2022-23 Watanabe Scholars (American Students)

Ⓐ indicates a previous recipient of the scholarship
** indicates a TOMODACHI alumnus or previous recipient
^ indicates a graduate student

Please join us in welcoming the American cohort:

Sabrina ALCIN
Home Institution: University of Connecticut
Host Institution: Waseda University

Receiving the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship has given Sabrina the opportunity to pursue her dream of traveling to Japan ever since she was young. With this opportunity, Sabrina is genuinely grateful that the many years of hard work in learning and practicing Japanese will soon be paid off. As an active filmmaker, Sabrina is looking forward to recording her daily life while she’s in Japan so that both Japanese and American viewers can see the perspective of someone from a completely different background in a different culture and environment. Sabrina is also looking forward to developing connections with Japanese natives in hopes of building a stronger relationship with Japanese citizens which will help her in her future endeavors. Studying abroad in Japan is something that Sabrina has hoped to do for a very long time, and her goal is coming true with the help of the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship.

Home Institution: University of Massachusetts Amherst

Host Institution: Hokkaido University

Lafaith is a Senior at The University of Massachusetts Amherst. Lafaith is double majoring in Communications and Japanese with a minor in psychology. Lafaith has been interested in learning more about Japan ever since she began taking Japanese language classes at her high school. In high school, Japanese was Lafaith’s favorite class. As a fellow minority, Lafaith is very interested in promoting cultural diversity and making the world more inclusive. Lafaith will be studying abroad at Hokkaido University during Spring 2023. Lafaith plans to utilize her Japanese language skills in her future career. Lafaith is extremely excited about being able to immerse herself into Japanese culture and being able to further her language ability. Lafaith is very excited to join cultural clubs and see the beautiful city of Sapporo. Lafaith is more than grateful to be able to go to Japan and hopes she can inspire other young people from low-income households to pursue their dreams regardless of their financial predicament.

Home Institution: Randolph-Macon College
Host Institution: Kansai Gaidai University

Receiving the Toshizo Watanabe Scholarship means more to Emily than getting to travel to a different country. To Emily, receiving this scholarship gives her the means she needs to start her lifelong dream of seeing our world’s truth. Growing up in a military family and seeing her mother battle and win her fight against cancer lit a fire in Emily to see as much of the world as humanly possible. Life is too short and there are far too many things to do and people to meet. By traveling to Japan with this scholarship Emily will have the opportunity to meet new people and experience a new culture firsthand. Rather than learning how people live in a book, she will be able to learn how people live through her own experiences. This scholarship allows Emily to begin her journey of learning how people live their lives starting on opposite sides of the globe.

Rebekah BLUME
Home Institution: University of Maryland, College Park
Host Institution: Waseda University

Rebekah is a senior Japanese Major at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her interest in Japanese culture started from a young age when she first began watching anime and reading manga but was amplified in her teens when she was lucky enough to study abroad at 15 in Akita, Japan. Ever since then, she has been determined to return to improve her Japanese and make more connections. She will be spending the 2022-2023 school year at Waseda University studying the Japanese language and learning more about Japanese culture in the Center for Japanese Language. She looks forward to making new friends and engaging with the community in which she will be living. None of this would be possible without the help of the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship; coming from a single parent household, without the help of this scholarship, Rebekah would not be able to go abroad. She hopes to continue to facilitate cross-cultural interactions between Americans and Japanese. Post graduation, she plans to return to Japan to teach English and is interested in becoming an American diplomat in Japan. Upon her return to the U.S., she will share her experiences at her university through their Japanese American Student Association.

Home Institution: Missouri State University
Host Institution: Toyo University

Ashley is a Senior at Missouri State University double majoring in Modern Language-Japanese and Hospitality Leadership-Tourism. When she was younger, Ashley became interested in Japan by watching the Japanese figure skater Yuzuru Hanyu’s interpreted interviews from English to Japanese. Ever since, she has wanted to interpret for as many languages as possible. She began learning Japanese and Spanish her first year of college and is continuing her studies. She chose Japanese because it uses Chinese characters, and the alphabet has a similar format to Korean. This way, she can someday interpret those languages, too. Ashley is involved in multiple international organizations, including the Association of International Students, was chosen to be a Global Leader and Mentor, and is a member of the Springfield Sister Cities Association. In her free time, she tutors the English Language Institute students, who, in return, help her practice speaking Japanese. Ashley is extremely grateful for the opportunity Mr. Watanabe has provided her to attend Toyo University in Fall 2022. In Japan, Ashley is most looking forward to experiencing new culture, gaining memorable experiences, and accumulating language acquisition to become an interpreter that helps others bridge various communication gaps.

