Featured Alumni

Katie Carter '16Katie Carter ’16
Major: Asian Studies and Chemistry
JET Program (Itoigawa city, Niigata Prefecture)

Even though I grew up with a Japanese grandmother, I had never thought about studying Japanese language or culture when I initially arrived at Bowdoin. My first semester freshman year, however, I had one more spot to fill so I chose a Japanese history course. I can’t begin to explain how much that first Asian studies course changed my life and how happy I am that it did! That Japanese history course introduced me to the wonderful Asian studies department and led me to my first Japanese language class. From my very first day of Japanese to the day I graduated, the professors and members of the Japanese language program felt like my family at Bowdoin. This program gave me the chance to participate in Japanese language tables, attend fun department events, teach Japanese to local schoolchildren, and work with some of the most encouraging and enthusiastic professors on campus.

My time at Bowdoin was mainly devoted towards completing my two majors (chemistry and Asian studies) and competing as a member of the swim team. As a double major and an athlete I was touched by how much the Japanese language professors took an active interest in my life outside of the Asian studies department. They attended home swim meets, posted our championship results on the Japanese program Facebook page, and frequently asked about my chemistry research. My senior year I also was able to carry out research for an advanced independent study with Professor Christmas thanks to the unique and incredible opportunity to access a Japan Times database of digitized newspapers dating back hundreds of years. With these primary sources and Professor Christmas’ mentoring, my research culminated in an environmental history paper investigating the tuna fishing industry as a tool for pre- and post-World War II Japanese expansionism.

My Japanese professors gave me crucial support and advice when I applied to the JET program and helped me develop the language skills to explore the country and make lasting friendships during my time in Japan. In college they welcomed me into a community that felt like family and after graduating they gave me the chance to see the world. I am filled with gratitude and happiness every time I reflect on that moment freshman year when I fell in love with Asian studies at Bowdoin.

After completing two years with the JET program I plan to enter a graduate program for a doctorate in physical therapy. I chose to pursue a career in physical therapy because I believe it is a perfect combination of my interests in research, teaching, and using science to improve the quality of life and health of those in need.

Karen Chan '18Karen Chan ’18
Major: Chemistry
Graduate Student, University of Southern California, School of Pharmacy

I started taking Japanese in my junior year because I wanted to do something new and different and it developed into something that changed my life. After a year of Japanese, I received an opportunity to travel to Tokyo with Japanese professors and other students. Although it was only a two-week trip it was packed with intellectual stimulation and fun. Nothing can compare to the experience of going to a museum with an expert in that field!

Through this trip I was introduced to kanpō, which is traditional Chinese medicine. I plan on incorporating what I have learned as I pursue a degree in pharmacy and will hopefully revisit Japan after studying more.

The Bowdoin Japanese Program has given me so much—from compassionate professors to an inclusive community that I will never forget. My only regret is that I wish I had found it earlier.

Michael Amano '17Michael Amano ’17
Major: Asian Studies and Neuroscience
Current position: Study/Research Fulbright Fellow in Hiroshima, Japan

When I first arrived at Bowdoin I had no idea what I wanted to study. Everything appeared interesting and I found it difficult to decide. However, after an auspicious encounter at a college house sushi event where I was struck by Professor Hiroo Aridome’s kind and encouraging disposition, I decided to give Japanese language a try. Despite the early hour, each day of Japanese class was fascinating and I formed lasting friendships with my classmates in the incredibly energizing and collaborative environment.

Soon, I was encouraged to volunteer with Oshietai, a team of students who teaches Japanese language classes once a week at a local elementary school. After studying abroad my junior spring in Hikone, Japan and having an opportunity to reconnect with my family roots, my interest in Asian studies became more profound and what I intended to be minor grew into a double major. That summer I traveled to Hiroshima and used my newly acquired language skills to research a post-WWII children's art exchange between Hiroshima and Santa Fe, New Mexico. My research consisted of tracking down and interviewing individuals (in Japanese) who participated in the exchange as schoolchildren and I also had the opportunity to speak with several atomic bomb survivors. Upon returning to Bowdoin my senior year, I applied the knowledge and stories gained through these interactions as co-curator of an exhibition at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art entitled “Perspectives from Postwar Hiroshima: Chuzo Tamotzu, Children’s Drawings, and the Art of Resolution,” which was briefly featured in the New York Times.

After graduating as a neuroscience and Asian studies double-major, I have returned to Hiroshima as a Fulbright fellow in order to conduct genetics research at the Radiation Effects Research Foundation, which studies lasting health implications of the atomic bombings in Japan for survivors and their descendants. It feels incredible to have an opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills that I gained at Bowdoin towards a personally meaningful and intellectually challenging cause and I am deeply grateful for the selfless dedication of my Asian studies and neuroscience professors for making it possible.

