JICE’s International Exchange

Voice from Participant

Interview with Ms. Mariko Kristina Daisey, a Participant in KAKEHASHI Project 2016

Program in Japan

Ms. Mariko Kristina Daisey, who visited Japan through the KAKEHASHI Project in 2016, was studying abroad to Meiji Gauin University in Japan.

―Why did you participate in the KAKEHASHI Project in 2016?

I participated in the Kakehashi Project to learn more about my heritage. I am a third-generation Japanese American and saw Kakehashi as an opportunity to learn more about my Japanese side and engage with Japanese culture. I also was eager to travel to the country and meet other individuals that were close to my age also participating in the program.

―What do you think was the most impressive part in the KAKEHASHI Project? Please tell us in details about the good points of the program. If you noticed something that could be improved, please kindly inform us.

We were able to visit different places and attend workshops to learn about different industries in Japan. What impressed me the most was the host-family experience. Some other girls in the program and I stayed with a host mother for a few days, and it was a very authentic experience as we got to eat homemade meals and visit a local temple. I also liked how, at the conclusion of the program, us participants all had to discuss our trip and what we would do upon returning to the United States to tell others about our experience and encourage more people to learn about Japan. I think it is important to take time to reflect on an experience and learn from it. I was also very satisfied with the food places we went to because Japanese food is delicious.

―What aspects of Japan did you find attractive while participating in the program? Did you find anything new about Japan?

The people in Japan are so friendly and eager to assist if you need any help. Everytime I visit Japan I am impressed by Japanese peoples’ manners and hospitality. I have been to Japan before so there weren’t too many unexpected things, but I particularly enjoy the food every time I go. I really liked a Japanese barbecue place we visited during the visit, but I think all the food options were fantastic!

―How was the support provided by JICE staff and coordinators during the program? Please tell us in details about the good points of their support. If you noticed something that could be improved, please kindly inform us.

I enjoyed the time spent with the JICE staff-- the people who were in charge of our schedules and getting us to the places we needed to go. I love how they were open to communicating with us and listening to what we had to say. I observed a great level of respect between participants and JICE staff members. I was very grateful that many of the JICE staff were bilingual as well in Japanese and English, I think they were very helpful.

I think they were oftentimes very stressed about staying on schedule though, so I would recommend maybe longer breaks between destinations, or only visiting a maximum of one or two places per day so as to not overwhelm them.

During the program wearing kimonos in Taiki, Mie (the third from the left)

―Please tell us your career path after participating in KAKEHASHI project. Do you think the participation influenced on your decision making of your career?

I am currently working for UCLA in their housing services department. I manage contracts for those who live in our buildings and arrange payments and payment agreements. I don’t think my participation in the project influenced my current area of work; however, I was inspired to study abroad in Japan after participating. While I was studying abroad in Japan, I was able to get a job as an English teaching assistant. One of my supervisors at this job ended up writing a letter of recommendation for me when I was applying to my current area of work, and I successfully got the job so it all worked out!

―What were you studying at Meiji Gakuin University in Japan?

I studied International Development Studies at Meiji Gakuin University, and I took courses that covered both political science and Japanese society and culture. The Kakehashi program reaffirmed my interest in international relations because we learned about Japanese relations with the United States, and were able to participate in cultural activities that are not common in the United States. The Kakehashi program helped open my mind to another culture that is different from that of the U.S., so I was eager to return to Japan and learn more! 

―What did you feel about living in Japan? Please tell us any good impressions you had coming back to Japan.

I loved living in Japan! Being able to interact with Japanese people once again and learn more about the country’s history was an amazing experience that I will always cherish. I was once again impressed by the food, and I also took note of the efficiency of their transportation systems (trains and bullet trains). I will definitely plan more trips to Japan in the future.

During studying abroad at Meiji Gakuin University in 2018

―After participating in the program, do you continuously disseminate information about Japan? If so, please share us your activities in details.

I like to discuss politics and world events with my family and friends, so I like to include current events happening in Japan as a comparison to events in the United States. I also like to see how Japan’s economy is doing, and it has become a topic of interest when discussing the American economy and how it compares to that of other countries in the world.

―What kind of future plans do you have to work as a bridge between Japan and your home country?

I would like to travel more frequently between Japan and the United States. I hope to continue to share the positive experiences I had in Japan with others and encourage them to visit the country. I believe the United States and Japan can continue to build a strong relationship with each other, and I hope that this program will continue so others like me will have the opportunity to travel to Japan and learn about its culture and the relationship the country has with the United States.

Please share us some advice towards future JICE exchange program participants and those who want to study abroad/work in Japan.

Just do it! I highly encourage anyone that is interested to participate in JICE exchange programs. It is a wonderful experience and you are able to meet new people both from your home country and Japan. I would advise others to not be afraid to talk to other people on the trip and to truly engage with Japanese culture by eating the food, participating in the activities, and talking with Japanese people. I think it is a great opportunity to get a feel for the country and see if you would like to study abroad or work there for a longer period of time. Participating in the Kakehashi Project motivated me to apply to study abroad in Japan while in University, and I thoroughly enjoyed both experiences!

At graduation from UCLA in Los Angeles, CA in 2019

Contact us

JICE Youth Exchange Division, International Exchange Department