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Bringing Japan to UC San Diego

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Students from GPS and Yokohama National University pose with flag

GPS student group plays host to Yokohama National University students as part of the Kakehashi exchange program

As part of an ongoing immersive exchange program, the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS) hosted nine students from Yokohama National University in Japan in mid-November.

The Kakehashi program, which takes its name from the Japanese word for “bridge-building,” was paid for by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and coordinated by the Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE). Professor Ulrike Schaede, who specializes in Japanese business, played a large role in connecting the program to GPS.

As part of the exchange, participating Japanese students had the chance to mingle with GPS students that are members of Asameshikai, the school’s Japanese student group. 

“Meeting the Japanese students was such an incredibly rewarding experience,” said Junna Saito, Asameshikai president and Master of International Affairs (MIA) ’24 candidate.

The Japanese students began their tour of California in Los Angeles, where they immersed themselves in the local culture and history, visiting landmarks like the Japanese consulate, the Santa Monica Pier and various museums. Upon their arrival in San Diego, their itinerary included visits to Old Town and Downtown, as well as the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park. 

Saito explained that once the students arrived at UC San Diego, Asameshikai board members put together a schedule of activities that blended their academic interests with a taste of life on campus. 

“We included classes like Korean Security, Business Management in Japan, and San Diego Ecosystems, each chosen for their relevance and potential to spark interest based on the Japanese students’ studies,” Saito said. “Beyond the classroom, we organized lunches, arranged a scenic walk to the gliderport, a campus tour that included a visit to the Price Center and the campus bookstore, and the Salk Institute.”

The exchange culminated in the Japanese students presenting their current research. 

“As Asameshikai members, we supported them by attending and actively engaging in these presentations, which not only allowed us to learn from their work but also demonstrated our commitment to fostering a reciprocal educational environment,” Saito explained. 

Saito said programs like Kakehashi are an invaluable resource for GPS students — one that offers far-reaching benefits beyond conventional academic learning. Such exchanges cultivate cultural sensitivity and awareness, offer significant networking opportunities, and expose students to different international perspectives and problem-solving approaches, enriching their overall educational experience. 

“It also provides an opportunity for students at GPS with a focus on Japan to practice their Japanese language skills in a real-world context,” Saito said. “These skills are invaluable in our increasingly interconnected world.”

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Virginia S. Watson is the Assistant Director of Communications for the School of Global Policy and Strategy. She has spent her entire career in editing, writing and design, both in industry and higher education. She holds a master's in technical and professional communication from Auburn University and a B.S. in journalism from Troy University.
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