Over the years, I have been proud to support The United States – Japan Bridging Foundation (USJBF) and its Bridging Scholars program. The USJBF is a non-profit organization that seeks to increase understanding and cooperation between Japan and the United States through study abroad opportunities. I believe that study abroad opportunities create global citizens and enhance international understanding. Anyone who knows me understands the tremendous impact study abroad has made on my life.
USJBF is focused on three core activities that support its global education mission: recruiting U.S. undergraduate students interested in study abroad in Japan for a semester or academic year; funding scholarships for exchange students; and mentoring those students with opportunities to build their global leadership and workforce skills.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has deeply impacted these objectives. However, now more than ever, the organization’s efforts to create opportunities for listening, learning, and developing trusting friendships across cultural, racial, economic, and religious affiliations are critical. The Bridging Foundation board and staff remain committed to educational exchange. As Kylan, a 2019-2020 Bridging Scholar whose time in Japan was disrupted this spring stated, “I was disappointed my time in Japan had to be cut short…My experience in Japan was at times challenging, but I learned to be positive regardless, an attribute that I am sure will help me in these challenging times for the world. I am thankful for the Bridging Scholarship and look forward to seeing what the future holds.”
Because the health and safety of its scholars is critical, the organization has postponed its programs for the full academic year 2020-2021 and fall 2020 programs with the hope of safely resuming study abroad in Japan in spring 2021. In the meantime, USJBF is committed to emerging even stronger and provides an opportunity to expand the launch of virtual programming to engage its scholars and community in these challenging times, and supplement in-person exchange when Bridging Scholars return to Japan–designed to enhance students’ readiness for study abroad and provide leadership and workforce development opportunities.
We are in a difficult time with pandemic-related health and economic pain and disruption, but it’s reassuring to know that organizations like the USJBF are remaining steadfast to their objectives while attempting to emerge stronger. Despite these challenges, they are reinventing the ways they prepare America’s young people to assume leadership roles in all aspects of cultural, educational, trade, and security relations between Japan and the United States.
For more information on The United States – Japan Bridging Foundation, please visit: https://www.bridgingfoundation.org/