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東京大学公共政策大学院 | GraSPP / Graduate School of Public Policy | The university of Tokyo

GraSPPers Voice GraSPPers Voice

A transformative experience for a Japanese-American

George Hageman (from United States)

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How did you come to enroll at GraSPP?

I’m half-Japanese, born and raised in the United States. During one of my visits to family in Japan, I happened to come across a flyer advertising what was then a brand new MPP/IP program in English. One year later, I applied and was fortunate enough to get in. My primary purpose in coming to Japan was to more fully experience the other half of my heritage. I had visited Japan many times but I had never lived there for an extended period. GraSPP gave me the opportunity to dive deep into the culture, while also studying at a world-class university and preparing myself for a future career in government.

What was attractive or stimulating about GraSPP?

GraSPP attracts students from all over the world. During my two years, I developed friendships with people from Mongolia, Korea, China, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, Nepal, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Kazakhstan, UAE, Liberia, Ghana, Ethiopia, Sudan, Russia, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Denmark, Portugal, Brazil, Venezuela, and of course Japan.

I never would have met such a diverse group of people had I stayed in the United States. For someone who was interested in international affairs, there was simply no better place to go than the “miniature United Nations” that is GraSPP.

Please share your memorable experiences/courses in GraSPP

The professors and the classes were all great, but the best experiences were little outings with friends. Whether it was something simple like grabbing a meal or going to the gym or singing karaoke, or something more extensive like our overnight orientation trip during our first week, we were all exploring a new country and a new culture together.

It helped that those friends had significant government experience and were willing to share how things worked in their respective countries. From those informal settings, I learned more about Japan, international affairs, and public policy than I did in any of my classes. I’ll never forget those great times. 

What is the advantage of studying in Japan?

Japan is the perfect country for a graduate student. The public transit system can take you anywhere you want to go. The convenience stores on every corner mean you’ll never struggle to find a snack. There is almost no crime, so you never have to worry about your safety. But most importantly, because most of the MPP/IP students came from abroad, everybody was willing and eager to go exploring together.

How did your school life affect your career?

The three-part curriculum of politics, law, and economics was the perfect blend for me. I had studied politics in college, and I was thinking about going to law school after GraSPP, but I had little economics experience. I left GraSPP feeling as though I had received a well-rounded education with a distinctly international angle that set me up for success in the next phase of my life. The flexibility of the program also gave me time to try out some other extracurricular opportunities and internships.

What has GraSPP meant to your life?

After GrasPP, I received my law degree from Harvard Law School, served five years in the United States Navy, and am now a federal prosecutor at the United States Department of Justice. None of those things would have been possible without the Master of Public Policy credential that I received from GraSPP. But more important than the resume line was the personal growth I experienced during those two years. 

Tokyo is where I truly discovered who I was. I could only do that with the support of my amazing international friends and classmates. I’m proud to be an American, and I hope that I represented my country well and left others with a positive impression. I can confidently say that each of them left a positive impression on me. 

Advice/comments for the latent students

I know it’s easier said than done, but don’t forget to explore and have fun. You should try hard, of course, but don’t do it for the grades; do it because you want to learn. I’ve long since forgotten most of the things I heard in class, but I’ll never forget the memories I had with my wonderful classmates in the amazing city of Tokyo. GraSPP will always have a special place in my heart.