Ashinaga USA held its own Tsudoi in Washington DC

By Abraham Hirwa
2016 Ashinaga Scholar
Industrial Engineering Major, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Every summer at nine locations across Japan, Ashinaga students gather for four days of team building, leadership development, and reflection during “Tsudoi,” which is literally translated as “gathering” in Japanese.

In Washington DC, Ashinaga USA held its own Tsudoi between May 23 and May 27 2018. It was a warm reunion for the ten scholars who were able to attend – some scholars had not seen one another in almost two years. Scholars Aubin Bondo from Burundi and Didier Agbessi from Togo, who study in Canada, attended Tsudoi as their first ever trip to the US. During the opening ceremony, scholars gained insight into Tsudois in Japan. Angelique Uwabera, a scholar from Rwanda who was studying in the UK at the time of Tsudoi, joined virtually via video by sharing her experience during a 2017 Tsudoi she attended in Japan.

The second day of Tsudoi was coincidentally Africa Day, wherein scholars and staff attended a conference at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars. The focus of the discussion was the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA). Speakers such as Donald Kaberuka, the former African Development Bank President, and Arikana Chihomboli-Quao, the African Union Ambassador to the US, presented their thoughts on the issue. A couple of Scholars even engaged in the Q&A session, and all actively utilized their networking skills by speaking with those in attendance in the receptions before and after the event.

On Friday, scholars presented a brief overview of their Ashinaga proposals to staff and Fiona Nantege, our guest speaker from Uganda who is a Stanford University Graduate School of Business graduate and a current Manager at JP Morgan in New York. She provided great advice to further our scholars’ proposals. It was a good chance to assess how Scholars are doing in university and we are proud of their progressive work and engagement in their Ashinaga Proposals.

Scholars learned about and engaged with the DC community Friday afternoon through a visit to the exhibit, “Evicted” at the National Building Museum, exploring the complex issue of affordable housing and eviction in the United States. Thereafter, scholars and staff spent the evening volunteering at DC Central Kitchen, the first community kitchen in the US, to prepare food to be delivered to a number of organizations and people in need residing in the DC area. The Tsudoi ended with a hike at Rock Creek Park and a contemplative candle lighting event, a salute to the ceremonial hikes and bonfires that take place during Tsudois in Japan.

Overall, Tsudoi provided the opportunity for scholars to share stories and memories from the school year and create new ones together. Ashinaga USA also wishes the best to our scholars who are doing internships in different countries of Africa this summer, and those working on their projects in and out of America. We are looking forward to next year’s Tsudoi.