Alumni and Careers

Take a look at what some of our Asian Studies alumni are doing now.
Michael Amano

Michael Amano

Class of: 2017

Location: Tokyo, Japan

Major(s): Asian Studies, Neuroscience

By teaching me how to embrace discomfort, truly work hard, and think creatively, my 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.

What was the most important thing you gained from studying Japanese?

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.

Katherine Carter

Katherine Carter

Class of: 2016

Major(s): Asian Studies, Chemistry

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.

What role did the Japanese program play in your Bowdoin experience?

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.

Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma

Class of: 2017

Major(s): Asian Studies, Economics

My whole family is from Shanghai—one of my goals coming to Bowdoin was to learn Chinese. As a kid, I grew up speaking Shanghainese, but never really learned how to speak Mandarin or write in Chinese. I've been taking Chinese for the past 3 years and my Chinese has really improved! It's been one of the defining parts of my Bowdoin education.

Jennifer Goldsmith-Adams

Jennifer Goldsmith-Adams

Class of: 1990

Location: New York, NY

Major(s): Asian Studies

Jennifer Goldsmith Adams was born and raised in New York City before she decided to attend Bowdoin College and major in Asian Studies. As a freshman, she decided not to pursue a pre-med degree, which had always been her intention, and instead chose to take advantage of some of the broader academic opportunities offered by Bowdoin. Little did she know that she would spend the next six years immersed in the study of modern and classical Chinese and would spend nearly two years living in Mainland China. Jennifer's interest in China led her to travel extensively throughout Asia, usually by train and boat, but on more than one occasion by more traditional means such as by horse or mule.

More About Jennifer

After college Jennifer was scheduled to begin a graduate program in London focusing on Chinese studies, but on a particularly cold Manchurian night she came to the decision to return to her original dream of studying medicine. Jennifer enrolled in the Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Medical Program at Columbia University, which led to NYU Medical School several years later. She completed her NYU Primary Care residency and stayed on for a chief resident year in 2003-2004. Jennifer is currently the Co-Director for the Primary Care program, and also works as a primary care physician at Gouverneur Healthcare Systems and a Violet Society Advisor at the medical school. Jennifer and her husband live in Manhattan with their daughters, Julia and Ellie, and their dog Cassie.

Jen and her experience in China were featured in a video by the Chinese station HuaPlusTV. Find the link to the video here.

Nicholas Fenichell

Nicholas Fenichell

Class of: 2012

Major(s): Asian Studies, Government and Legal Studies

My Chinese skills helped me find an internship at a venture capital firm and land a job at a Chinese real estate company in Shanghai and Hong Kong. I wanted to learn a new language at Bowdoin- one that would be challenging and that would open up doors in the future.

What interested you about the major?

My first-year and second-year Chinese teacher, Professor Cui, was a huge influence in my Chinese studies. While his classes were very demanding, he was completely invested in his students. Professor Jia was also a very important person in my Chinese career, as he was the one who gave me the Chinese name I use now. Finally, Professor Tsui piqued my interest in Chinese culture and film. After having studied abroad in Beijing for six months, I decided I wanted to go back after graduation. My Chinese skills helped me find an internship at a venture capital firm and land a job at a Chinese real estate company in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Knowing the language well allowed me to navigate in both the Western and Chinese worlds in social and professional aspects. I use Chinese now mainly in social settings, and people are pleasantly surprised to see that I can carry a conversation quite fluently. I invite students from all backgrounds and years to try learning Chinese and discovering a beautiful language, people, and country.

Ben Ziomek

Ben Ziomek

Class of: 2013

Major(s): Economics, German

Minor(s): Asian Studies - Chinese

Ben is based in Seattle, WA and works for Microsoft, where, in his words, he “guides investments in startups and global software firms, working with teams across six continents (including in Germany) to help each company build products using Microsoft technologies. When he's not flying from London to Singapore, you'll often find him in San Francisco, collaborating with A.I. startups to apply their technologies globally.

About Ben

While Ben admits that most of his business contacts in Europe can speak English, he claims that “the true value I got from my German studies [at Bowdoin] went beyond language.” That value, he contends, had to do with learning about the historical and ideological contexts of the works he studied in German. “German at Bowdoin was about learning to think like the great German thinkers of history and today, with the language being a tool to truly understanding them.”

