2019-20 Watanabe Scholars (American Students)

In the 2019-20 program year, the scholarship supports American and Japanese students who are undertaking international study in either the United States or Japan.

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

Please join us in welcoming the American cohort:

Home Institution: University of California, San Diego
Host Institution: International Christian University


Karla currently studies at the University of California San Diego with a major in Aerospace Engineering and will be attending International Christian University (ICU) in Tokyo for the fall 2019 term. After completing her undergraduate studies, she plans to get a master’s in Aerospace Engineering with a focus on propulsion systems to later work at an international aerospace company with connections to Japan. She believes in the importance of travel as she will one day work on the technology that makes not only intercontinental but also interplanetary travel possible. Being raised by a single mother, attending university and studying abroad seemed impossible without the aid of others. Karla is extremely grateful to Mr. Watanabe for giving her the ability to learn about Japanese history and language at ICU while also experiencing Japanese culture on the streets of Tokyo. With her love of space exploration and her interest in Japanese culture that started in the third grade, she plans to make the most of her time in Japan. She looks forward to joining clubs, making life-long friends, and not only learning about Japanese culture but sharing her own story as an American growing up with Mexican family and culture.

Turnerlyne BLACKHAIR
Home Institution: Fort Lewis College
Host Institution: Waseda University


Turnerlyne is a student at Fort Lewis College currently studying Business Administration with a concentration in International Business. She was born and raised in the small community of Tuba City, Arizona. Turner was inspired to explore the world from a young. She made it apparent she wanted to travel and learn about different languages and cultures. Her passion lies in communication and networking. She wants to live abroad in Japan and South Korea after finishing her degree and experience cultures that are different from her own. She is eager to continue improving her ability to speak the Japanese language by practicing with native speakers. As a member of the Navajo Nation, Turner hopes to inspire future generations of her community to travel and embrace other cultures. Upon returning from Japan, she hopes to share her knowledge and experiences with fellow classmates at Fort Lewis College and her tribe. The Watanabe Scholarship has given her a chance to not only follow her passion but a chance to gain valuable experiences in her field of International Business. She never thought she would get this once-in-a-lifetime chance being a first-generation college student from such a small community.

Juliet BOST
Home Institution: University of California, Davis
Host Institution: Doshisha University


Juliet is a sophomore at the University of California, Davis double majoring in Political Science-Public Service and Economics. At Doshisha University, Juliet will study Japanese language, post-World War II politics, and the financial systems of Japan. Ever since traveling to Kyoto with her Buddhist temple,Juliet has been curious about the influence of Japan’s religion and culture in shaping its society today. She has remained fascinated by the role of culture in shaping political environments. Blended with her interest in economic policy, she hopes to further understand how Japan’s economy influences its social policies, and ultimately how the country’s domestic policies affect its role in global relations. Outside of academics, Juliet is excited to explore the beautiful city of Kyoto, meet new friends from around the world, and make full use of Japan’s vast network of public transportation. Juliet is thankful to have the opportunity to study abroad, which would not be possible without the support of the Watanabe Scholarship.

Home Institution: Northern Arizona University
Host Institution: Kansai University


Andrea is a senior at Northern Arizona University who is double majoring in Computer Science and Comparative Cultural Studies, as well as pursuing minors in Japanese and Mathematics. Growing up with a Korean grandmother, she adopted an interest in East Asia from a young age. In high school, Andrea started taking Japanese classes at a community college, where she fell in love with Japan’s vibrant language and storied culture. She’s excited to go to Japan to talk with people and improve her proficiency in the language – aiming to one day achieve a near-native command – as well as to learn more about the country through firsthand experience. In the future, Andrea hopes to work in computational linguistics and machine translation, helping to further some of the language technologies currently available. To that end, she hopes that her time in Japan will allow her to study more about linguistics and Japan’s approach to the field of technology.

Home Institution: University of Texas at Austin
Host Institution: Kyoto University


Ryan is a student from the University of Texas at Austin. He is majoring in Japanese language and culture, with minors in literature and computer science. He will be attending Kyoto University. His interest in Japanese is fairly recent, as he did not have a strong interest in it until the end of his freshman year of college. Ryan’s goal is to become a translator. At Kyoto University he will gain the knowledge and practical experience necessary to pursue that goal. Not only will he speak Japanese regularly, but he will also be immersed in the culture learning what is necessary to understand common topics of conversation that are unique to Japan. In addition to first hand exposure to Japanese culture via day-to-day life, he plans to study Japanese literature and culture in a classroom setting. Thanks to the Watanabe Scholarship, Ryan will be able to afford the costs of studying abroad in Japan.

