Finding My Place in the RSP & the U.S.–Japan Relationship

The following reflection is a guest post written by Kristine Pashin, an alumna of the Reischauer Scholars Program, which will begin accepting student applications on September 6, 2021.
high school girl standing amidst park greenery Kristine Pashin at the Farnam Memorial Gardens in New Haven, CT; photo courtesy Kristine Pashin

At first, I almost didn’t apply to the Reischauer Scholars Program (RSP). As someone with primarily Eastern European heritage, I doubted that I had a unique perspective to add to a coalition of students dedicated to learning more about Japan’s rich culture, economics, history, and society. In my mind, my personal experience couldn’t have been further from the course’s content. However, as a recent graduate of the RSP, my experience has completely shattered my previous misconceptions. Stanford’s RSP isn’t just an online program that gives students a comprehensive, in-depth view of Japan—it brings together a community of academically and socially diverse individuals from across the United States, along with their manifold perspectives, to build future leaders in the U.S.–Japan relationship. 

My experience has completely shattered my previous misconceptions.

My path to the RSP began in Model United Nations (MUN) and my tenth-grade world history class that encouraged me to delve deeper into the political and ideological theories that govern and shape our society. Japan was a major focus for multiple of my MUN conferences, where I descended into multiple Wikipedia rabbit-holes on a wide range of topics, from Japan’s stance on sustainable development to socio-political effects on Japanese gender equality quotas. Furthermore, throughout my dual enrollment in a MicroMasters program in international jurisprudence and a course on East Asian culture and law, I learned more about the intricacies of Japan’s Eurocentric depiction in the geo-political sphere. In the international law resources I was exposed to, Japan was often portrayed as “lawless,” while the Western legal system was presented as the “key” to maintaining a proper rule of law in East Asia. Through the latter course which focused on the intersection between Japanese culture and law, Japanese law was accurately shown as an extension of the rich Japanese culture I had learned about in my history classes; in this regard, each cultural facet needed to be taken into account with the legal theory of the state. Since then, I’ve been hooked on understanding the role of implicit motives in shaping international policy and cultural precedent in jurisprudence. At the RSP, I have been able to pursue my passions alongside like-minded peers.

At the RSP, I have been able to pursue my passions alongside like-minded peers. 

From the first week of the RSP, the diversity of students was evident. Each of my fellow peers offered their own outlook on topics ranging from “Religions in Japan” to “The Power of Popular Culture.” Across online forums and virtual classrooms, complex concepts were thoroughly discussed through witty back-and-forth banter, new ideas were buttressed by comprehensive research, and interconnected themes were explored via collaboration. The RSP’s inclusive and dynamic environment was one of my favorite aspects of the program. Weekly Zoom meetings with our instructor, Ms. Naomi Funahashi, and my peers allowed me to grasp unfamiliar concepts and take a deep dive into the things I didn’t previously know through active engagement. Moreover, at each virtual classroom, we had the opportunity to meet government officials, business leaders, and scholars at the forefront of U.S.–Japan relations. Each speaker’s ideas will forever retain importance to my understanding of the Japanese American experience, which remains equally relevant in the modern day.

The RSP’s commitment to educating the future leaders of the U.S.–Japan relationship is shown in its culmination. Near the final months of the 20-week RSP, students are given the opportunity to explore a topic of their choosing related to Japan or the U.S.–Japan dynamic. In my final paper, titled “The Rite of Rights: An Examination of Socio-Cultural Precedent in Japanese Law,” I coalesced my RSP education with my interest in international and Japanese jurisprudence. Even after its conclusion, the RSP continues the discussion on U.S.–Japan relations for the years to come by compiling and sharing all the research papers written within that year’s program. 

Ultimately, I am grateful to the Reischauer Scholars Program for creating a mosaic of different experiences and cultures by bringing together my peers. Throughout my involvement in the RSP, I have strengthened my belief in the cross-cultural intersections that bind us all together. It is through these bonds, along with empathy and compassion, that the RSP helps students weave themselves into the U.S.–Japan international tapestry, shaping the world. 

The next session of the Reischauer Scholars Program will run from February to June 2022. The application will open September 6, 2021.

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