Arthur Chyan '10

Arthur Chyan '10

Q: What made you interested in studying about Japan or studying the Japanese language?

I traveled to Japan once as a child, and that trip was so memorable that anything I encountered afterwards related to the country managed to pique my interest. As I grew older and increasingly recognized my family ties to Taiwan, I hoped to learn more about Japan since Taiwan was annexed by Japan in the past. I also consumed a large amount of Japanese popular music along with the occasional drama or movie, and I wanted to engage more with these forms of mass media.

Q: What are you doing now? What are your future plans? How has the study of Japanese and Japanese culture affected your life?

I am now a medical doctor. Already, the language has proved useful in my current work: I was part of a volunteer group providing healthcare to remote mountain regions in Taiwan, and at one of the sites, I was the only one able to communicate with an elderly woman who only spoke Japanese (she likely grew up during a time when Taiwan's schools only taught Japanese). Japan stands as a leader in many medical and technological capacities, so I look forward to traveling to Japan's healthcare facilities to exchange best practices. I also hope to work with colleagues from Japan in international medical missions. Although I do not use the language every day in my professional life, knowing the language and culture is one of my greatest personal pleasures. I immensely enjoy being able to vacation in Japan or watch a Japan-related performance with few barriers.

Q: How did you decide on your major and minor? 

I knew that I wanted to leave the path to medicine open, but I also wanted to explore different subjects in college. While I was completing my medical school prerequisites, I had plenty of time to take other classes that interested me (one of the great things about a liberal arts approach to higher education). By my third year, I realized that most of my non-premed classes fit into the Asian Studies major with a Japanese minor.

Q: Did you study abroad in Japan? If so, please tell us a little about your experience.

I was looking to build a strong Japanese-language foundation early on, so I studied abroad the summer after my first year (with the help of a Freeman-ASIA scholarship). I loved my time in Japan. During eight weeks in Kanazawa, I had the chance to experience a lot of the standard study abroad activities: living with a host family, going to a summer festival, relaxing in hot springs, making my own tea bowl, traveling with classmates to Kyoto, and quickly building my vocabulary since all participants agreed to only speak Japanese 24/7. 

Q: Describe a memorable classroom or extracurricular experience studying Japanese or Japanese culture.

I had the great fortune to receive a grant through the Japanese department (Project Japan Summer Research Fellowship) to conduct qualitative research in Tokyo during my last summer of college. My classes on the political science, history, and anthropology of Japan served as a foundation for me to create a research project focused on attitudes toward immigration in Japan. After three years of language studies through Swarthmore's Japanese language department, I was able to carry out most of the research itself in the Japanese language. To be able to discuss a topic as complex as immigration with some of University of Tokyo's political science PhD candidates clearly stood out as a moment when I could see how much I had progressed.

Q: How would you describe the experience of learning Japanese language to someone who is thinking about studying it for the first time? 

Learning the Japanese language is a thrill. You attain a very practical skill and have the opportunity to explore a different culture--studying Japanese at Swarthmore is in many ways very much the same as taking a class on Japanese culture. Although the language has its challenging components, it is so rewarding to be able to express yourself in many new ways that are not possible with the English language.