From December 6 to 8, seventeen American Watanabe Scholars currently studying in Japan convened in Tokyo for a Leadership Weekend. The weekend kicked off with an opportunity for the Watanabe Scholars to network with USJC staff and TOMODACHI alumni over dinner.
The scholars had a chance to hear from a panel of young professionals representing various fields. Speakers included Kelly Nuibe (ELP ‘19), Jennifer Butler (TOMODACHI Mitsui & Co. Leadership Program ‘14), Emi Terada (TOMODACHI Mitsui & Co. Leadership Program ‘19) and Robin Lewis (TOMODACHI NGO Leadership Program supported by J.P. Morgan ‘15). Speakers shared their stories and offered advice about entering the workforce, financial planning, job transitions and how timing plays a big role in making important life decisions. During lunch, Council Leader Roy Tomizawa spoke about his life and career in Japan from a Japanese American perspective, including stories about the challenges he has faced in different jobs, finding new opportunities and the joy of taking risks.
Students participated in a speed-dating style networking activity with professionals in global careers in order to learn more about their experiences working abroad. The participating professionals included Council Leader Yuhka Mera, Hitomi Shibata (TOMODACHI Mitsui & Co. Leadership Program ‘19), Michael Turner from the U.S. Embassy Tokyo and Garvey McIntosh from NASA. The students then met with Representative Director of the USJC (Japan) Board of Directors Royanne Doi to hear her personal story of settling in Japan and ways in which she learned to thrive in a male-dominated field in a society still working toward workforce gender equality. The students also had lively conversations over dinner with Mr. and Ms. Watanabe, Japanese alumni of the scholarship and Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki, who served on the selection committee.
Two Japanese alumni of the scholarship also joined the group to discuss the impact of their study abroad experiences. One of the alumni shared that it helped her to better understand herself and how much she valued being connected to the USJC community.
Reflecting on the weekend, one scholar commented, “All of the people I’ve met this weekend are sincere and truly invested in us and want to help us if they can. It’s really humbling to see that and unbelievable that they care.”
The Leadership Weekend concluded with a resonating thought shared by one of the scholars. “Unlike other scholarships, I truly feel that once a Watanabe Scholar, always a Watanabe Scholar.”
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