Interview with one of our very first JSP students, Mrs. Robin Craggs

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During our visit to universities in the US, we had the chance to meet with Mrs. Robin Craggs, who is now directing International study programs in an university in Los Angeles. It was a surprise to us knowing she was among the first batch of students who joined TIU’s very first Japan Studies Program edition back in 1985. Today, we would like to share with you our conversation with Mrs. Craggs. We hope you will enjoy it and can relate to it.

1. Could you please tell us more about yourself?

In 1987 I graduated from TIU’s sister college Willamette University. During my time at Willamette I played soccer, studied international relations, was an RA and most importantly, participated in the JSP program! 31 years after my time at JSP I cherish my experiences in Japan and the career in international education that is inspired and informed by study abroad in Japan. After graduating I served as a US Peace Corps Volunteer in Papua New Guinea and Residence Hall Director at Kaneko Hall TIUA/Willamette University (it was a bi-cultural hall dedicated to promoting cross-cultural exchange between the US and Japan at that time). I went on to complete a Master’s Degree in International Education and to work at Cornell University, Occidental College and Seattle University all in international exchange. I am married to another Willamette JSP alumnus Garret Keith (Sociology, ’87). We have two teenaged sons. Sometimes we use Japanese phrases when we want to surprise them!

2. What were the reasons for you to join JSP?

Academically I was interested in understanding the economic miracle in Japan. As an international relations major, I wanted to learn more about the confluence of culture, history and economic policy that led to the rapid economic development and global prowess in the 1980s. On a personal level, my college, Willamette University was celebrating the 20 th Anniversary of the TIU-Willamette exchange during the 1985-1986 academic year. The milestone was important and exciting and I wanted to be a part of it! Also, my grandfather was in the Navy in WWII. He was on one of the first US ships to steam into Tokyo Harbor. Even with the tragedies of the war, he was deeply touched by the Japanese people he met then. I wanted to be a part of the positive human relations with Japan and he wanted to come to visit me in Japan – he did!! Most importantly I enjoyed meeting TIU students on campus and became good friends with Kyoko Tsunoda. When she invited me to stay with her family for my homestay, I was SO HAPPY!!

3. What did you enjoy the most during your stay in Japan?

Absolutely everything. The learning explosion when you can experience Japanese people, culture, language, food directly AND then deepen learning in the TIU classroom was incredible. I will never forget my trip to Noh Theater! The handmade paper company! Selling peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at the American booth at the TIU international festival! Beating my host father at Mah Jong — really!!! Laughing at my horrible Japanese language mistakes with my host mother until we were both crying with tears running down our faces. Exploring Tokyo with Kyoko, meeting her friends, working on our friendship even when we didn’t really understand each other’s language or culture very well. Of course there were tough times, but my host family and the JSP staff were kind and helpful. JSP took me to the doctor and my host family taught me so many things.

4. Are you still keeping in touch with your host family?

Yes!!! We kept in touch all these years and now we are enjoying Facebook. It really helps us and others in our TIU/Willamette exchange groups stay in touch.

5. Does JSP have a lot of impact on your life/career?

Absolutely. My life-long career in international exchange was launched at TIU. I am so grateful for the inspiration. Today I am the Executive Director of International Programs at a prominent US college due to the life changing experience in Kawagoe

6. Do you have any advice for our future JSP students?

GO! GO! Be OPEN to making friends, making mistakes and the unbelievable kindness of the TIU staff and faculty and the Japanese people.

Thank you very much for the interesting conversation. We wish you well and looking forward to seeing you in Tokyo again in the near future.