The KAKEHASHI Project: Elliott Students Build Bridges with Japan


To better understand Japan’s culture, business, and trade relationships with the U.S., a group of nine Elliott School graduate students selected through a competitive process are headed to Japan to participate in a people-to-people exchange program over spring break from March 10-17. The seven-day trip is fully funded by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During their trip, the students will attend lectures and discussions with government agencies, employees, business leaders, and think tank researchers about Japan’s trade policies and investment ties with the United States.

Another group of undergraduates representing students from across GW are going on a similar exchange also through the auspices of the Kakehashi Project. The undergraduate experience will focus on a cultural and historical introduction to Japan and will include a homestay with a local family.

Emily Yoder, one of the M.A. participants, has never been to Japan nor does she speak the language. A fan of Japanese pop culture, Yoder said one of her motivations for applying to the program was to “finally see what the culture of Japan is really like, as opposed to how it is conveyed to us in the U.S.”

Christine Kobza mentioned another common theme among the students as to what they are most looking forward to, “the food – especially sushi.”

While not overly anxious about his upcoming travel, Aram Mohammadi said that this would be his first experience not being able to read the words written on signs and street corners. The others nodded in agreement.

For both Zoe Yousik and Joseph Conrad, this will be their second trip to Japan.

When asked what surprised them most about their first experience in the country, Yousik responded, “it was more beautiful than I had imagined, more natural. The Japanese aesthetic of beauty is so different to ours.”

Conrad agreed, adding “the Hanami (cherry-blossom viewing) experience in Tokyo is more quiet and peaceful than you could imagine for being such a massive city.” Both students are eager to return and gain more insights into Japan’s famously distinctive society. For all of them, spring break can’t come soon enough.

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