I joined a chorus called C.C.D. (Collegiate Choral Doshisha) for the semester for my community involvement project. I spent a lot of time there–generally, rehearsal at least twice a week for four hours–but I think it was a worthy pursuit.
I was pretty anxious at first; now that I’ve done it, if you made me do it over again, I would still get anxious again. There were good times and bad times: Every now and then I would struggle with something and feel bad for a while, but then I would find a little success and feel better. For instance, rehearsals could be pretty tough sometimes, but drinking afterwards
was almost always fun.
I also got to do a lot of cool things that I probably wouldn’t have done on my own. I rented a kimono and got some awesome pictures (All of them have other people with faces unblurred, so I can’t share them); I went to Osaka to listen to a performance of Handel’s Messiah; and I got to perform while wearing a Halloween costume–I was a shrine maiden. And occasionally, I got to touch a piano, which was massively beneficial to my mental health.
The hardest things about being in a chorus actually don’t really have that much to do with singing. That works pretty much the same way everywhere, with some minor differences. What was really hard was communicating with regular people. As a second-language learner, it’s easy to forget that most of the people you interact with–teachers, language exchange partners, classmates–understand what it’s like to really try to learn a second language, and so they end up with pretty good communication skills.
The people in my chorus are just normal people. They won’t always be able to meet you halfway to communicate, so really thriving in that kind of environment requires a different level of ability that I don’t think I have just yet. The good news is that I’m aware of that, and that I think I’m a lot closer to getting that kind of ability than I was at the
beginning of the semester.
And there were other benefits to this project, too. For one thing, I was able to be around Japanese people around my age that already knew each other. They interact differently with each other than they do with foreigners, and I think getting to see it and be surrounded by it was super beneficial.
To anyone considering this type of project, I would say go for it. I can tell you, even if you don’t thrive, it definitely won’t kill you, and you’ll still probably learn a lot. And if you do thrive, even better for you: You’ll get to spend a lot of time around people and will
probably be able to make close relationships with them. Just try to make the most of your time, and it’ll be worth it.