Jun-Ang Ni traveled to Japan in 2014. Today she works in as an Assistant Project Manager at APM Solutions, Inc., a real estate and railroad asset management company, in Jamaica Plain. She took a moment to give us an update on her life and recollect her travel program experience including how it has impacted her life.
Hello Jun. I have heard so many great things about you from the Fish Family Foundation. I am excited to talk with you today.
I love the Fish Family Foundation! They have done so much for me.
Can you tell me a little more about your relationship with the Foundation?
Well, in addition to supporting my trip to Japan, the Foundation hired me as a summer intern. One of the reasons I am interested in a career in public policy and social work is due to my time at the Foundation. One of my assignments was a research project on women and economics. I began to understand how better policies to empower women can help all of society.
What specifically did you research?
I looked at womenomics, which is the idea of the connection between women and economic development. In Japan, there is a shortage of childcare that makes it difficult for Japanese women to be in the workforce. One policy I looked at was connecting older Japanese citizens to childcare in Japan. That way older Japanese citizens would be able to give back to society through meaningful relationships with a younger generation as well as provide a solution to the lack of childcare.
Are you interested in a career promoting these types of policies?
I started college at New York University studying social welfare and policy but did not finish. However, I plan to eventually complete my degree and then get my Masters in Social Work and Public Policy. I would love to be a Social Worker focusing on macro issues.
So what is keeping you busy now?
I am back in Boston in a full-time job working mainly with developers to buy land related to the federal railroads. A friend, Paige, who also traveled to Japan through this program, connected me to my current position.
Let us talk about your Japan experience now. How did it influence you?
It taught me that it was possible to get up and go do something as amazing as travel all the way around the world. I realized that traveling is not only for people with a lot of money. If I planned, budgeted and worked hard, I could do it too.
I also realized that I was spending so much time with my phone. When I lost service in Japan, it was the most cleansing moment of my life. I thought to myself, ‘I don’t need this phone all the time.’
Would you ever go back to Japan?
Actually, a year after my first trip to Japan, I did go back! Upon returning to Boston, Mia Yee (another Japan trip alumnus) and I immediately started to plan a return trip. That time, we spent five weeks in Japan!
Wow! That is impressive. Did you visit some of the same places or go to completely new ones?
We did a little of both. I love good Japanese food so we returned to this AMAZING mom & pop shop in Kyoto where I had my first ‘real’ ramen. There is only one counter and they use a 150 year-old recipe. Then in Hiroshima, we went back to a building that has FOUR LEVELS of okonomiyaki.
A new place we went was Nagasaki. I was really moved by the story of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima so that is what led to that visit. That was personal for me and very profound.
What made that city so moving for you?
My family is Chinese and I am aware of the history of conflict between China and Japan. The imperialism of Japan toward China, the rape of Nanking, those are very difficult histories as is the atomic bombings in Japan. There are generations of anger that exist but there are also many feelings of reconciliation. Visiting Nagasaki, I cried.
So this trip was a lot more than just fun experience for you. It seems like it was really a personal growth and learning opportunity.
My dad was born in 1942 at the tail end of World War II. Growing up he was leery about Japan and this was true his whole life. However, he allowed me to go to Japan as a teenager. When I came back and shared my positive experiences of that country and its people, how many Japanese today felt apologetic about the history of conflict, I shared that it is not ok to blame a new generation for the sins of another. New generations and countries are finding ways to move forward peacefully.
I really appreciate you sharing that deep learning with me. I can tell that this traveling opportunity has affected you in many ways.
Japan is a kind and giving place. My travel experiences there have been one of the more defining events in my life.
I hope every teen who participates in a travel program can say the same thing. In closing, do you have any advice to teens who are thinking about joining a travel program?
Go for it. You don’t know unless you go. I almost did not go myself. A staff refused when I tried to quit and not go. He pushed me to stay involved and supported me throughout the program. Teens should be open to what staff say if they encourage them to try this trip.
The last thing I would say to a teen is that you will never fully know yourself until you travel out of the country.
Thanks for those words of wisdom Jun. I am looking forward to seeing you at the Alumni Summer Social this coming July. Please spread the word!
That sounds great to me!