Despite pursuing two summers of labwork and an honors project in neuroscience, I never once felt pressured to choose between my dual courses of study. On the contrary, Professors Jayanthi Selinger, Hiroo Aridome, and Sakura Christmas demonstrated flexibility and understanding as they selflessly encouraged my pursuit of neuroscience, while simultaneously fostering in me a deep sense of curiosity that has allowed me to connect my multiple interests. By teaching me how to embrace discomfort, truly work hard, and think creatively, these professors cultivated my growth not only as a scholar, but as a human being. I am confident that the values and skills imparted through their mentorship will allow me to flourish during my Fulbright year and in all of my future personal and professional endeavors.

Gregoire Faucher '16Grégoire Faucher ’16
Major: Government and Legal Studies, Asian Studies Minor
Current position: Graduate Student, Stanford University, Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS); Product Manager for Loop Now Technologies

When I was 17 years old, I knew next to nothing about Japan and its culture. On a whim I applied to Stanford University’s Reischauer Scholars Program (RSP), an intensive online course for high school students that focuses on Japan and U.S.–Japan relations. In hindsight, the decision to apply was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. Six years and many ‘East Asian experiences’ later, I owe much of the inspiration to study Japan to the RSP. By the end of the program I had developed a true and profound interest in Japan and East Asia.

Before the start of my final year at Bowdoin, I spent part of my summer wandering Tokyo, Kyoto, and everywhere in between. Although my first trip to Japan was in part to explore its beautiful cities, it also served a greater purpose. I wanted to know if all the years I had spent studying Japan since the conclusion of the RSP had been worth it. My trip to Japan ultimately helped me to determine whether or not I wanted to continue my study of the country and surrounding region. After all, who wants to continue studying a part of the world that disappoints them once they’ve actually visited it? Thankfully however, from the moment I arrived in Haneda, to my last night spent gazing across Tokyo’s incredible skyline, I knew I had made the right decision to continue studying Japan.

After graduating Bowdoin College with a degree in government and legal studies and East Asian studies, I made the decision to pursue a master’s degree at Stanford University’s Center for East Asian Studies (CEAS). Having only taken one year of Japanese at Bowdoin, I was both nervous and intimidated to be studying at one of the world’s best universities in a language-intensive program. I can safely say the reason I am able to write this message to you from Stanford’s campus is because of the inspiration and support that I received from Professors Henry Laurence, Hiroo Aridome, Vyjayanthi Selinger, and Sakura Christmas. Currently, I’m studying transnational crime (particularly human trafficking) in East Asia as well as U.S.–Japan relations. When I’m not pumping myself with caffeine in one of Stanford’s many libraries I’m working full-time as a product manager for Loop Now Technologies, an app company started by one of LinkedIn’s founding members.

For those of you who are unsure whether or not to study Japanese, the answer has and always will be a simple one—do it. Bowdoin’s Japanese program and Asian Studies department are incredible so take advantage of them while you’re a Polar Bear! As a native French speaker who thought he already knew how to speak the most beautiful language in the world—well, let’s just say I’m okay with ties.

Michael Colbert '16Michael Colbert ’16
Major: Romance Languages
Current position: Admissions Counselor, Bowdoin College

As a Romance languages major at Bowdoin, I was looking to branch out and learn a different language my senior year. I had always been interested in Japanese and I found that the Bowdoin Japanese Program community gave me ample opportunities to explore Japanese language and culture.

After graduating, I spent a year as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) on the JET Program in a small city in Hokkaido. I taught English at Takikawa Nishi Senior High School alongside Japanese teachers in the school’s general course. Since I taught only at one school, I had plenty of chances to get to know the teachers and students there through English class, English club, or cultural exchange activities in the city. Outside of work, I had plenty of chances to explore Hokkaido and make friends from all around the world, from Japan to Singapore to New Zealand. Although I only studied Japanese for one year before going, my time spent in Japan has inspired me to continue a lifelong study of Japanese.

Mai Kristofferson '13Mai Kristofferson ’13
Major: Government and Asian Studies
Current position: Marketing Manager at Pacific Reach Advisors, Inc.

After graduating as a Government and Asian Studies double-major, I ventured to Tokyo to join a domestic-Japanese marketing research and consulting company. I first connected with the firm at the 2012 Boston Career Forum in the fall of my senior year. Choosing a domestic company allowed me to accelerate my language acquisition and immerse myself in Japanese business culture. As the only native English-speaker in the company, I spent the first year in the Accounting and Finance division. There, I studied basic accounting while getting acclimated to life in Japan. Then, after a unusual but exciting merger with a European marketing research company, I became executive assistant and translator for our newly appointed Dutch CEO.

More than anything, Bowdoin encouraged me to ask questions and respectfully critique what others may consider the norm. It encouraged me to take risks and embrace challenge—all values that carried me through my two whirlwind years in Tokyo. Today, I’m traveling back and forth from Tokyo while working with a small start-up in California that connects US undergraduates with promising career opportunities in Japan. Ultimately, I plan on marrying my Bowdoin degree and my experience in Japan by pursuing law school and a career in transnational corporate law.