Hopping on a Plane to Ho Chi Minh City: Why I Joined Fulbright


It was very hard on my parents to watch me leave home and move across the world when I was still 14. During those years I saw my family only infrequently and it was lonely. 

 On my father’s first day of class, the professor cold called my father and asked him for his opinion on US trade policy. My father looked back at the professor startled and after a few seconds just barely mumbled out a sentence or two.

Then he looked on as his classmates debated the topic at a furious pace and intensity.This was my father’s first day at graduate school in the US and my father was floored. 

Back in Japan, my father was used to sitting in lectures where the professor would drone on, barely looking up from his notes. This was completely different. He was amazed at how his classmates brought so many different view points to the discussion and expressed them so persuasively.

At first my father struggled to state and defend his opinion in class. But over time he not only thrived, but became a convert to the American style of education. It taught him how to think 

When my family moved back to Japan, my parents decided that I should also get a US-style education.

While all of my father’s Japanese classmates who had studied abroad with him reassimilated back into Japanese society and sent their children to Japanese schools, my parents made the atypical choice and the substantial investment of sending me to a US-style international school. I was too young to understand the significance of this decision at the time.

When my parents asked me which school I wanted to go to, I told them I was more excited about the international school because it had a much larger playground than the local school near my house. 

Years later, I left Japan and attended high school and university in the US. My experience in the US, like my father’s, was transformative. But it came at a cost. 

It was very hard on my parents to watch me leave home and move across the world when I was still 14. During those years I saw my family only infrequently and it was lonely.  

Over time, as I established a community and a life in the US, I began to feel more at home in the US. I felt less inclined to return to Japan after graduation. My parents wondered whether their sacrifice had been worth it.

After university, I joined BCG’s education practice and spent five years supporting US universities and school districts as a management consultant. During one project, my team helped a university that was struggling with recruiting students and faced declining enrollments. 

On another, we worked with school district leaders to turn-around a district’s lowest performing schools. My upbringing instilled in me a deep faith in the importance of education as a vehicle for individual transformation (and subsequently societal transformation), and I wanted to play my part in sharing this opportunity with more children. 

Earlier this year, when my former boss at BCG told me about Fulbright University Vietnam, it immediately piqued my interest.  

Establishing Fulbright University Vietnam would allow thousands of Vietnamese youth – regardless of their ability to pay or where in Vietnam they are from – to pursue the US-style liberal arts education that changed my father’s life, and subsequently my own.

And Fulbright University Vietnam would enable Vietnamese students to pursue this education without making the significant sacrifice of leaving their families and moving across the world. 

I decided that I wanted to work for Fulbright and put the skill set that I had developed at BCG to good use. I offered to begin work as a volunteer, and a few weeks later hopped on a plane to Ho Chi Minh City.

 Kentaro Watari (Stanford Alumni)

Connect with us


(English below) CƠ HỘI CUỐI CÙNG THAM GIA CHƯƠNG TRÌNH ASEAN SOCIAL IMPACT PROGRAM 2024: CHÍNH THỨC MỞ ĐƠN TUYỂN ĐỢT 2 🌟 Sau khi cân nhắc kỹ lưỡng, ASIP rất vui mừng thông báo ĐỢT TUYỂN THỨ HAI chính thức được mở, bởi chúng tôi luôn đánh giá cao những hạt nhân thay đổi trẻ tuổi, đam mê, tài năng, luôn tự thúc đẩy bản thân để giải quyết các vấn đề xã hội và hướng tới một cộng đồng tốt đẹp hơn. Chương trình ASEAN Social Impact Program - tài trợ bởi USAID trong khuôn khổ hợp tác với Đại học Fulbright Việt Nam. Chương trình mong muốn trang bị cho thế hệ trẻ kiến thức, kỹ năng và nguồn lực để sẵn sàng đối mặt và giải quyết những vấn đề xã hội. Với mối quan tâm lớn tới sức khỏe con người hậu COVID-19, chủ đề năm nay của ASIP24 là “Sức khỏe và Tinh thần”. 👉Đăng ký tham gia ngay tại: 📆 Thời gian nộp đơn: 23:59 PM (giờ Việt Nam, GMT+7), ngày 14 tháng 04 năm 2024 📌Thông tin chi tiết về ASIP24: 📌 Hãy theo dõi ASEAN Social Impact Program để cập nhật tin tức mới nhất! ________________________________________________________ FINAL CALL FOR ASEAN SOCIAL IMPACT PROGRAM 2024: BATCH 2 APPLICATION IS OFFICIALLY OPEN 🌟 We are delighted to officially open THE SECOND BATCH of applications as we value passionate, talented young leaders with visions of promising future. The ASEAN Social Impact Program is funded by USAID within the partnership with Fulbright University Vietnam. We aim to equip young change-makers with the necessary knowledge, skills, and resources to tackle these social issues. In light of the grave concerns about human health following COVID-19, ASIP24's theme is “Good health and Wellbeing” - SDG Goal #3. 👉Apply NOW: 📆 Deadline: 11:59 PM (Vietnam Time, GMT+7), April 14, 2024 📌 About ASIP24: 📌 Stay tuned to the ASEAN Social Impact Program for the latest news!


(English below) ✨ LỜI CHÚC NĂM GIÁP THÌN 2024 ✨ Bước sang thềm năm mới Giáp Thìn, Đại học Fulbright Việt Nam xin được gửi đến mọi nhà lời chúc tốt đẹp nhất 🐉 Với trái tim tràn đầy hy vọng hoà cùng niềm vui đầu năm, chúng tôi vô cùng trân trọng sự tin tưởng và hỗ trợ vô giá Fulbright nhận được trong hành trình vừa qua, là động lực hướng đến những điều tuyệt vời sẽ tiếp nối trong năm nay 🌟 Nhân dịp năm Rồng, Fulbright xin kính chúc vạn sự hanh thông, mọi niềm mong thành hiện thực 🌟 --- ✨ HAPPY LUNAR NEW YEAR 2024 ✨ As we step into New Year, the Year of the Dragon, Fulbright University Vietnam would like to extend our best wishes to everyone 🐉 With hearts filled with hope and joy as we embark on the new year, we deeply appreciate the invaluable trust and support Fulbright has received on our journey thus far, serving as motivation towards the wonderful things that will continue in the year ahead 🌟 As the Dragon's year unfolds its tale, Fulbright extends wishes, setting sail. Prosperity's breeze, in every gale, May dreams come true, without fail 🌟

This site uses cookies to provide a better user experience.

Essential cookies are active by default and are necessary for the proper functioning of the website. Analytics cookies gather anonymous information for us to enhance and monitor the site. Performance cookies are employed by third parties to optimize their applications (such as videos and maps) that are embedded within our website. To accept all cookies, click 'I accept.' Alternatively, choose your preferences for analytics and performance cookies, then select 'Close cookie control.'