Where should I start? Oh yea, I went to Japan. Not only was it my first time in Asia, but also that one chance in a JCI member’s life – the JCI Academy.
My journey in JCI started in Lithuania 4 years ago, when I became a member of JCI Sostinė (look it up on Fb, great great chapter). Because of the opportunities that this chapter gave me, I did not only transform as a person and leader by becoming a local president but also met the person of my life. Because of him I ended up in Gothenburg, Sweden. Being eternally grateful to JCI for everything I got, I continued my membership in the local chapter JCI Göteborg. With the help of the superstars in this chapter I was able to ease myself into the Swedish way of living, practice Swedish as well as find friends. I involved myself in different activities and participated in various events. Not without a nudge of my better half, I decided that being a member is great and certainly rewarding but I wanted to test my abilities within the administration of JCI Sweden. Luckily, Daniel Ekman, JCI Sweden National president 2018, believed that I had something to offer. Long story short; I became part of his team as JCI Sweden National information officer and Deputy president with the aspiration to become JCI Sweden National president 2019.
This position comes with responsibilities but also great opportunities, one of them is certainly participating in JCI Academy. The academy is run by JCI Japan, thereby nurturing and preparing the future leaders of the organization for the last 31 years. One delegate per JCI country can participate every year in the academy that will prepare you for your year as national president as well as widen your international network and improve teamwork and intercultural skills. This year I was the chosen one to represent JCI Sweden! What an honor and responsibility!
JCI Academy this year was organized by JCI Himeji in Himeji, Japan, from the 5th to 14th of July. During those days the agenda was packed, no time for slacking! Because the participants are not supposed to spoil the fun for the future participants, I will not talk about the academy day by day or activity by activity, but I will mention the parts that were the most important to me.
First of all, I got a cold shower of reality that not all the people in the world age between 18 and 40 (and yes, that is the age of JCI members) speak English. We had to work a lot in different groups. Just because JCI Japan members were the majority of the participants in the academy, they were the majority in the groups as well. My group had a great mix of people from Benin, Malaysia, Japan, Croatia and, of course, Sweden. And you know what? Language is not the most important thing in teamwork. Believe me, you start realizing how much you can feel the other person without using words. Lesson number one – languages are great, but patience and empathy will go a looong way!
Second of all, I got in touch with my true self once again. If you’ve been around JCI for a while you probably did or at least heard about one or other personality test. In JCI Europe we are keen users of Insights (Google it!). The first time I came across it was during the JCI European academy (shout out to all the participants of year 2014) where we learned about 4 colors and what they represent. Not going deep into the theory, I was super green. Consciously and non consciously. I always cared for others in my circle, team, cared for the feelings of the team and successful teamwork. Despite that, recently I felt that I was far away from my green nature and slowly increased the red energy. In the light of Japan, I was worried that my red energy will take over and the result of the teamwork will be more important than everything else. And you know what? It was not, I deeply cared for all the teammates and them being comfortable working together. Lesson number two – you should always try to improve yourself but you cannot run from your nature!
Third of all, I deeply enjoyed the home stay part of the academy. Meeting different people from very different backgrounds, trying to understand where they are coming from and why they do certain things. Again, this was a part of the academy that brought a lot of humility. Having a beautiful Mika, who has been a gracious host to me, talk about anything and everything was unbelievable. The culture, the experience, the attitude, the deep respect for everything and everybody around you – that is what Japan is about. And I have to say, having to cook for Mika something traditional (sorry my Swedish friends, I was not in the mood to make köttbullar), making traditional Lithuanian potato pancakes and eating them with chopsticks was definitely a thing to remember. Best of all – Mika loved them! Lesson number three – don’t be afraid to dive deep into the other culture, you will only learn from it!
And last but not least, the people. Having an HR background, I was always fascinated with people and their behavior. I can tell you that there were a few times I was close to tears just because of somebody’s journey towards self development and change. Does not matter if it was a Japanese delegate taking a challenge to speak English or my dear friends taking the challenge by it’s horns and kicking the life out of it (you know who you are :)…). Meeting people with different point of view, bonding with the like minded people, this was the cherry on my JCI Academy cake. My buddy Hal, my beautiful Nordic girls Nora, Fanney, Anni, Aušra, Ellimaija (Jonas, you were with us in our hearts), my team Andy, Tony, Nina, Nani, Takaya, Hatake, Hiro, Tee, kick ass friends Keira, Olivia, Claudia, Florian, Stafanie, Sara, Drazen, Vincent, Pepijn, they all made this academy unforgettable! Last lesson – people in your life are a treasure!
Most importantly, thank you Daniel, Ullrika, Charlotta and all JCI Sweden members for the unlimited support that was a part of my successful participation in the academy!
What now? Time to start preparing for the next year’s challenge. Want to take that challenge with me or do you want to know more about JCI Sweden and what we do? Don’t hesitate and contact me!
Still in the spirit of harmony,