Rachel Amiya (Huneryager) '05 (Biology Major and German Minor)
Q: What made you interested in studying about Japan or studying the Japanese language?
A: I have long felt a particular draw to the Japanese culture and wanted to expand upon that interest. I also simply enjoy learning languages and, as I had already studied German and a bit of French, I wanted to try something different and challenge myself. Moreover, I had a number of Japanese friends and was interested in deepening these friendships.
Q: How did you decide on your major and minor?
A: I chose biology as my major because I had excelled in biology in high school and was considering veterinary school as a potential future path. I selected German as my minor because I wanted to be sure that I kept up my German studies through college.
Q: Describe a memorable classroom or extracurricular experience studying Japanese or Japanese culture.
A: I remember with fondness and appreciation how much energy and imagination Suda-sensei, Jo-sensei, and Gardner-sensei put into every one of their lessons. Japanese class was always a memorable experience.
Q: How would you describe the experience of learning Japanese language to someone who is thinking about studying it for the first time?
A: It can indeed be maddening, especially when you are faced with several pages of kanji for an exam to take place the next day. You know that you have practiced and repracticed every one of those characters before, but for the life of you, you can only recall a small fraction of them ... At the same time, there is a very special sense of satisfaction that comes with stepping back and realizing that you can now read and write in a set of alphabets that several months ago had been complete gibberish to you. In other words, it's a rather rough mountain to climb, but the views are fantastic.
Q: Describe your study abroad experience in Japan.
A: I participated in the Princeton in Ishikawa program. It was quite a rigorous program and much of my time was spent doing homework at the little desk in the room provided by my host family, but I loved the intensity of the experience. I also really enjoyed the extracurricular cultural outings and activities. I suppose one of the biggest highs for me, though, was getting to know my host family. Though our conversations were somewhat limited by the level of my Japanese, it was such a rewarding thing to realize that I actually could communicate and get along without using English in my daily life. As for the low points, I did become slightly weary of the feeling of not truly belonging or fitting in towards the end of my time in Japan, and I will certainly never forget the panic I felt when I took the wrong bus and became very lost on the first day of classes! All in all, though, it was definitely an extremely positive experience and I would definitely recommend studying in Japan to other students with an interest in the Japanese culture and language.
Q: What are you doing now? How has the study of Japanese and Japanese culture affected your life?
A: Right now I am living in Yatsushiro, Kumamoto on the island of Kyushu in Japan as an ALT in the JET Programme. I am married to a Japanese diplomat who is currently working at the foreign ministry in Tokyo. I plan to relocate to Tokyo next year and eventually enter a Japanese university for graduate study. Clearly, the study of Japanese and Japanese culture has affected my life in a very real and lasting way.