; I found the same personalities in Japan as exist in America. We share common dreams and goals in life.” *Dylan would like to acknowledge the University of Idaho Dean of Students, the Foreign Language & Literatures Department, and the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, as well as private donors Jerry & Ouanda Walton and Ryan & Brandi Urie for providing funding and support for his trip.