Home Institution: Appalachian State University
Host Institution: Kansai Gaidai University

Savanna is a sophomore at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina. She is currently studying English with a concentration in Film Studies, and double-minoring in Psychology and Japanese. Savanna’s appreciation for Japanese culture began by consuming Japanese media: mainly shows, movies, and music. She enjoys dissecting the media around her to understand how it both reflects and shapes the culture around us. Additional topics of interest in her field include depicting the queer experience and animation as a medium. Savanna wishes to work in the Japanese film industry, specifically in the production, translation, and exportation of anime to the United States. To Savanna, the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship is a chance to follow her passions. While at Kansai Gaidai, Savanna is excited to explore the greater Kansai region, develop her Japanese language skills, and make lasting personal connections. She looks forward to visiting temples, drinking tea, and eating local street food.

Home Institution: California State University Monterey Bay
Host Institution: Ritsumeikan University

Hannah is a senior at California State University Monterey Bay with a major in Japanese Language & Culture and a minor in Visual & Public Art and will be attending Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto for the Fall 2022 – Spring 2023 semesters. She has wanted to study abroad and live in Japan since she was twelve years old, and this would not have been possible without the support of Mr. Watanabe through this scholarship. Hannah is eternally grateful for the opportunity to continue to learn about Japanese history, culture, and language while also exploring daily life in Kyoto. Upon returning from Japan, she hopes to complete and earn her degree and apply for the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET), so she may continue to learn more about Japan as well as give back by teaching English. She is excited to explore the world, improve upon her language proficiency skills, try new food, and make new lifelong friends. She is most looking forward to visiting many shrines, going to the hot springs, and exploring Gion in Kyoto. The Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship has made it possible for Hannah to achieve the highest of her dreams and goals.

Jazmine GUZMAN
Home Institution: Drake University
Host Institution: Kwansei Gakuin University

Jazmine is a senior at Drake University, where she majors in International Relations and minors in Political Science. She currently works as a research assistant at Drake, assisting with the editing process for two special issues pertaining to Asian memory studies and Japanese political history. Through her research assistant experience, Jazmine gained a growing interest in Japanese history, politics, and culture. She also has a huge interest in foreign languages, as she speaks three languages and is currently self-learning Japanese. It is these two interests, coupled with her desire to travel, that inspired her to attend Kwansei Gakuin University. Aside from furthering her Japanese, she is excited to learn and experience the everyday life and politics of Japan. She is excited to familiarize herself with her school’s campus, her residential area, and the cities of Osaka and Kobe. Jazmine is also looking forward to indulging in traditional foods, seeing Japanese natural landscapes, visiting different cities, and expanding her network internationally.

Kolby HART
Home Institution: Edmonds College
Host Institution: Temple University Japan

Kolby’s interest in studying abroad comes from his Junior year of high school, which was his fifth year studying Japanese. Kolby had always been interested in the language, but saw it more as a fun class to learn in. During that year an exchange student named K and her father visited his school (we’ll call her K). K opened his eyes to a world that he never knew, and sparked a desire to see it. K’s father was a professor at a Japanese university, and talked to him and his classmates about studying in Japan. It captivated Kolby more than any other university pitch, but he did not have the grades for it at the time. After a gap from school, and a successful two years at community college Kolby finally realized his dream of going to Japan to study. What he is looking forward to most is seeing that world that K told him about, and even more so, just living a different life than he has ever lived. Moving gives him the opportunity to use Japanese in a way he has never been able to, and opens a wealth of stories, jobs, and connections.

Home Institution: California State University Channel Islands
Host Institution: Waseda University

Paulina is a student at CSU Channel Islands majoring in Health Science and working on a certificate in Spanish Healthcare Translation. In the fall, she will be attending Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan. After completing her undergraduate degree, she hopes to attend graduate school to become a registered dietitian. Through her study abroad experience, Paulina hopes to further develop her intercultural understanding and Japanese language skills that will allow her to more effectively serve diverse communities. As a kid, she loved video games and anime. Her hobbies morphed into a passion for learning about Japanese culture. In college, she took her first Japanese language classes. She grew more interested in coming to Japan and learning about Japanese culture, language, and cuisine when she learned from her health science classes that some Japanese people have lived to be one hundred years old because of their diets. This sparked her desire to learn how diets and culture intersect and how cuisines and eating habits can impact someone’s quality of life, health, and even age. She is sincerely grateful to Mr. Toshizo (Tom) Watanabe and the U.S.-Japan Council for making her study abroad dreams a reality, especially as a first-generation college student.

Home Institution: University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
Host Institution: Osaka Gakuin University

Akane is a biology student entering her third year at the University of Michigan. She is passionate about collaborative science; as a Japanese American researcher, she hopes to help bridge academia in Japan and the U.S. She has studied Japanese throughout college, and now aims for professional fluency through full immersion. With the support of the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship, Akane will study abroad in Osaka, Japan in the spring of 2023. Concentrating on her language studies, Akane hopes to make the most of her time in Osaka by studying, working, and socializing entirely in Japanese. Academic proficiency in languages other than English is crucial to scientific exchange across cultural borders, and Akane is working to gain confidence in her professional Japanese. Outside of her studies, Akane is an avid hiker and already has a running list of mountains and shrines she would like to visit. She is also looking forward to joining university clubs (especially baking)  and making friends in a new language. Living and learning in Japan is made possible by the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship, and Akane would like to thank Mr. Watanabe and the U.S.-Japan Council for the opportunity.

