30 Years, 30 Stories: A Mosaic of Experiences


2018 marks JCMU’s 30th anniversary since our founding in 1988. To celebrate, we will be posting 30 JCMU stories of 30 different JCMU alumni from 1989 to 2018 every Thursday from mid-February through September!

How has study abroad changed you? For our first installment in the “30 Years, 30 Stories” series, read the story of JCMU 1989-90 alum Glynn Washington, and learn how his time in Hikone pushed him to truly experience the world we all live in.

In 1989, a young University of Michigan student was preparing to study abroad in China. “Then Tiananmen Square happened,” remembers JCMU alum Glynn Washington.

But staying home was never in the cards for him. “I decided to take a chance,” he said, recalling the decision to go to Japan as member of the inaugural 1989-90 JCMU program without any prior study of the language or culture. Glynn, who was born in Detroit and grew up in rural Michigan, considers his JCMU experience to be transformative:

“When I went to Japan, it started a trend for me of trying new things. It gave me the confidence to leap from one thing to another.”

Since JCMU, his life has been a rollercoaster of new and unique: he starred on a game show in Japan, composed music for Kunst Stoff dance performances in San Francisco, rocked live spoken word poetry in Detroit, joined a band in Indonesia, and administered non-profit organizations across the United States. Now living in northern California, Washington’s newest project is Snap Judgment, a public radio program exploring stories of people who have made life-altering choices in a matter of moments.

Glynn together with other JCMU alumni

In late 2016, Glynn reconnected with JCMU and many of his classmates while on tour for his Snap Judgement Live series. Following his performance in Novi, Michigan, Glynn and the other 1989-90 alumni present reminisced about their study abroad experiences together. Life has taken each of these former classmates in different directions: some utilize their language skills to work for Japanese companies, some moved out of state to pursue their dream job, and so on. However, watching Glynn and his classmates laugh the night away together, you wouldn’t know that they spent any time apart at all.

It is his hope that everybody is able to escape their comfort zone and travel the world. As he told us:

“JCMU still colors everything I do. It was really formative: there are strong memories, powerful relationships. You’ve got to get out – throw a dart at a map and just go.”

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