Yes, I was effusively gushing about my experiences in the last post, but if you think about it for a moment, it is a really rare opportunity to meet the Emperor and Empress of Japan, heads of state, and a honor to be affiliated with the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship.
To be slightly philosophical here, scholarships grant graduate students a chance to study and fulfill their personal dreams and goals in ways that might be otherwise difficult or impossible. I know personally there was a great deal of trepidation and anxiety in the year leading up to my planned transition to do my PhD field research in Japan. Now, with scholarship funding, I can completely focus on the issues and problems surrounding my research and make sure I get the very best data and insights possible. Further, in my meetings with alumni of the scholarship, some of them career professors and administrators at the University of Hawaii, and I can see how pivotal the Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship was in their early academic careers.
This is not the first time that a funding opportunity has marked a major shift in my life path.
When I was in JET as a Japan Exchange Teacher in Imabari CIty in Ehime Prefecture from 1997-2000, I was often 'whelmed' by the hectic teaching schedule, culture shock, and craziness of fellow JET teachers (and a certain Wiccan ninja). As months wore to years, I began to see the positive impact my classroom time had with Japanese junior high school students. One thing that kept me going as a JET was my teaching.
Even today, I often think about the relationships and interactions with people in terms of a rock causing ripples in a pond and those ripples crossing, bouncing, and spreading to other shores. I find it as both a centering and grounding perspective:
What you say and do effects everyone around you, so you should think about the cause and effect of your actions (and even inaction is in its won way action). And really the thing you have the most control over in this lifetime is your own actions. Exploring cause and effect between individuals, groups, and societies is perhaps one of the main reasons I find personal satisfaction as a researcher in the social sciences.
When a instructor walks into a room full of receptive students and begins to teach, that experience and knowledge can last a lifetime.Those students in turn teach their children and may even become teachers themselves in due time. While reality does not always follow the ideal, I think life always offers potential to touch other peoples lives in a positive way and that is what keeps people connected and, well, 'human'.