Mercer selected to send students to fully-funded program in Japan


Image: Courtesy of the Kakehashi Project website

Mercer has been selected to send 23 students to Japan in March to participate in the Kakehashi Project as a part of the U.S.-Japan Youth Exchange. Permission to use photo from Dr. Julie Strecker, Director of International Programs at Mercer University.

Rose Scoggins, News Editor

Mercer recently announced that the university has been chosen to participate in a new program through the Office of International Programs.

The Kakehashi Project, a program managed by the Japan International Cooperation Center, will take place March 5-13, according to the program’s section of the International Programs website.

Kakehashi is the Japanese word for ‘bridge,’ [and is] a fully funded, large-scale youth exchange program between Japan and the United States,” according to the Mercer University news article.

Julie Strecker, the director of international programs, said that she was contacted about this opportunity at the beginning of the semester.

“The Consul[ate]-General of Japan’s office called me back in August and said that they had nominated Mercer to participate in the project,” she said. “[They] emailed me back in October and said we had been selected.”

Strecker said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan also played a role in selecting Mercer for the project.

“They want to build bridges culturally, economically and socially and they’re looking to build friendships with US citizens through this program,” she said.

The program, which is fully-funded, is unlike any of the other programs in the International Programs office at Mercer.

“The biggest [difference] is that it’s not anything that we’ve developed here at Mercer,” Strecker said. “It’s a program that the Japanese government is putting together and they’re just inviting us to participate in it.”

Strecker said she believes that Mercer’s current and previous involvement in different Japanese programs helped to give students this opportunity.

One of those programs is an English Language Institute (ELI) on the Atlanta campus.

“That’s an intensive English program where we offer English classes to students coming to the states who want to learn English,” she said. “Some of the students stay here and go to Mercer and some of the students have other ideas or other purposes for coming to the states to learn English.”

Strecker said the ELI program has been at Mercer for 30 years. During those years with the program, and through the relationship with the Consulate-General of Japan in Atlanta, she said that they were also able to develop a relationship with the Japan-American Society of Georgia.

“They help coordinate an exchange program that our ELI runs with a university in Japan and they send their students on a study abroad to the US and they send two groups a year,” she said. “We host them twice a year and so the Japan-American Society of Georgia helps us coordinate that program.”

Strecker also said that because of those relationships, the Atlanta Campus was asked to host a statewide language competition, which they now do annually.

“Building that relationship and the time and energy we’ve put into those and hosting Japanese students is why they were interested in us,” she said.

Students who are interested in applying must fill out an online application that will be turned in to the Study Abroad section of the International Programs office.

The application features a section for students to list previous study abroad experience and three essay questions.

Strecker said that there is a reason behind the questions being focused on the students explaining their interests in Japan, the Japanese culture and how the trip could affect their futures.

“It is an investment for the Japanese government.They’re investing in this to hopefully have some sort outcome in the future which would be heightened exchange between the US and Japan,” she said. “They’re really interested in hosting students who already have a genuine interest in the country or culture.”

The program is awarding 23 scholarships to students from Mercer who meet these criteria. While any student interested may apply, Strecker said that the program has a special interest in business students.  

“The program is a little bit more focused on business and industry and infrastructure because they see our business school as being prestigious,” she said. “They are kind of expecting that there be business students on the program. That would kind of be number two criteria.”

Students interested in applying must fill out the application, which includes faculty references by Dec. 1. The recipients of the scholarships for the program will be announced on Dec. 23 according to the program website.

Strecker said that she encourages anyone interested to apply.

“I think it’s important for them to reflect on the important of these relationships, do a little bit of research,” she said. “[Students could] find out how the Japanese culture or having experience with the Japanese culture or just another culture in general might affect them, affect their ability to interact with other cultures, [and] help them meet their future goals.”