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Two Japanese majors embark on yearlong abroad programs in Japan with the help of the US-Japan Bridging Foundation.

This year, two Japanese majors, Kenia Avendano (’12) and Nadia Nasir (’14), were awarded study abroad scholarships from the US-Japan Bridging Foundation towards yearlong study abroad programs in Japan. A non-profit cultural organization, the US-Bridging Japan Foundation strives to promote study abroad in Japan in order to celebrate and strengthen cultural and diplomatic ties between the two counties. The foundation provides scholarships for American undergraduate students studying at universities or language institutes in Japan. Both Avendano and Nasir received a scholarship of $5,000 for the academic year that helps cover the cost of travel and other expenses.

“I recommend everyone who wishes to study abroad in Japan to apply to the Bridging Scholarship,” says Avendano, a Japanese major, Spanish minor, and Asian Studies certificate student. “It is scholarships like these that are what give you the vital stepping stones needed to make your traveling dreams become a reality.” A committed student and involved member of the Japanese American Student Association here at the University of Maryland, Avendano takes her passion for Japanese and Asian studies abroad this year as she studies at the Japanese Language Program at Keio University.

Avendano first became interested in Japanese in the eighth grade after her family hosted a Japanese visitor through a cultural exchange program. Her family’s guest shared with Avendano different parts of Japanese culture such as calligraphy and food. “As she taught me some simple Japanese, I began to love the sounds and words of the Japanese language,” says Avendano. Following her first introduction to Japanese language and culture, Avendano dedicated seven years to teaching herself Japanese through books, television, games, and other Japanese media. When Avendano transferred to the University of Maryland in her junior year, she placed into the highest level of Japanese offered at the university. While abroad, Avendano plans to focus on improving her oral competencies in Japanese as she prepares for future careers in translating.

Similarly, Nasir, a sophomore Japanese major, discovered a passion for Japanese in high school after a family trip to Japan. “I just fell in love. I knew I had to get back there somehow, and so I thought learning the language would be a good first step,” says Nasir. Currently studying at the Intensive Japanese Language Program at Waseda University in Tokyo, Nasir enjoys understanding more of her favorite Japanese media sources such as manga and anime. “I’d like to be able to not only understand the physical language, but also the cultural implications in these [types of] media,” says Nasir. “Finding out what’s lost in translation is very interesting to me.”

As for future plans, Nasir continues to research different options as she explores a broad range of career paths such as teaching English as a second language in Japanese high schools, voice acting, translating—and even working as a pastry chef! This wide-reaching array of future dreams certainly comes as a direct result of studying abroad. Nasir explains she feels empowered by studying abroad, as the experience not only teaches her a new language but also independence, strength, and confidence. “So I guess my hope is that I’ll continue on this track,” says Nasir. “[From this experience] I will continue to learn new things about the world and about myself and continue to feel good about trying and failing and succeeding and everything in between . . . wherever it leads me.”

To learn more about how to apply to the Bridging Japan scholarship, visit: http://www.aatj.org/atj/studyabroad/scholarships.html
Date of Publication: 
Tuesday, September 25, 2012