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Building Bridges to Everlasting Friendships

Building Bridges to Everlasting Friendships

Forming connections:

From tours of the Meiji Temple and National Diet Building to trivia games with students of Tajima High School, Northwestern undergraduate students created lasting memories and relationships with the people of Japan while also learning about their history, government, and culture. 

In December of last year, 23 Northwestern students spent a week in Japan through the KAKEHASHI Project, sponsored by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in coordination with the Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE). Organized by Northwestern's Office of the Vice President for International Relations, this was the third time Northwestern students were invited to participate in this one-week program. The inaugural trip took place in 2017.

Sequina King, a School of Communication first-year student and participant of the December 2022 program, continues to reflect on the experience and keep her memories alive.

A Student's Memories:

おばちゃん と おじいちゃん, げんきですか? にほんわ どですか? 

Obachan to Ojiichan, genki desu ka? Nihonwa dodesu ka?

It has been almost 3 months since I last saw you, and the Minamiaizu snow on your doorsteps welcomed us with a smile. My heart is yearning for the moments we shared: you teaching us how to make authentic miso soup and onigiri rice balls, how to sew singing acorns with just scraps of fabric and jingle bells. Although you just met us, you treated us like family, and for that, I am forever grateful.

As a first-generation, low-income, and food-restricted student, when this opportunity was presented to me, I was honored and excited to be able to participate in a lifelong dream of mine, all thanks to the understanding and welcoming nature of the Japanese people. For that I say thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

The Kakehashi Project is not only a phenomenal way to expand your knowledge of Japanese culture, but it is an amazing way to make connections with its people all while experiencing the beauty of the country. People like Sugi-san and Emi-san, our warmhearted bubbly translators and tour guides, or our host families in small towns are people who you would not be able to meet if you went to Japan by yourself. It was due to the Kakehashi Friendship Ties Program that we were able to experience these wonderful things.

You never know what stranger you will meet and what friends you choose to keep. As someone who can attest to that, Japan, despite its reserved nature, is home to some of the most amiable people on Earth, so do not be afraid of the language or culture barrier. Love and compassion go a long way.

Among the many things to which this trip opened my eyes and arms, I learned to embrace the unknown: No matter where you are in the world, reach out to a stranger and build the bridge to create a friendship of a lifetime. No matter the country. No matter the language. No matter the culture. One stranger at a time.

Kakehashi Video: One Stranger at a Time