Fall Semester at the University of California, Berkeley

Asami Takahashi
M2, Graduate School of Public Policy

Within just one semester at UC Berkeley, I have appreciated and benefited from tremendous number of opportunities offered inside and outside the campus. Every experience nurtured and deepened my understandings of the country, its culture and its people. This report includes the entire study abroad period from the end of August to the end of December.

  • Studying at UC Berkeley

As California is one of the only four majority-minority states in the United States, it was quite easy to feel at home where 40% of the student population is of Asian ethnicity. In the cozy and sunny weather, I soon adapted to the Berkeley culture of “party hard, work hard” and found myself delving into research on American Politics, interning twice a week, promoting cultural exchanges at the dorm, traveling within the United States, and participating in many extracurricular activities. Although the school itself mainly consists of liberal voters in a very politically active climate, there was many discussions and controversy over the assessment of the current administration and its impact on the midterm election. At the Goldman School of Public Policy, I was invited to attend several events in which professors such as the Dean of GSPP and President of UCB engaged in a lively panel.

Attending a symposium on midterm election at the Goldman School of Public Policy

Also, every third Friday of the month I have been attending monthly study sessions with Japanese community members in diverse fields of expertise. Some of the members from the session gathered to go to a baseball match when Shohei Otani came to play against Oakland, and showed spirit at the American Football game for Cal against Stanford University.

At Oakland Alameda County Coliseum
Cirque du Soleil
“The Big Game” Cal vs. Stanford
  • Living in the International House

I was told that the first I-House was built in the City of New York under the initiative lead by Harry Edmonds who was an official with the YMCA in 1924. In 1909, he encountered a graduate student from China in front of the library at Columbia University and said “hello” which surprised the student and he said “I have been in New York for weeks and you are the first person who said hello to me.” This encounter inspired Edmonds to bring together international students to make themselves at home and to share experiences. The one in Berkeley is the second international house and this past semester, and with the appreciation of its history, I had the privilege of “living under the same roof” with 584 other students from around the world.

The program office at the I-House offered many opportunities for the residents to attend and enhance their experiences in the area. On one Wednesday Evening, Japanese residents put our efforts together to host a Japanese coffee hour for other residents with snacks, tea, calligraphy and origami booths with the general funding from the office. We were able to share our culture with 150+ students who came by and the event turned out to be a huge success. A few other events included;

70th Anniversary of UN Declaration of Human Rights Dinner
Japanese Coffee Hour
  • Traveling in the United States:
  • East Coast Trip to New York and Boston

Early in November, I was invited to be interviewed and to attend a luncheon for Schwarzman Scholars Program in New York with founder Steve Schwarzman and other prominent interviewers. The program is aimed at nurturing the next generation of holistic leaders who will be equipped to bridge the international community for peace and prosperity through critical yet optimistic lenses. Scholars will be living in a college specially built in the middle of the university and to experience China through lectures, site visits and fieldtrips during the ten months. I am honored to state that I was selected to join the prestigious community of global leaders starting next August in Beijing.

Soon after the trip to New York, I headed to Boston to attend Harvard-Japan Career Fair and Boston Career Forum. Thousands of bilingual students gathered from all over the world to compete for job offers at the convention center. I was able to meet up with friends who are spending their semesters in Beijing, London, New York, Amsterdam, and many other cities. I also attended a lecture by the Consul General of Japan in New England. He gave a presentation on his career including his time drafting legislation from policies in Tokyo for the Diet.

At Harvard University
  • Thanksgiving Holiday in Salt Lake City, Utah

Although this is not my first long-term stay in the United States, I had never experienced an authentic thanksgiving celebration before. My closest friend at Berkeley kindly invited me to stay at her parent’s home for the holiday in Utah.

Hiked to the Wind Cave
Mormon Church
  • Internship for practical experience

During the semester, I also worked for a governmental organization as a research intern to directly apply the knowledge I gained at Berkeley on American Politics. First half of the internship mainly involved the tasks and research related to the midterm election. By analyzing the political trends, party affiliation among racial and demographic groups, and candidates and their policies in the 49 counties in Central and Northern California and the State of Nevada, I was able to understand and grasp the local political affairs. Also, there is more than 80 sister cities between Japan and within California, the recent establishment being Rikuzen-Takata and Crescent City, which was lead by the initiative of high school students. I took part in the first California Sister City Network to support, exchange information, and build a community with different sister cities in Northern California. Further, I had several chances to attend other receptions, conferences, and lectures such as a conference on “Japan in the Pacific World” by Center for East Asian Studies & Hoover Institution at Stanford University.

At California Sister City Network Reception
  • Extracurricular activity: Kingfisher Global Leadership Program by S&R Foundation

In addition to the school curriculum, I had the privilege of being one of the selected youth leaders to participate in the Kingfisher Global Leadership Program. It is a two-week intensive program designed to empower the future leaders with the skills and networks they require to thrive and succeed in the international stage. It was lead by the initiative of Dr Sachiko Kuno, a Japanese social entrepreneur based in Washington DC. The itinerary consisted of a rich series of lectures at prestigious institutions such as the United Nations, State Department, Goldman Sachs, and the World Bank Group in order to understand the increasingly interconnected ecosystem that we live in.

At Permanent Mission of Japan to the UN
With Dr. Sachiko Kuno

Every single day at Berkeley was filled with new learning experiences and excitements, and I already have a strong feeling that I will be back in the Bay Area in the near future. I would like to express my appreciation to the Ito Foundation U.S.A. and Friends of UTokyo, Inc. for their generous support.