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Cross-cultural excellence

Veronica Ivey earns a new scholarship to study Japan.

Veronica Ivey had taken every Japanese class she could.

So with the chance to continue her studies through the prestigious Reischauer Scholars Program, the Bainbridge High School senior applied and was admitted.

“The email said ‘Acceptance’ and I had to read it through five times,” Ivey said. “I couldn’t believe I was selected. I thought it must have been a fluke.”

The Reischauer Scholars Program, in its first year, is a distance-learning course in which 20 high school seniors and juniors around the country are chosen to learn more about U.S.-Japanese relations.

Through RSP, Ivey hopes to learn more about the history, culture, and literature of Japan, topics she has studied in her BHS Japanese language class. But she hopes the program will be an opportunity to study in further depth.

“I’m especially curious about the literature of Japan – to see how scholars perceive it and its significance,” Ivey said.

Japanese songs and dances taught by a nursery school teacher first kindled Ivey’s interest in Japan, and Japanese classes at the high school built on that interest.

“The language is so structured compared to English, that it’s refreshing,” said Ivey, referring to the very few irregular verbs found in Japanese. “(Japanese) actually has a system that it follows, which I don’t find boring. It’s intriguing.”

Two summers ago, following in the footsteps of her older sister Becca, Ivey did a six-week student exchange to Japan in the northern city of Sapporo. While staying with a host family, she also had the chance to attend a local high school for three weeks and disabuse herself of a few stereotypes.

“You usually think of Japanese students as being really serious and hardworking, but sometimes students would sleep in class – although it might just be that it was the end of term,” Ivey said. “If they were caught though, they had to stand up.”

RSP is funded by the US-Japan Foundation, which put up $80,520 for the program, and the Stanford University Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education, which developed the curriculum.

Named after former U.S. ambassador to Japan Edwin Reischauer, the program will include a series of biweekly, online lectures by scholars on Japanese religion, politics, history, art, education and contemporary society.

Instructor and students will meet in a virtual classroom to hear lectures live, with students virtually raising hands and posing questions through computer microphones.

Only the classroom will be virtual; students will have four hours of homework a week with assignments and papers to do for the course, which runs from next month through June.

RSP will be a sixth course for Ivey, who is already taking five Advanced Placement courses at BHS.

This fall, she will enroll at Williams College, where she hopes to continue her Japanese studies and visit Japan again in the near future.

“I’m interested in majoring in international studies or East Asian studies,” Ivey said. “Being familiar with (topics as) diplomacy might give me a more in-depth look at the culture.”

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