2018-19 Watanabe Scholars (American Students)

In the 2018-19 program year, the scholarship supports American and Japanese students who are undertaking international study in either the United States or Japan

Please join us in welcoming the American cohort:

William BEST
Home Institution: Monmouth College
Japan Institution: Waseda University (Tokyo)


Will is a junior and a Communications Major with minors in History and Asian Studies at Monmouth College in Western Illinois. He is interested in the Pacific Theatre of World War II and international broadcasting, which he plans to further study during his stay at Waseda University. He plans to use his time at Waseda to continue developing the Asian Studies program at Monmouth College, which he helped restart in 2017. He values the opportunity to experience Japanese culture and daily life through the home stay provided by Waseda. Eventually, he hopes to work for a major international news casting company with direct connections to Japan or curate at a major museum covering World War II. Will greatly appreciates the opportunities that the Watanabe Scholarship provides, allowing him to study at Waseda University without financial worry. The Watanabe Scholarship has provided him with a once-in-a lifetime experience that he excitedly awaits.

Home Institution: Knox College
Japan Institution: Waseda University (Tokyo)

Kyran is a student from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois. He is a double major in Computer Science and Asian Studies. He will be attending classes at Waseda University in Tokyo. Kyran grew up with his mother and two older siblings, and always loved telling stories and hearing others tell theirs. When he was younger, he learned about video games and the power they have to tell stories. Being awarded the Watanabe Scholarship means Kyran can not only learn more about a culture he loves but also explore his growing interest in becoming a game programmer or coder. During his time in Japan, he hopes to learn more about the Japanese language and the culture. He is also excited to continue his education in this new setting.

Home Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Japan Institution: Konan University, Kobe (Hyōgo)


Monica is in her fourth year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she is majoring in Global Studies with a concentration in Knowledge, Communication and Information Systems. She is interested in playing a proactive role in the process of strengthening the U.S.-Japan relationship in business. Monica’s interest in Japan began in high school where she was a part of the Japanese program in the World Language and International Studies Academy. From high school to college Monica has been studying and strengthening her Japanese language comprehension. She plans to study abroad at Konan University in Kobe, Japan. While in Kobe, Estrada will spend a semester focusing on improving her Japanese through intensive language study and taking part in a homestay program. Monica is extremely thankful for receiving this scholarship to support her endeavor to study abroad because it has helped alleviate a financial burden. She is excited for what this semester abroad has in store and looks forward to meeting other scholarship recipients in Tokyo in November.

Home Institution: University of Texas at Austin
Japan Institution: Waseda University (Tokyo)


Despite only living in Japan for the first three months of her life, Jada has felt an ever-present pull to the country. She is a third year student at the University of Texas at Austin where she studies International Relations and Global Studies with a focus on Asian Studies and International Security. Jada understands the importance of globally minded perspectives in creating more equitable multilateralism, and is extremely grateful for the opportunity the Wantanabe Scholarship has given her to study abroad in Japan and broaden her perspectives. Through her academic pursuits, she has come to believe that globalization and its consequences—beneficial or destructive—is one of the world’s most pressing issues. She has devoted herself to understanding the history of globalization in order to better achieve positive effects on countries around the globe. As both the United States and Japan are two of the biggest players in the processes of globalization, she feels she has a major responsibility towards ensuring ethical and moral interactions with other nations. Ultimately, Jada hopes to take part in the JET program upon receiving her undergraduate degree and then plans to pursue a graduate degree in International Affairs or Political Anthropology in Japan. In her professional career, she hopes to make measurable impacts on strengthening the U.S.-Japan relationship.

Home Institution: University of Alaska Anchorage
Japan Institution: Hokkaido University of Education (Hokkaido)


Born and raised in Alaska, Jay’s inspiration to study abroad in Japan comes from a drive to always explore and experience new things. He is double major in Computer Science and Japanese at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Being an Alaskan, Jay values community and environment and being able to explore this in Japan has been a dream of his. He believes that technology can be a catalyst for local and global communities and a tool that can push the world towards environmental sustainability. Aside from his studies, what Jay looks forward to the most in Japan is meeting with locals, artists, and scholars and sharing stories. As an American, Jay constantly interacts with people from different countries and is fascinated by the idea of the roles being reversed. Receiving the Watanabe Scholarship allows Jay to study abroad and has taught him that through hard work and dedication ideas can turn into reality.

Home Institution: University of California, Santa Barbara
Japan Institution: Keio University (Tokyo)


Grace is a sophomore majoring in Linguistics at University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). She grew up learning about different cultures and loves how languages can connect people from different backgrounds and experiences. In high school, Grace began taking Japanese lessons with a woman from Hiroshima who lived in her community. She continued her study of Japanese in her first year at UCSB in anticipation of studying in Japan. At Keio University, she will continue to study Japanese language and culture and hopes to achieve a greater level of fluency during her immersive year abroad. Grace looks forward to meeting people from various backgrounds, experiencing the rich culture and natural beauty of Japan, and practicing Japanese in everyday life. She is very grateful for the opportunity that the Watanabe Scholarship has given her, allowing her to focus on her studies and truly appreciate this enriching experience.

