Aika Sato

Bai Xian Scholar, 2019 cohort; candidate for master’s degree in history and archeology, Yenching Academy of Peking University (YCA).

As a Bai Xian Scholar, Aika’s passion for exploring historical reconciliation in East Asia reached new heights thanks to the many opportunities she had through the AFLSP to initiate and participate in open, cross-cultural discussions.

During her time at YCA, Aika, along with other like-minded Bai Xian Scholars, established the East Asian Studies Forum, a platform that aims to promote regional understanding and reconciliation through constructive dialogues and debates.  “To this day, East Asia is still haunted by historical animosity,” she observes.  “If we, as people across Asia, can better understand the complexity of the past, I believe many of the historical and political divides we have now can be bridged.”

For Aika, some of her most memorable events include the panel discussion titled “Public Diplomacy in East Asia”, as well as the virtual workshop, “The WWII in East Asia: Narrative Building and Storytelling”.  At both events, scholars and professors from different countries gathered together to openly discuss their insights on regional historical disputes.  Her experiences with the East Asian Studies Forum have also sparked other intellectual interests, such as feminism in East Asia.  “As members of the Bai Xian community, we are privileged to have opportunities to learn from a wide range of perspectives,” she reflects.  “The chance to organize and be a part of cross-cultural discussions has encouraged me to expand my scope of study and research.”

Despite the pandemic, Aika is thankful for the many virtual events on offer that enabled her to stay connected with the Bai Xian community.  She found herself inspired by fellow scholars and alumni, who shared their personal life stories and projects at various community events.  “Just seeing their passion and boldness lit a fire in my belly,” she says.  “I learned that I should not just limit myself to what others expect of me, but continue to stay curious and live my life to the fullest.  This takes persistence, a healthy dose of passion, and even a bit of anger, which gives me the fuel to make a change in the community.”

In a world that has become increasingly divided, Aika hopes that more young people will step up and serve as in-betweeners across different groups, nations, and regions.  “Mutual understanding and empathy promise a future of regional stability and peace, and bring us closer to an era of reconciliation.”