Hien DO
Home Institution: University of Oregon
Host Institution: Senshu University


Hien is a third-year University of Oregon student in the Lundquist College of Business pursuing a degree in Operation & Business Analytics. He grew up in Vietnam and migrated to the States with his family when he was 17 years old. Despite the language barrier, Hien always looks for opportunities to grow and learn. He is currently working in a consulting group where he works in a 6-person team to provide real clients with research, analysis, insights, strategies and business plans. In the future, he would like to manage a supply chain for a company with an international operation so that he can learn more about different cultures and broaden his perspectives. Thanks to the Watanabe Scholarship, he will now have the opportunity to learn and study at Senshu University. There he will gain proficiency in Japanese and experience a unique culture to further his professional career. He also looks forward to trying out all the delicious food in Japan.

Home Institution: University of Memphis
Host Institution: Nagoya Gakuin University


Lyssa is a junior at the University of Memphis and wants to continue to graduate school for her teaching license. Her desire to be a Japanese language teacher has brought her to the Watanabe Scholarship in search of resources to fulfill her dreams. She loves learning new things every day and is dedicated to the education of others as well as herself. At the University of Memphis, Lyssa is a World Language Student Ambassador representing the Japanese Department, traveling to high schools in the area and encouraging students to pursue a future in languages. She also works in the Language and Technology Lab. In addition, Lyssa interns for the University of Memphis’ ALSAC/St. Jude University Call Center, handling donor relations and continuing the fight to cure childhood cancer. Her ambitions can be seen in her resume but also in her productivity in the areas that make her the happiest; education, children and young adults. She is looking forward to refining her Japanese speaking abilities as well as gaining first-hand cultural experience in Japan to bring back to her future students. She aspires to show her students the opportunities that lie within being bilingual.

Home Institution: Gustavus Adolphus College
Host Institution: Kansai Gaidai University


Anna is a senior Religion and Japanese Studies major from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota. From a young age, she has loved sticking her head in books and asking big, existential questions. Anna enjoys studying Buddhism and Japanese philosophy, especially in the context of our modernizing world. When she is not studying, Anna likes running, yoga, and baking. Receiving the Watanabe Scholarship allows her to pursue further study in Japanese religion and language at Kansai Gaidai University. She cannot wait to experience the complexities of Japanese spirituality firsthand, particularly real-world expressions of Zen, Shinto, and Confucianism. As a leader of interfaith organizations at her home institution, Anna also hopes to enrich her understanding of diverse religious ideologies and how they interact in Japan. Traveling to Japan will also provide an opportunity for Anna to deepen her practice as a Mahayana Buddhist. She is very excited to see the Japanese temples outside of the textbook and grow as a spiritual thinker.

Home Institution: Nebraska Wesleyan University
Host Institution: Kwansei Gakuin University


Nathan is a senior majoring in International Studies at Nebraska Wesleyan University. He grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska, and spent most of his life studying cultures, histories, and fine arts of various nations of the world. His future goal is to become a teacher, in order to help others learn about various facets and to better communicate with others of different cultures. Nathan is looking forward to gaining a first-hand experience of a different culture. The thing he is most looking forward to is attending the traditional theatre, festivals, and musical performances, in addition to other fine art venues. He also is looking forward to speaking with Japanese people to learn about their daily life. To Nathan, receiving the Watanabe Scholarship is to be presented with an opportunity to truly expand his understanding of other cultures first-hand. He believes there is no greater and precious opportunity as being able to experience cultures personally.

Kris Ashley GALLARDO
Home Institution: San Diego State University
Host Institution: Rikkyo University of Tokyo


Kris Ashley is an undergraduate student at San Diego State University, majoring in mechanical engineering and Japanese. She will be attending Rikkyo University in Tokyo in Spring 2020. Her interest in the Japanese culture began by watching anime. Her interest in various aspects of the culture, especially the language only grew as she got older. What she looks forward to the most is immersing herself in Japanese culture, experiencing a life that is different than what she knows in America, and fulfilling her lifelong dream of studying abroad in Japan. It is her dream to one day do project collaborations with Japanese companies as an American representative working on robotics that specialize in medical procedures to help save people’s lives. Being awarded the Watanabe Scholarship has helped ease the financial strain that comes with studying abroad, while also allowing her to pursue her passion in the field of engineering abroad.

