No.28Original text is in Japanese
Seeing and Experiencing It All: Ambition to Discover the “Real” United States
A dedicated newspaper reporter, Mr. Kikuchi turned this interview around and started by asking the interviewer, “When you hear the word ‘Fulbrighter’, what image comes to mind?” He focused on studying and researching American political media at Columbia University and other institutions.
Mr. Kikuchi first heard about the Fulbright Program while in high school. He read a book titled Nandemo Mite yaro (See and experience it all) by Makoto Oda, who himself was a Fulbrighter. “At the time, I did not think of becoming a Fulbrighter myself in the future, but I did dream of studying abroad. However, I was very busy with a sports team in the university and became busier once I got a job; so it was with the Fulbright Program that I got my first opportunity to travel abroad.”
Mr. Kikuchi arrived in the United States right after the presidential election and was exposed to a variety of political media, which made him think about media neutrality. “Once, I was with some other students watching a media report on a state senate election. The contest continued till midnight and, in the end, the Democratic Party candidate won. Hearing the results, the other students broke out in wild applause. I was among both American students and exchange students at the time, and I was struck by the sight of these aspiring journalists unilaterally expressing joy," Mr. Kikuchi remembers. According to him, there is a proliferation of media outlets and, although the media is neutral, in general, individual reporters often wish to assert their beliefs and opinions in media reports. The aforementioned incident made Mr. Kikuchi understand that media neutrality is an ideal concept and individual reporters often find it difficult to realize it.
To understand various perspectives on the topic, he attended two universities and participated in the free English classes offered by public libraries in New York City. “Many of the people who attended the classes were from poor economic backgrounds or comprised families of immigrants. There were also people who had been forcibly deported many times, but continued to dream of living in America and were trying to learn English. Spending time with these people enabled me to see one side of the American society that is not generally depicted in the media,” Mr. Kikuchi remarks.
While acknowledging that it was a year with many achievements, Mr. Kikuchi said that he still processing all that he learned and experienced. He says, “I have just returned to Japan, so I believe that the relevance of much of my research will be clarified only after some time. I was able to become friends with people from all over the world, not just the Americans. I intend to stay in touch with them all my life; in that sense, you could say that my study starts now. The Fulbright award gave me the opportunity to acquire lifelong assets. If there is anyone out there who is unsure about whether to apply or not, I wholeheartedly encourage you to apply for the program and reap its various benefits.”
While at Portland State University, I participated in English classes held by the volunteers from the local church. We talked about various topics, for instance on history and culture; we also dined together and we became like a big family.