Interview: Anna Duong-Topp ’21, Watanabe Scholarship Recipient Posted on September 13th, 2019 by

What is your study away plan? Would you please describe your program?
I plan to study abroad at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata, Japan during the spring 2020 semester as part of their Asian Studies program.

What scholarship(s) or other funding have you received? How are these sources helping make your plans possible?
In addition to Watanabe, I’ve acquired a number of generous scholarships from Gustavus. These include competitive awards like the President’s Scholarship, Anderson Scholarship, and Bjorling Scholarship. As a legacy student of Vietnamese heritage, I also qualify for the Legacy and Diversity scholarships. Without this gracious hodgepodge of funding, my studies at Gustavus—let alone in Japan— would not be possible.

What advice would you have for other students who would like to receive a study away scholarship or even maybe think they will not be able to afford to study away?
Just go for it! The CICE is an excellent resource, so don’t shy away from the amazing people there who are ready to help you. If you let your application show your true colors and hold yourself to an authentic and high standard, good things will happen.

What are some of your other activities or interests? How is study away a part of the overall picture for you, given your various interests?
I’m very engaged with interfaith programming at Gustavus. Studying religion and philosophy in order to foster better intersectional conversations is my calling. Japanese religious and secular philosophies have a lot to offer in terms of intersectional dialogue. While in Japan, I hope to encounter the roots of these philosophies in order to bring back tools for effective change for our cultural discourse.

What are your future plans? How do you imagine that studying away will contribute to reaching your goals?
I hope to attend graduate school for Religious Studies after Gustavus, which requires advanced knowledge of language, religion, and philosophy. Study away will help me cultivate my Japanese language skills and pursue religion and philosophy from a truly Japanese perspective. I am also a practitioner of Mahayana Buddhism, and am very excited to enhance my spiritual practice by encountering Buddhism in a different cultural space.

What is one thing you hope to learn or experience while studying away, and also one fun activity or personal interest you hope to pursue?
There are so many things I want to learn! Though it won’t be hiking season when I study there, it’s my dream to climb Mt. Fuji someday. I also look forward to learning how the Japanese create such aesthetically pleasing baked goods.


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