Home Institution: University of California, Los Angeles
Host Institution: Waseda University


Malik is a student at the University of California-Los Angeles where he majors in Japanese and International Development Studies. With an interest in Japanese language and culture due to his mother being Japanese, he hopes to broaden his knowledge on these subjects at Waseda University where he will be attending for the academic year. At Waseda, Malik is looking forward to being able to enhance his global leadership ability which he hopes will be a vital resource when he is one day serving for the government of Japan. Growing up with financial hardship, Malik is interested in helping those experiencing financial distress of their own in both the United States and Japan as well as in other countries. Malik believes that due to his life experience, accompanied by the tools he will acquire at Waseda University he will be able to serve as a bridge between Japan and other countries in hopes to solve and mediate various problems involving international relations. Malik is extremely grateful to Mr. Toshizo Watanabe and everybody involved for giving him the opportunity of a lifetime and helping his dream come true, as without this scholarship this would not have been possible.

Margaret KRIEBEL
Home Institution: Ohio Wesleyan University
Host Institution: Waseda University


Margaret is in her junior year double majoring in Comparative Literature and East Asian Studies. She started studying Japanese her first year of college, with few ideas of how it could be used effectively in her future. During her spring semester, she took a class on East Asian literature and fell in love with the works of Tanizaki Jun’ichirô. As she read more literature and learned more Japanese language, she formed an increasing interest in the translation of cultural values through the written medium. She hopes to spend the year in Japan obtaining a better understanding of the Japanese literature she studied in America and form a new perspective on English literature she will study while in Japan. Margaret plans to apply this knowledge and experience in a future master’s program and career in which she can continue to focus on academic study and research. As the second child her parents are putting through college, funds are increasingly scarce. The Watanabe scholarship ensures a financially secure environment where Margaret can focus on her studies and not worry about the financial burden of international study.

Jacalyn LI
Home Institution: University of California, San Diego
Host Institution: International Christian University


Jacalyn is a junior at the University of California, San Diego majoring in Computer Engineering with a minor in Japanese Studies. Studying Japanese for four years in high school, she has met many exchange students from Japan, and those experiences inspired her decision to study abroad in Japan during her college career. Jacalyn will spend a semester studying at the International Christian University in Tokyo, and she is very grateful for the relief of financial burden and the opportunities provided by the Watanabe Scholarship. She is especially looking forward to focusing on her studies with ICU’s Japanese Language Program. She is also excited to experience Japanese culture, and make connections with her peers, teachers, and the local community. After the study abroad program, her goal is to reach native-level fluency and pass the N1 level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), which is the highest level available. Jacalyn eventually hopes to work in Japan as a software engineer.

Home Institution: University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Host Institution: Nanzan University


Through a series of chance occurrences, De’Jia developed an admiration for Japan. Experiencing Japan for five days in eighth grade made twelve-year-old De’Jia realize the world was filled with unknowns, and she sought knowledge. Born in Detroit, raised in Maryland, De’Jia set her eyes on studying Japanese in high school. As her mom prepared for their move to Maryland, De’Jia asked to attend a high school offering Japanese. She participated in quiz bowls sponsored by the Japan-America Society of Washington, DC that motivated her to continue studying Japanese. De’Jia is a senior at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, UMBC where she is pursuing a B.A. in Global Studies with a concentration in International Affairs and a Political Science minor. De’Jia is grateful for the Watanabe scholarship because she believes every hard-working student should have the opportunity to embark on an adventure free of financial stress. De’Jia strives to encourage her younger cousins to reach for their dreams. She will attend Nanzan University and participate in the intensive Center for Japanese Studies program in Fall 2019. As someone who wants to pursue a career promoting cultural exchange,studying in Japan will aid De’Jia’s ability to connect and empathize with people different from herself.

Home Institution:Colorado College
Host Institution: Waseda University


Madison is a rising junior at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Her love of books from a young age led her to pursue a degree in Comparative Literature, where she can explore writings from across genres, periods, and most importantly, across languages. Double minoring in Chinese and Japanese languages, Madison hopes to be able to study and translate Chinese and Japanese literature. This fall Madison will be studying at Waseda University in Tokyo, where she will be taking classes in Japanese language and literature. While studying at Waseda, she is excited to meet new people and make lasting connections with others, and is excited to explore and learn about the historic and natural areas of Japan. Madison believes that through literature, one can learn a great deal about a country’s culture, but the best way to understand it fully is to experience it in person. She is incredibly grateful to the Watanabe Scholarship for giving her this opportunity to fully immerse herself in Japanese culture, and gain a deeper understanding of the language and the culture through this experience.

