Jenny Lu '12 Couchsurfed Through Europe Meeting the International Deaf Community

December 18, 2012

The term "couchsurfing" refers to the practice of moving from one house to another, sleeping in whatever space is available, usually staying a few days before moving on to another house, it is growing in popularity as a means of low-cost travel. Couchsurfer and alumna Jenny Lu '12 recently couchsurfed through Switzerland, Italy, France, and Ireland, documenting her experience on video along the way. Lu's video was selected by as the Staff Pick Winner in the organization's "Get Inspired" contest, which won her a round-the-world ticket for future travel.

"I am Deaf, and identify myself as being part of a cultural and linguistic minority in America. Since we are such a small but diverse group of people who tend to have mediocre access to resources like translation services and a uniform educational system, the feeling of isolation is all too common," Lu wrote in the description of her video: CouchSurfing through a Silent World: Meeting the International Deaf Community. "I have always aspired to travel to other countries and meet others who not only share this unique perception of life, but also could introduce me to their own cultures and languages." calls itself "a global network of travelers, adventure seekers, and lifelong learners who value trust among strangers and are dedicated to sharing their cultures, hospitality, and authentic experiences—whether they’re on the road or in their hometowns." The organization boasts a network of more than 5 million members worldwide.

"My expectations of the possible communication challenges were defied by my hosts' willingness to communicate with me in all ways possible," Lu wrote on her site profile. "By inviting me to their homes, teaching me how to cook their local foods, and showing me their cities, my new Deaf and signing friends have imparted me with valuable knowledge—academic, emotional, and artistic —and have exposed me to sign languages of their countries that would have otherwise been extraordinarily difficult to discover if it weren't for this project."

According to an article that announced Lu as the Staff Pick Winner, "Each and every one of our finalists were fun, creative, and expressed a unique view of what it means to be a Couchsurfer. But [Lu's video] showed the true potential this community has to change lives."

Watch Jenny Lu's video: CouchSurfing through a Silent World: Meeting the International Deaf Community.