AAI and Japanese Ashinaga Scholars gathered in the US

For the first time in Ashinaga history, six AAI Scholars and three Japanese Ashinaga Scholars gathered in the United States for a cultural exchange weekend in Boston, Massachusetts. Throughout the weekend, there were many opportunities for each group of Scholars to learn from the other. On Saturday morning, each group presented to the other: the Japanese Scholars, for the first time presenting to a non-Japanese audience in English, about Ashinaga Japan history, life at Tokyo Kokoro Juku (student residence), and Bokin (fundraising). The AAI Scholars gave a summary on their Ashinaga Proposal, a tangible solution to an issue they would like to address occurring in their respective home country. The Japanese Scholars demonstrated the “callout” that occurs during Bokin fundraising event in Japan, which made a large impression to the AAI Scholars. Gorata, a freshman at the University of Notre Dame, reflected: “I am very interested in what we as AAI Scholars could do here in the United States to fundraise for the scholarship.”
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After lunch at Quincy Market in downtown Boston and an afternoon of sightseeing incorporated with a photo challenge to reflect on their surroundings, each group of Scholars worked hard to prepare dinner, with counters full of flour and rooms full of mouth-watering smells: the Japanese Scholars prepared temaki, or sushi hand rolls with a variety of fillings, and the AAI Scholars prepared a variety of dishes representing their home countries, including braai, chakalaka, chapati and sadza (grilled chicken and vegetable relish from southern Africa, unleavened flatbread found across the continent, and cooked maize meal from Zimbabwe, respectively). Each group presented on the significance of their dishes, and thereafter enjoyed the tasty cultural creations.

On Sunday, the Ashinaga Scholars visited Harvard University campus for a tour as well as a discussion with a few Harvard Scholars who are members of the Japan Society, wherein the Harvard Scholars and Ashinaga Scholars shared their various experiences regarding university life. One principle that all Scholars seemed to identify with was the “imposter syndrome,” a feeling of inadequacy being surrounded by such successful colleagues. Tsion, a freshman at SUNY Plattsburgh reflected, “I feel this all the time at Plattsburgh; the conversation at Harvard made me realize I am not alone in feeling this.”
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After the AAI Scholars returned to their respective campuses, Washington DC was the last stop for the Japanese Scholars. They enjoyed a day of sightseeing, where they were particularly happy to see the Lincoln Memorial, and then visited the Ashinaga USA office to share their reflections on the entire US trip with Ashinaga staff. They shared their impressions walking around each US city, where walking itself was a history tour of the varying forms of architecture, such as New York City’s skyscrapers, the ubiquity of brick in Boston, and the unique shapes in Washington DC especially with the different monuments. Regarding their weekend with the AAI Scholars in Boston, the Japanese Scholars were impressed by the passion and specificity behind the AAI Scholars’ Ashinaga Proposals. One Japanese Scholar, Yves, stated, “seeing the AAI Scholars’ presentations motivated me to not only continue to improve my English skills so I can speak with them better next time, but also to work harder in general towards my goals.” All in all, the result of the weekend was further connection and understanding between global Ashinaga Scholars.