Shiina Sekimoto ’23

Ryugaku Fellowship, Japan

This summer, I interned at a Japanese nonprofit organization Ryugaku Fellowship (aka Ryu-Fellow.) Ryu-Fellow’s mission is to provide Japanese high school students with the education, opportunities and information necessary for them to become leaders of their own lives—to actively take the initiative, make decisions and find passion in working toward fulfilling their aspirations. To accomplish this, we run summer camps, caravan tours, local events and other nonprofit projects to advocate for students to consider options outside of their set pathways and also to make the option of studying abroad more inclusive.

I have been involved in Ryu-Fellow for a few years, and this year I expanded my responsibilities and worked as an advisor for the summer camps and a committee member of the newly built DEI department. My role as an advisor was to lead the committee members to develop their professional skills and also to support them in taking on the summer camps’ director roles to ensure our events be more sustaining projects. I held regular one-on-one sessions with each committee member to ensure their workloads and environment were comfortable. Another essential task was to guide them to become leaders of more than 20 college student mentors who work for the summer camp with them. Just like it was for me two years ago, for most of the committee members it was the first time being in a leadership position for such a large project. Thus, I tried to share my successful and not-so-successful experiences and discuss their struggles whenever they needed assistance.

As a DEI committee member, I worked for the Ryu-Fellow community as a whole. In the past few years, Ryu-Fellow has radically increased in size, and we have also significantly expanded our remote work and projects. Although this continuous dedication allowed us to reach a wider youth population, it also caused some miscommunications and microaggressions between the members of Ryu-Fellow with diverse backgrounds. Therefore, the DEI department was founded to lead the collective effort to better the Ryu-Fellow community and to foster a safe place for each member. This summer, we organized community workshops and study sessions for all the participants of the organization to provide opportunities to learn and reflect together on how we can create a comfortable and stimulating space for the mentors and student participants. This was especially important for the summer camps and the caravan tour mentors as it had been three years since we had in-person events. Most members had not experienced in-person Ryu-Fellow events, and it helped to have training for community building to prepare for intense weeks of preparation and events.

None of these fulfilling experiences would have been possible without the generous support of the ’68 Center for Career Exploration and the Class of 1974. I am truly grateful for all the support.