Home Institution: University of California, Santa Barbara
Host Institution: Meiji Gakuin University


Born and raised in Torrance, California, Jenna is beginning her 4th year at UCSB where she is double majoring in Global Studies and Economics with a minor in Labor Studies. Jenna has always wanted to help people, and developed a special interest in labor rights and social justice. While at Meiji Gakuin University Jenna hopes to enhance her knowledge of international labor relations and economic development. Jenna believes that studying abroad in Japan will help her become a better leader and ally, because it is important for her to be in spaces where she must learn to take a step back and listen to those who have different lived experiences than she. Jenna wants to fight for workers’ rights in the NGO/non-profit sector and work to reduce poverty in vulnerable communities. It is important to her that she has knowledge of the places and cultures she is interacting with and the skills to work with people of different backgrounds. Jenna considers it a blessing that she will be able to engage in such diverse experiences in Japan, and learn how to navigate new environments. She is immensely grateful for receiving this scholarship, which helps erase her financial burden while studying abroad.

Home Institution: Seattle Central College
Host Institution: Temple University, Japan Campus


Ever since she was a child, Naomi recalls her fascination with Japanese culture and language. With every Studio Ghibli movie night with her sister, and Japanese language book checked out from her library, her vision of one day experiencing Japan in-person flourished. Naomi was able to begin formally studying Japanese when she entered community college. Her desire to study internationally, master the Japanese language, and explore the country she had only dreamed about, made the opportunity to study in Japan irresistible. Receiving the Watanabe Scholarship means that Naomi is able to realize the vibrant, world-changing personal and academic life she has always yearned for. As a cross-cultural psychology student, the chance to study internationally is also integral to her education. Naomi is most looking forward to exploring the wonder and beauty of Japan, and learning what it means to rediscover oneself in a different country and culture. This experience will develop the personal and academic qualities that underlie the transformative impact she hopes to make in her life and career as a psychologist.

Japan Institution:Tokyo International University


After receiving his associate’s degree from American River College in California, David decided that it was time to look for new challenges and horizons. Thanks to the language classes his high school offered, he had developed an interest in Japan’s culture and language. He decided to leave the U.S. and attend the Tokyo International University as a degree-seeking international student. There he could pursue his field of interest while further improving his Japanese language skills. While in Japan, David hopes to get involved in the country’s social business and nonprofit industries, especially the ones that deal with environmental, educational, and social issues across international borders since they strongly relate to his field of study. This will be David’s second year receiving support from the Watanabe Scholarship. Receiving the scholarship means he is able to pursue his academics fully without having to stress about his ability to afford rent or tuition.

Home Institution: Oklahoma State University
Host Institution: Shinshu University


Ashton is a junior at Oklahoma State University, where he is majoring in International Business and Marketing. He has had a passion for global learning since he was a child, which also led to his abroad experience in Japan early in 2019. Ashton feels that the Watanabe Scholarship has presented him not only an opportunity to study without financial worry, but also illustrate there are those who truly value the character that develops through adversity. He looks forward to gaining language proficiency, as well as exploring the culture and geography of Japan every chance he gets. He also will be assisting his colleges study abroad spring break trip to Japan by being a peer advisor. After graduating, Ashton hopes to pass the Foreign Service Officer exam and become a diplomat for the United States with a specialty in Asian economic and political relations. He is immensely humbled to not only be considered for but awarded the scholarship, and plans to pay the goodwill forward every time the opportunity is available.

Home Institution: University of Oregon
Host Institution: Waseda University


Myquel is a prior-service United States Marine who found a passion for learning through studying the Japanese language and culture. Being a hobbyist of self-taught skills, Myquel knew studying Japanese would become more than an average hobby. He began receiving formal language classes at the University of Oregon and was able to secure the previously thought financially unattainable dream of studying abroad with the intent of gaining fluency. Receiving the Watanabe Scholarship was the turning point in the realization of that dream becoming reality. Myquel looks forward to utilizing the opportunity to study abroad for full cultural and linguistic immersion, in order to accelerate his language learning. With the goal of fluency in mind, he intends to capitalize on the study abroad experience through these means. With consistent exposure throughout life to the Japanese culture, Myquel now hopes to formulate a lasting relationship with the Japanese society that will carry into a positive cultural exchange and working relationship.