Ben highlights the interdisciplinary nature of the German major and fondly remembered how it allowed him to research and write a successful honors project (with Birgit Tautz) that “put a cultural spin on the economic and geopolitical aspects of 19th-century Sino-German relations.”

“German was basically three majors in one: the German language, German literature, and the German philosophical perspective on the world.” The latter component of the German major, Ben argues, is the one that “helps me every day in my work: The ability to take on another’s perspective on something very complex. Sure, I may not speak
German as often as I would like, but every day I need to see what I'm doing from the perspective of a software developer in Malaysia, a salesperson in South Africa, or indeed a businessman in Germany and
then take their interests to heart in the programs I'm building. My experience in the German department at Bowdoin is what gave me the foundation I need to do this successfully.”

Katherine Carter

Katherine Carter

Class of: 2016

Major(s): Asian Studies, Chemistry

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.

What role did the Japanese program play in your Bowdoin experience?

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.

Michael Amano

Michael Amano

Class of: 2017

Location: Tokyo, Japan

Major(s): Asian Studies, Neuroscience

By teaching me how to embrace discomfort, truly work hard, and think creatively, my 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.

What was the most important thing you gained from studying Japanese?

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.

Eduardo Jaramillo

Eduardo Jaramillo

Class of: 2017

Major(s): Asian Studies, History

Studying Chinese language at Bowdoin was both a challenging and a rewarding experience. My classes at Bowdoin have improved both my conversational and professional Chinese speaking skills, and have vastly expanded my ability to read and write in Mandarin. The Chinese Department has also helped me to take advantage of some incredible opportunities off campus, including a Chinese speaking competition in Boston, a Middlebury study abroad program in Kunming, and a summer internship in Kunming. Furthermore, the Chinese Department is a close-knit community that allows students to develop close relationships with professors and classmates.

Wirunwan Pitaktong

Wirunwan Pitaktong

Class of: 2017

Major(s): Asian Studies, Government and Legal Studies

My paternal grandparents immigrated from Southern China to Thailand. Even though they do not speak Mandarin Chinese, I grew up with Chinese characters, culture, folklores, and stories from my grandparents' childhood. Despite this environment, I often said that I am simply "Thai" and nothing else. I never fully grasped the "Chinese side" and how it has informed and shaped me as a person.

What interested you about the major?

I started Chinese since the first semester and went abroad to Beijing my Junior year. Chinese at Bowdoin had prepared me well for my semester abroad in Beijing and greatly assisted me with my HSK exam level 5. With better command of Chinese, I was able to read literature and watch Chinese TV programs and news; and with such opportunities I was able to better understand the politics, history, and the mindsets of my grandparents whom I had lived with throughout my childhood. To me, learning Chinese is not only something I do for the sake of comprehension of the language, but also for the understanding of my heritage.

Kate Emerson

Kate Emerson

Class of: 2010

Location: San Francisco, CA

Major(s): Asian Studies, Francophone Studies

Kate Emerson is a graduate of the class of 2010 from Georgetown, Maine. At Bowdoin, Kate double majored in French and Asian studies. She graduated from the Columbia University School of Nursing in 2014, and from the University of California San Francisco Nurse Midwifery program in 2016. After graduating from Bowdoin, Kate's first job was co-teaching at an elementary school in Connecticut. While Kate loved teaching, she missed the team experience she'd had at Bowdoin as a coxswain on the crew team. When she learned about nurse midwives, Kate realized how perfectly this healthcare role combined what she loves about coxing, coaching, and teaching young people. After teaching for two years, Kate took time off to complete prerequisite courses for nursing school.

More About Kate

Kate attended an accelerated Nursing program where she received her bachelors in nursing and passed the boards to become an RN in one year. After that, she spent two years getting her masters degree in nurse midwifery at the University of California San Francisco. As a nurse midwife, Kate provides patient-centered, evidence-based care both independently and alongside physicians, nurses, and specialists across a variety of departments. Kate loves being a part of team, supporting her patients in their toughest moments, and providing guidance, validation, and encouragement whether she is inserting an IUD, facilitating a prenatal group, or attending a birth. She currently works at Planned Parenthood where she is proud to support patients of all genders, ages, and backgrounds in their sexual and reproductive healthcare.