Student Voice: [JDP] Bridging cultures in the US and Japan

Iana from the United States of America

- American University-Ritsumeikan University Joint Degree Program (JDP), College of International Relations, 4th year, AU Home Student 

- Graduated High School: Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School   

Scholarships received:

The Tanaka and Green Academic Scholarship

Why did you choose the American University-Ritsumeikan University Joint Degree Program?

At the start of ninth grade, my Japanese friend jokingly suggested I sit in on one of her Japanese classes. Next thing you know, I was there Saturday mornings learning the workings of the class with Yaginuma Sensei. Since then, my passion for Japanese language and culture has allowed me to explore new perspectives and characteristics of Japan and how they compare to the USA and my own Hispanic origin.

Initially, I watched documentaries and vlogs about Japan on YouTube. As I learned more, the distinctions between Japanese society and the environment I grew up in fascinated me and fed my curiosity.

The American University-Ritsumeikan University Joint Degree Program was the perfect fit for me because of its unique two-year study abroad program which would ultimately allow me to gain new experiences and knowledge of a country I was passionate about.

Learn more about JDP

About your studies...

Could you explain your journey from the 1st semester to the 8th semester?

During my first two years at American University, I spent time taking introductory courses in the School of International Service (SIS) as well as core academic courses first year students are required to take.

At American University, there is a wide range of classes available to the Sakura Scholars. I was able to take Introduction to the Arab World and explore a different region aside from East Asia which I found riveting. 

As I previously mentioned, we are required to take core classes, and during this time I found myself growing as a person by gaining public speaking skills and working on projects I had never imagined I would be a part of. For example, I took a printmaking art course where I struggled but had the best time learning traditional printmaking techniques to create art. I also had the opportunity to take Japanese language classes at an intermediate level with Professor Kenneth Knight at AU. 

During my time at Ritsumeikan, I have taken Japanese culture and society courses that have allowed me to expand my academic horizon about Japan and the United States. Some examples include Japanese Society, Introduction to the United Nations, Japanese Culture, Peace and Conflict Studies, and many more. Kyoto and the Japanese Arts in particular was a very distinctive class that revolved around the important history of Kyoto and the cultural aspects that make Kyoto unique from other prefectures.  

Find out more about the 4-year plan of JDP

Could you tell us about your senior capstone project?

During my first semester at RU I took a Security Studies course with Professor Fukumi and the content was something I had always been interested in pursuing in the future. She was also such a welcoming Professor and that was a huge part of why I enjoyed the class. I found the lectures and assignments incredibly insightful, which made me more curious about some of the topics that might be covered in her Advanced Seminar course. From then on, I applied to her Advanced Seminar in Security Studies and became a part of her class.

My senior capstone project is on international terrorism, specifically in the US. I will be focusing on the terrorist attacks that occurred on 9/11 and the aftermath to better understand the new perspectives on how terrorism was viewed after the attacks. In terms of research, I am using the works of realist theorists to analyze my topic, and I am currently reading Al Qaeda in Europe, by Lorenzo G. Vidin, as one of my sources.

What are your primary and secondary Thematic Area focuses, among "Global and Comparative Governance", "Identity, Race, Gender, and Culture", and "Peace, Global Security, and Conflict Resolution"? 

My primary Thematic Area is Peace, Global Security, and Conflict Resolution. In this focus, I have taken Introduction to Peace Studies and Peace & Conflict Studies. These courses allowed me to form an opinion on the choices as well as challenges involved in preventing, resolving, and handling conflict. We took a look at recent issues and applied the material learned in class to how we could potentially move forward with a solution to violence and insecurity in the world.

My secondary Thematic Area is Identity, Race, Gender, and Culture. In this focus I have taken Topics in Identity as well as Identity, Race, Gender & Culture. These classes allowed me to learn a lot about my peers and different societies around the world. The world is changing everyday and people have many different identities that are shaped depending on their daily lives and society. This was interesting to learn more about because it showed me how cultural and social influences play a major role in individuals lives. 

Find out more about the mission of JDP

What is your regional focus? What classes have you taken?

My regional focus is East Asia and the majority of my classes have revolved around Japan, but also some have been about China and/or South Korea. However, I have also taken a Southeast Asian Studies course at Ritsumeikan.  

Đài quan sát Shibuya Sky ở Tokyo, Nhật Bản

Shibuya Sky observation deck in Tokyo, Japan

Tháp Tokyo

Tokyo Tower

Could you share about the study environment and unique features of American University and Ritsumeikan University?

Overall, both universities are in two of the most amazing cities in the world, and there's so much to do and explore in each city.

In Washington, DC there are so many cafés, libraries, and public places to do homework and study. On the AU campus, the best places to work would be the SIS building or the Katzen Arts Center.

On the other hand, I think the best place to study at RU would be the fifth floor in the Koushinkan building, the home building of the College of International Relations. However, I heard the library is also popular among students.

Find out more about the two universities

About Campus life...

Have you done any internships?

I was able to do an incredible internship back in Washington, DC. During my junior year, I interned at the Japan-America Society of Washington, DC as a Japan-in-a-Suitcase (JiS) Coordinator. At this internship, I scheduled volunteer visits to schools in the Washington, DC, Maryland, and the Virginia area. During these visits, I shared presentations about Japanese culture with schools and students. The purpose was to promote an understanding of Japan and Japanese culture to young children. I was able to show people why I am so passionate about Japan and my personal favorite aspects of Japanese culture. In addition to this, I also led networking lunches on Zoom with my colleagues. I also participated in the organization's annual US-Japan Capital Gala and Silent Auction where I was able to wear a kimono for the first time! Aside from interning here, this past year I also was announced as a recipient for the Japan-America Society Tanaka and Green Academic Scholarship.

Lần đầu tiên mặc kimono với tư cách là thực tập sinh tại US-Japan Capital Gala
 tại Hillwood Estate ở Washington, DC, năm 2021

First time wearing a kimono as an intern at the US-Japan Capital Gala at the Hillwood Estate in Washington, DC, 2021. Tell us your daily schedule.


I usually wake up really early and get ready to walk over to school for class. I go to 7-Eleven every single day and pick up a tuna onigiri and a new drink I haven't tried yet. After a long day of classes, I like to decompress by going to the gym or sitting outside with my friends if the weather is nice. 

Hình ảnh Tanuki trên đường đến trường

Tanuki picture on the way to school 

Universal Studios Nhật Bản ở Osaka

Universal Studios Japan, in Osaka

TeamLab Botanical Garden Osaka

TeamLab Botanical Garden Osaka

Công viên Nara

Nara park with deer

Find out more information from Campus locations


What is your career plan and goal/dream after graduating from JDP?

Studying abroad has been a life-changing experience for me. After completing JDP and graduating, I hope that with my knowledge I can bridge multiple cultures as a Hispanic-American in the future. I will be moving back to my hometown in Washington, DC, and my goal is to work at a particular US government organization. My dream is to be able to come back to Japan for work and travel around the world and explore different cultures. I grew up in a Spanish speaking household and took French language in high school, so I hope to use those backgrounds and interests as well. 

Find out more about the Career Center 

Message in English

My message to prospective students is to try new things and get out of your comfort zone. Also, this is the message I live by, but always go after anything you want, because the worst someone can tell you is "no"!

Source: https://en-ritsumei-ac-jp-5912994.hs-sites.com/blog/voice-iana

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