Dylan Hankins ’20
It’s funny looking back because I used to tell people I was just studying Japanese for fun, that I wanted to study abroad in Japan so I might as well take a few classes in the language before I go. I didn’t know any Japanese going into the program, and, in fact, I had already completed my language requirement with Spanish. But after a few weeks in Japanese 101 I knew that I wanted to make it my major, I fell in love with the culture, the writing, the art, and the language. Now I’m a graduate who has studied in Osaka and is reading, writing, and speaking Japanese at the 400 level. And I swear I wasn’t paid by the school to say anything about the teachers, but I will say that they are infectiously passionate about what they teach, and it’s all thanks to them.
On top of that, I think the students here are very passionate as well. Given the language’s difficulty, I wouldn’t say learning Japanese is an endeavor most students just take on willy-nilly. As a result, when I think back on my time in class, I think of a tight-knit community of academics who all care deeply about what they’re studying. As an added bonus, most of us have studied abroad together and have plenty of inside jokes and shared experiences that have accumulated over the years since we were freshmen.
My advice for anyone who is considering studying Japanese at Lewis and Clark, even if they have no prior experience, is that the community, the adventure, and the quality of education you will find here makes it all worth it.
Ronan Hall ’19
When I came to Lewis & Clark College as a freshman, my Japanese was not great. I had been studying online for two years but could only speak a few sentences because I never had any conversational practice in the online course. I was determined to place into the 200 level of Japanese class, so that I could improve more quickly and be able to speak with Japanese exchange students who I had met at Lewis and Clark, and be better set for my study abroad. There was a lot of review and catchup work for me to do, but my Japanese professors were patient and encouraging and I was able to catch up to the class within a few weeks. Because of that I was able to spend my entire junior year at Waseda University in Tokyo. My courses at Lewis and Clark had prepared me well for this experience and I was able to navigate the city, work a part-time job, do volunteering, and conduct research for my senior thesis, all in Japanese!
This past year I had many wonderful opportunities thanks to the devoted staff of the Japanese department. In the fall, I was coaxed, prodded, and cheered into taking the dreaded Japanese Language Proficiency Test and was able to pass the 2nd highest level. It was not nearly as terrifying as I thought, and I am planning to attempt the highest level in the next year. I visited Hitachi Hi-Technologies in Hillsboro along with my professor and two other students to learn about what it is like to work in a global company. Finally, I competed in the upper division of the Toyama Cup Speech Contest. The Toyama Cup is a contest hosted by Oregon’s sister state Toyama prefecture, in which students from all around Oregon write speeches in Japanese and present them in front of a panel of judges. Although it sounds intimidating, I had so much support and advise from my Japanese professor that I was confident and tried my best. I was chosen for the first prize which is a trip to visit Toyama prefecture! I feel very grateful for all the support I received and am very excited for this trip, which I am sure will be another amazing opportunity to improve my Japanese abilities and learn more about Japanese communities and culture.
As I write this I am preparing to depart for a year-long contract as an Assistant Language Teacher with the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET). I will be living and working in Miyazaki Prefecture in Kyushu. If anyone had asked me when I first came to Lewis & Clark College as a freshman if I could envision myself four years later as a graduated senior about to begin working in Japan with so many priceless experiences and memories to encourage me, I would have said no. To my professors and fellow students of the Japanese department, to all my Japanese friends and my Japanese roommate who helped and inspired me along the way, thank you for being by my side. I would not be on this journey without you. To current and future students of Japanese: do your best, and never forget that help and opportunities are all around you.
Sara Wilky ’18
I first became interested in learning Japanese because I love the soft musical sound of the language. Initially, I wasn’t sure if I was just going to take one or two classes, but I loved Lewis & Clark’s Japanese program and ended up completing the minor. I came to Lewis & Clark with no prior Japanese experience, but many of my fellow students had studied Japanese to some extent before college, and I can attest to the care and expertise with which Lewis & Clark treats both types of students. If I had attended a different college I might not have pursued Japanese, but thanks to the Lewis & Clark program I have experienced many things and gained a sense of achievement that I never would have otherwise.
My first and fourth years I participated in the Toyama Cup Speech Contest. Toyama is a prefecture in Japan, and Toyama and Oregon are sister states. Every year Oregon college students write speeches in Japanese and compete to win a trip to Japan and a tour of Toyama prefecture. In my fourth year I was lucky enough to win third place in the upper level division. It takes time and effort but competing in the Toyama cup is a wonderful experience. I also had the good fortune of studying abroad in Osaka, where I made many good friends and strengthened my Japanese through intensive study. Whether you choose to study a language or not, I definitely recommend studying abroad.
Currently, I am looking to use my language skills to teach English to foreign students. I recently enrolled in a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course, and hope to become a Japanese English Teacher (JET) next year. I am also looking to take some translation and interpretation courses at my local community college. Japanese has already given me so many opportunities to meet new people and connect in new ways and Lewis & Clark has been a great step in what I hope will be a long life filled with language.
Josh Kaplan ’13
I originally intended to major in English and Computer Science at Lewis & Clark, but I instantly fell in love with the Japanese language my freshman year. I soon became an East Asian Studies major, which let me study Chinese and Japanese culture in a multi-disciplinary way, through history, literature, religious studies, and sociology and anthropology. After my sophomore year, I attended Middlebury College’s excellent summer intensive language program, where I learned the equivalent of one-year of college Japanese in two short months without speaking English. Shortly after the program, I started a year-long study abroad program at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan. During my winter break in Japan, I volunteered at a youth hostel in Nagasaki for a month in exchange for a free stay and occasional food and drink.
Coming back to Lewis & Clark for my senior year, I started working as a student intern at the Office of Overseas and Off-Campus Programs. I also worked with Professor Suttmeier to design guided-study classes for Business Japanese and Preparation for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. I passed N2 last year and plan to take N1 soon. I was accepted into the JET Program as a Coordinator of International Relations (CIR), in which I will live in Japan providing support for foreign nationals, organizing intercultural events, and promoting the local prefecture.. I hope to use my experience in Japan and America and my senior thesis —about anti-nuclear activist movements in the wake of Fukushima— in order to get into a competitive graduate school program, eventually working in international business or education.
Abby Smith ’13
When I entered Lewis & Clark as a freshman in 2009, I had just a year of audited Japanese under my belt, and a lot of excitement for the Japanese program here. Outside of Japanese classes, Lewis & Clark also has a large population of Japanese exchange students, with whom I roomed for all my years at LC, and from whom I learned more than I can say.
After a summer on the Middlebury Intensive Language Program (at Monterey Institute of International Studies), I set off for Lewis & Clark’s year-long study abroad program at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan. I left Japan only reluctantly, and determined to return. This past winter, I took the once-a-year Japanese Language Proficiency Test, and was able to pass the N2 Level. I was given incredible support in this with a JLPT-focused independent study led by Bruce Suttmeier. I also cannot stress enough the advice and support he gave me while I was applying for a position on JET program—which I will begin in the fall this year—hopefully the beginning of a long career path in Japan. Without Lewis & Clark and its incredible faculty, classes, and thriving international community, I may never have started down this path. I am so glad I did.