By Anne Nagaoka Shaw
As the lucky recipient of the NAJC Suzuka Scholarship in 2016, my experience during the exchange in Japan was very beneficial, not only helping me improve my Japanese language skills, but also in offering me a chance to introduce aspects of Canada culture to both Japanese and international students at the university. It also allowed me to connect with my Japanese roots by experiencing aspects of Japanese life and culture.
One of the most memorable experiences was a volunteer trip to Fukushima. Visiting the people and places other devastated by the 2011 tsunami in Japan. My university classmates and I joined a group of Japanese middle school students and some older volunteer members from the community to work together to clean out a house for an elderly woman who had lost her husband in the Tsunami and was only now finally able to move out of the temporary housing unit. It was an emotional and moving moment to give something back to the people of Japan and let them know that someone from Canada came to help and support them. Meeting the victims of the tsunami and working together with the other volunteers was a very unique experience, and one that I will never forget.
This scholarship is absolutely a two-way experience giving young Japanese Canadians a chance to connect with Japan and become Canadian ambassadors in Japan. I made lifelong friends, many of who were international students like me, now connected through our mutual interest in Japan and studying the Japanese language.
Immersion in the language and culture provided tangible improvement to my reading, writing and speaking. However, the intangibles of friendships, personally representing Canada by bridging the two cultures and learning about my heritage and myself are truly the strongest benefits to the program. Personally, attending Suzuka University was a life-changing occurrence. I will be graduating from UBC next fall and plan to return to Japan for a year to build on my friendships and my language skills.
The Suzuka scholarship is a unique opportunity for true, open exchange. It’s my hope that this scholarship can continue to offer young Japanese Canadians a similar life affirming chance to connect with their Japanese roots and introduce Canadian values and culture to Japan.
The NAJC Suzuka Scholarship is accepting candidates for September 2017. Deadline is June 1st, 2017. Go to the Suzuka University Scholarship page for information and the application form.