Jonathan JACKSON ^
Home Institution: Kobe University

Although raised in rural Georgia, John found a strong interest in international relations early in life and expanded on that first during his studies at the University of North Georgia and later at Sogang University in Seoul. Now he is currently working on finalizing his academic journey at Kobe University. Receiving the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship means the opportunity to maximize his potential in his academics without the financial struggles faced in the past. In addition, the honor of being a recipient of such a prestigious scholarship drives him to excel as a student representing this scholarship and what it stands for. With an academic concentration in East Asia, studying in Japan is the cornerstone of completing his academic work leading into a professional career. Japan serves as the forefront of democratic leadership in East Asia and one of the United State’s greatest partners. Finalizing his studies in Japan will allow him to learn more than what is achieved from books alone. It is with this firsthand experience of Japanese society and life that will prove valuable in his planned future of working in the US State Department serving to better America’s relations in the region.

Home Institution: DePaul University
Host Institution: Kansai Gaidai University

Brad is majoring in International Studies and Japanese Studies at DePaul University. His areas of focus are post-colonial political economy and East Asian geopolitics. He enjoys learning languages, listening to international music, and trying new foods. He hopes to gain a better understanding of global culture and politics by traveling and making friends with people from around the world. Brad has had an interest in Japan since childhood and has taken many Japanese language and history classes throughout college. He is on the Executive Board for DePaul University’s Japanese Culture Club as the Language Coordinator. Through this leadership role, Brad has been able to share his interest in Japan and the Japanese Language with other club members by hosting weekly Language Exchange meetings. Brad looks forward to gaining a better understanding of Japanese culture and society and improving his Japanese language skills through a homestay program, participating in school club activities, and making friends with local Japanese students during his time abroad.

Home Institution: Temple University
Host Institution: Temple University Japan Campus

As a first generation Japanese American, receiving this scholarship means the world to Tamane. Tamane was born in Japan and immigrated to the United States when she was a child, but she still chose to pursue a field related to her mother country. With the support of the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship, she will be able to concentrate on informing herself and experiencing the nuances of Japanese contemporary art and Japanese art history firsthand, in order to decolonize the world of art history, which often only focuses on the Western diaspora within the framework and subject matter of the field. She  missed the people, the food, and the culture of Japan and she is grateful that this scholarship has given her the chance to experience it again.

Gabriella TAMAYO
Home Institution: Siena College
Host Institution: Kansai Gaidai University

Gabby is a senior Physics major with minors in Astrophysics, Mathematics, and Data Science at Siena College in Loudonville, NY. She will be attending classes at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan to fully embrace Japanese culture and customs. She believes that it is important to learn how to deal with culture shock because a career in physics research can lead to international partnerships. Given that this will be her first time abroad, it will be a great chance to learn how to adapt to cultural differences while serving as a cultural ambassador. Japanese entertainment, cuisine, and technology have always sparked interest in Gabby, so she is excited to meet locals and to get an authentic Japanese cultural experience. Being awarded the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship has relieved a great financial burden and has allowed Gabby to pursue this amazing opportunity to a place she has only dreamed of visiting.

Home Institution: International Christian University

For six years, Aeris tried to study abroad in Japan many times. After years of language study, internships, attending Japanese student exchanges, and various cultural events in America, they have finally made the trip halfway across the world to pursue their undergraduate studies at International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan. As a first-year, they’re looking forward to learning more about Japanese culture and making friends all while striving to achieve fluency in their Japanese language abilities. One thing their university offers is a well-rounded bilingual education, which Aeris believes is vital for a successful future career in Translation and Interpretation. Driven by their love for Japanese alternative fashion and music, they’ve passionately studied Japanese through many different resources due to the lack of a program in their own school, and they can now further their language studies to help them achieve their dreams. Living in Japan has finally become a reality for Aeris after six years of hard work, and they are extremely grateful for the opportunity. Thanks to the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship, they are able to give their superwoman of a mom the peace of mind she needs while she continues to work and care for family back home.

Kobby TRAN
Home Institution: California State University Channel Islands
Host Institution: Waseda University

Born and raised in a Vietnamese household in Oxnard, California, Kobby has always had a massive interest in Asian culture and Buddhist traditions. It was in middle school where his interest in Japanese culture sparked through various forms of media. As a result, he decided to double major in Asian American Studies and Japanese Language at California State University Northridge. Kobby’s desire to learn more about Japanese culture ignited when he was given the opportunity to study abroad at the prestigious Waseda University, but he was reluctant because of funding. Being awarded the Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship means that he will have the opportunity to explore the country and everything it has to offer him, whether it is an opportunity to meet new people or lifelong lessons that he will look back on. Kobby is most looking forward to learning firsthand the rich history and culture of such a beautiful country and finding interconnections to his own life. Along with  Kobby’s experience to learn more about Japanese culture, he is very intrigued to learn more about Buddhism and Shintoism through another perspective.