Over the past few weeks, we have thoroughly enjoyed reconnecting with over a hundred AFLSP Scholars, BX Alumni, as well as university professors and staff at our BXAI gatherings in Hong Kong, Kyoto, and Tokyo.

It was great to hear from both current students and alumni, who shared their personal growth stories and spoke openly about the challenges they faced during their time abroad. We also learned about how their cultural immersions broadened their horizons and opened their eyes to the world around them.

Hiroki Mizumura, a Japanese BX Alumnus who has studied in Taiwan, Beijing, Tokyo, and the UK, spoke about an encounter he had while travelling in China, when a Chinese man sitting next to him on a train confronted him about his views on the Nanjing Massacre. Hiroki recalled this person’s initial bitterness and anger toward him, which was later tempered following a lengthy conversation. “I wasn’t studying in China because I wanted to quarrel with people, but because I was genuinely interested in learning about Chinese culture and engaging with Chinese people,” said Hiroki. “Once I told him that and shared my personal story with him, he became much happier.” The two eventually managed to find common ground, respectfully exchange opinions, and even begin a friendship, demonstrating the importance of mutual understanding in our mission to create a harmonious society. “Though it was difficult at the time, I now see our exchange as a precious experience of building bridges across cultures.”

We were also very encouraged by scholars who shared about the many challenges they faced and how they grew from those experiences. Taiwanese scholar, Huang Yin Hsuan, spoke about how her multiple failed attempts to enter medical school ultimately helped her develop persistence. BX Alumnae, Kim Daum, who is Korean but was raised in China and currently works in Tokyo, highlighted the difficulties she encountered with finding her identity having lived in different countries, as well as her struggles with bullying, depression, and an eating disorder. She eventually overcame these obstacles and decided to transform her painful experiences into something good. “I realized that I wasn’t the only one struggling with loneliness, and that it is something everyone experiences to some degree,” said Daum. “And if this is true, why aren’t we sharing more of ourselves with one another? That’s part of what led me to explore how I could help connect people across cultures and language barriers.” Inspired by the BXAI Summer Program, Daum has initiated two social impact projects: Nanumi was founded in 2012 and is a charity organization that has recently expanded to engage volunteers from 14 countries across the globe; while Ethnic Neighborhoods aims to utilize technology to connect immigrant communities around the world.

Chinese scholar Pan Wei Kang shared about his community service project at the Kyoto Self-Help Devices Office, where he designs self-help devices such as sock aids and one-hand chopping boards for disabled and elderly people. Reflecting on his experience, Wei Kang said, “What I learned from my time as a volunteer is that all this academic knowledge that we gain from university can actually be applied to help people in need. I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to work alongside volunteers of different ages and nationalities as we seek to contribute to the local community together.”

At our Tokyo gathering, BX Alumnae Ami Higuchi recounted her multicultural upbringing and how that led her to initiate “Project Abroad”, a conference for Chinese students to engage in in-depth discussions with leading Japanese entrepreneurs, practitioners, and students. She also encouraged current scholars to take advantage of the BXAI platform to make a positive impact. “I have experienced the value of being a part of the BX community – it truly opens up many opportunities for us,” she said.

Thank you to everyone who attended our gatherings and to those who helped make these events possible. Hearing from many of you who shared so honestly and openly, we were very encouraged to see how the BX community has grown to become a safe yet diverse space that promotes human connections and intercultural learning opportunities. We firmly believe that these gatherings are an important component of our mission to build bridges across cultures in Asia and beyond, and look forward to seeing more of you at our future events!