I am Vella Atienza, an ASJA scholar from the Philippines from April 2005 to March 2009. I graduated with a Ph.D. in Asia Pacific Studies from the Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU), Beppu, Japan. Immediately after my graduation, I was accepted as a Research Fellow at the Institute of Developing Economies- Japan External Trade Organization (IDE-JETRO) from April 2009 to March 2012. While working at IDE-JETRO, I was actively involved in various research projects focusing on the Philippines and other Asian countries. Currently, I have been working as an Assistant Professor at the University of the Philippines Los Banos since 2012 and I have been teaching Development Management and Governance courses to both Masters and Ph.D. students in the University. Aside from teaching, I have also been involved in various research projects and extension activities both locally and internationally. With all these responsibilities, I could say that my experience as an ASJA scholar really prepared me to perform my duties more effectively. As a Professor and as a researcher, those experiences and trainings I have gained through ASJA activities have equipped me with insights and skills in dealing with people of diverse cultures and nationalities.
Being a team member and country expert in various research projects funded by the Japanese organizations, I believe that I have been contributing in forging collaborative works in addressing current issues both in Japan, the Philippines and the region. To cite an example, I represented the Philippines as the Country Expert/Member of the Drafting Committee for the State of 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) in Asia and the Pacific which was co-organized by the United Nations Centre for Regional Development (UNCRD) and the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), Japan from 2015-2018. In addition, I am currently the country expert/team member for the ongoing international research project entitled “Toward regional cooperation of local governments in ASEAN” funded by the Economic Research Institute for Southeast and East Asia (ERIA) and the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO).
Regarding memories of ASJA, for me everything was special and wonderful. I admit that the first few months in Japan was very tough because it was my first international experience. Thus, living in a foreign country with different language and culture was really challenging and I almost gave up. But with the very warm welcome and continuous support of ASJA staff and fellow ASJA scholars, I was able to adjust well to the life in Japan eventually. I could say that I gained not only higher education in Japan but I also gained an additional family with ASJA. For me all the activities were memorable, from the “syukudai”, “happyoukai”, “kanzoubun” in each ASJA formal activities to a simple ASJA gatherings like watching sakura together, among others brought so much happy memories to me. Also, the excellent leadership of Sato Sensei and the amazing support of ASJA staff especially Yukako-san, Aya-san and Shinobu-san to all ASJA scholars not only on academic matters but personal as well were really something I would cherish forever in my heart. And of course, one very important and special memory from ASJA was meeting my husband who was also an ASJA scholar. I could say that ASJA has played a very important part in my life both in terms of my profession but as a person as well.
Hence, I will always be proud to be an ASJA Scholar and I would be forever grateful to ASJA.