Kim-Tuyen LE
Home Institution: University of Texas at Austin
Japan Institution: Waseda University


Kim-Tuyen is a sophomore at The University of Texas at Austin, majoring in Psychology and pursuing work in the medical field. With her interest in diverse cultures, Kim hopes to explore the many different ways of thinking. One of Kim’s goals abroad is to grasp the ability of understanding people in distinct situations. Unlike the United States, Japan is a very high-context country where people are less direct and more passive, thus Kim aims to learn a greater sense of awareness to enrich her dream career as a physician. Since the United States is a country with a growing population of immigrants, Kim wants to master the ability to communicate in various forms. Doing so will enable her to help non-English speaking patients more efficiently. Kim enjoys meeting new people, so she is very excited to build new connections and discover new ideas from different viewpoints. The best way to see new perspectives is to go abroad, and so Kim is very grateful to the Watanabe Scholarship for allowing her to do so. Thanks to this scholarship, Kim will have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to focus on her studies and enjoy her time abroad without financial stress.

Melody LIN
Home Institution: University of California, Santa Barbara
Japan Institution: International Christian University (Tokyo)


Melody is a junior at the University of California, Santa Barbara majoring in Language, Culture, and Society in the Linguistics department. Her academic interests focus on the intersections of language and identity. Melody was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and her ever-present desire for new and different experiences fueled her decision to study abroad for a year at the International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan. She is looking forward to her studies in Japan and seeing the diversity of the world. Her goal is to be able to connect to students at her host university and experience living in a completely new environment while widening her perspective. Melody is immensely grateful for the Watanabe Scholarship, as it will ease her financial burden and allow her to put all her passion into studying abroad in Japan. 

Ngan LUU
Home Institution: University of Texas at Austin
Japan Institution: Kyoto University (Kyoto)


Ngan is currently attending the University of Texas at Austin (UT) where she is double majoring in Mathematics and Japanese. She is also working to obtain certification to teach in Texas high schools. Since middle school, Ngan has had a passion for teaching and seeks to contribute to society by providing the best possible education for future generations. She greatly enjoys her Japanese classes as well as learning about Japanese culture. She hopes to learn more about the Japanese school system, and compare it to her own experiences in the American system. She is excited to take her exploration of Japanese language and culture beyond the UT classroom to Kyoto University for the 2019 spring semester. Studying abroad in Japan will be a major stepping stone toward Ngan’s goals, and she is grateful for the Watanabe Scholarship and this opportunity to study abroad in Japan.

Home Institution: University of Mississippi
Japan Institution: Ritsumeikan University (Kyoto)


Justin is a junior at the University of Mississippi studying Computer Science and Japanese. Three years ago, he pursued his interest in learning languages and began studying Japanese on his own before attending the University of Mississippi. He is looking forward to learning more about Japanese culture by experiencing it first-hand, making friends and improving his Japanese through daily-life immersion in Japan. He also hopes to learn to speak the Kansai dialect during his time at Ritsumeikan University. In his spare time, Justin enjoys practicing Japanese and learning about web development and communication apps. He hopes that his time in Japan will provide him with insight into Japan’s rapidly expanding field of technology, an area in which he is considering pursuing a career. In addition to his educational and career goals, Justin hopes to grow from this opportunity to adjust to life in a foreign country. None of this would be possible without the Watanabe Scholarship.

Home Institution: Sweet Briar College
Japan Institution: Doshisha University (Kyoto)


Blake is a junior at Sweet Briar Women’s College majoring in Biology with a double minor in Anthropology and Chemistry. Exposed to Japan at a young age, she has acquired a fascination with Japanese culture and their distinct societal identity. In the future, her goal is to be a specialist in the field of Forensic Anthropology. Blake wishes to expose herself to as many cultures as possible in order to broaden her personal worldview, as well as to educate those around her. It is her hope that this will encourage others to expose themselves to the unique and diverse elements that the world has to offer. In addition to the language, she is most enthusiastic to learn about the way of life in Japan; both as a student and as a foreigner being shown the complex history that is evident in every aspect of the nation. Blake is extremely grateful for the assistance that this scholarship has given her, as it is granting her the opportunity to achieve one of her lifelong dreams.

Home Institution: San Diego State University
Japan Institution: Kyushu University (Fukuoka)


Calina has been intrigued by Japanese culture since she was a child. Upon entering college, she finally had the opportunity to take formal Japanese classes and travel to Japan for the first time. Going to Japan was a life-changing experience for Calina and sparked her motivation to pursue Japanese studies. Calina now holds an associate’s degree in Japanese and is working towards her Bachelors with a Minor in International Studies at San Diego State University. She will be participating in a one-year exchange program at Kyushu University. Calina’s hobby is music, so she looks forward to joining various circles at Kyushu University such as Hip-Hop Dance, Acapella and Hougaku. Coming from a low-income financial situation and attending school exclusively on grants from financial aid, Calina never considered the possibility of studying abroad until she was named a recipient of the Watanabe Scholarship. She is excited to start her new journey in Japan as it will be a great opportunity for her to meet new people, improve her Japanese and experience new cultural perspectives.

