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.