Home Institution: The Ohio State University
Japan Institution: International Christian University (Tokyo)


As a child, Linda dreamed of traveling to Japan. She grew up watching Hayao Miyazaki’s vibrant animated films and became fascinated by the rich culture that Japan offered. Almost a decade later, she found herself working as an accounting intern for a firm in Tokyo. Linda’s experience living abroad solidified her goal of becoming an International Accountant, with a specific focus on U.S.-Japan relations. During her study abroad program this year at the International Christian University, she hopes to be able to gain native-level speaking proficiency in Japanese, and looks forward to making lifelong connections with the people around her. The Toshizo Watanabe Scholarship has given her a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pursue her professional endeavors, and for that reason she is extremely humbled to be receiving this award.

Home Institution: American River College
Japan Institution: Tokyo International University in Kawagoe (Saitama)


David received his associate’s degree from American River College and plans to complete his bachelor’s degree at Tokyo International University in Saitama. Growing up in California, his experience with its cultural diversity are what ultimately motivated him to study Japanese in high school. While adjusting to Japan has been challenging for David, it has also been an incredibly rewarding experience. As a Watanabe Scholar, David hopes to expand his horizons and to exchange ideas and experiences with people from different backgrounds. The Watanabe Scholarship will allow David to fully immerse himself in his university’s activities and improve his Japanese language skills by alleviating the financial burden of studying abroad. As an International Relations major, he aims to work in a field where he can get involved in addressing issues such as social inequality, poverty, education and human rights. 

Home Institution: University of California, Berkeley
Japan Institution: Meiji Gakuin University (Tokyo)


Jewel is a student at the University of California, Berkeley. With her research interests in Asian communities and education, Jewel will study at Meiji Gakuin University and will have the opportunity to interact with the people and culture she intends to highlight in her academic work in graduate school. After studying the language for four years and falling in love with the culture in the process, a lifelong dream of Jewel’s has been to engage with Japanese culture directly by living there. Jewel plans to extend her stay in Japan after graduating from Berkeley by becoming an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) through the JET Program, where she will assist in teaching Japanese students English. The Watanabe Scholarship has brought Jewel much closer to her ultimate goal of becoming a culturally sensitive dean with an education-based background that is progressive and crucial for the occupation.

Bethany URBANO
Home Institution: University of California, Irvine
Japan Institution: International Christian University (Tokyo)


Bethany is a first-generation student majoring in Political Science at the University of California, Irvine. Her dream is to create opportunities and resources for those who face challenges of high unemployment and high poverty rates, and she hopes to work for under-educated communities and ethnic minorities like herself. She has always been enamored with Japan’s fascinating, multifaceted culture and its deep tradition. Receiving the Watanabe Scholarship grants her a more holistic educational experience and relieves her of the financial burden of studying abroad. She is excited to engage in cross-cultural communication both inside and outside of the classroom and hopes to broaden her worldview. Bethany looks forward to her studies at the International Christian University and to forming connections with students, faculty and nearby communities. Her goal during her stay is to build strong relationships with Japanese communities and, through volunteer work, build bridges for low-income and underrepresented communities. Upon her return to the United States, Bethany wants to continue to contribute to strengthening the U.S.-Japan relationship. For Bethany, studying abroad is a personal triumph and an accomplishment. 

Home Institution: University of California, Santa Cruz
Japan Institution: International Christian University (Tokyo)


Japan has always been a dream destination for Maribeth. So when the good news arrived about receiving the Watanabe Scholarship, her dream took the first step into becoming a reality. She will be studying language and culture at the International Christian University in Tokyo. Back home, Maribeth is a rising senior studying Molecular, Cell and Developmental Biology (MCD Biology) at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Some of her interests and hobbies include playing soccer, gardening, community service, playing video games and cooking. One of her main goals during her time abroad is to work on her Japanese language proficiency so that she may participate in a variety of clubs and organizations. She hopes to build a sense of community during her time in Tokyo so that she can create lasting relationships with her peers and classmates. Maribeth is very grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this award and would like to thank the U.S.-Japan Council and Mr. Toshizo Watanabe.

Home Institution: University of California, Berkeley
Japan Institution: Meiji Gakuin University (Tokyo)


Evan is a senior at UC Berkeley, finishing dual degrees in Environmental Economics & Policy and Conservation & Resource Studies. His research interests and work experience have involved sustainable economics, political ecology and international environmental policy. He currently serves as the Civil Rights Chair of the Japanese American Citizens League Berkeley Chapter. With the Watanabe Scholarship, Evan will study in the Global & International Studies program at Meiji Gakuin University in Yokohama, where he will continue to explore global environmental policy and pursue a career in U.S.-Japan environmental diplomacy and research. He also looks forward to exploring his Japanese American identity. Evan looks forward to having conversations about social issues and politics, cultural differences between Japanese Americans and Japanese, and how different generations and communities in Japan approach environmental issues. Evan hopes to deepen his understanding of diasporic Japanese history, and sharing this knowledge with his family and other members of the Japanese American community. After the program, Evan hopes to work in Japan and pursue a career in international environmental policy.