Name: Joshua Kuiper
Location of Study: Ishikawa, Japan
Program of Study: Princeton in Ishikawa
Sponsors: Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures and the Liu Endowment
A brief personal bio:
At Notre Dame, I have found both the freedom and the courage to pursue my passions. I entered the university with the intent of studying engineering. Now, as a sophomore, I am an English major with a supplementary major in Japanese. I am a member of two writing clubs on campus, Mustard and Rogue, as well as Japan Club. A year ago, I thought I knew who I was. Now, in Spring 2016, I still do not know who I am, but I think I am on my way to finding out while I pursue that which I love: language.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
Through the SLA Grant, I have been given access to language development I would not have had otherwise. I began studying Japanese at Notre Dame in my sophomore year, and so at my current pace of classes the highest language level I could reach is 3rd Year. However, an intensive summer language program would allow me to accelerate my pace. Thus, with the SLA Grant I am pursuing an intensive, eight-week summer language program in Japan called Princeton in Ishikawa. The coursework will be challenging, and the pace will be unlike that which I have yet experienced, but I am incredibly excited. The language-study will give me the opportunity to reach 4th-year Japanese as a senior.
I place so much emphasis on my development in Japanese because I plan on working in Japan after graduation. I want to sign up with JET—The Japan Exchange and Teaching Program—in order to find my footing in Japan as a community member and worker. Eventually, I plan on seeking industry work, likely in translation. Currently, I follow translation companies like 8-4 Play or Frognation and have attended lectures on campus by poet Arthur Binard, who translates children’s books into Japanese.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
With the opportunity afforded by the SLA Grant, I will be studying in Japan through Princeton in Ishikawa, a program that represents a chance to gain cultural fluency as much as linguistic fluency. I will not only be expanding my understanding of Japanese in a formal classroom but also in the everyday life of Japan.
The language-instruction component of the program will demand much of my time during the eight-weeks abroad. Yet additional components such as cultural excursions to the Prefectural Government Offices, or to a National Park, or elementary schools, as well as the possibility of lessons in traditional arts like ikebana or Noh theatre, will serve to ground what I learn in the classroom with the flesh and blood and spirit of Japanese society. Princeton in Ishikawa will be an experience that elevates Japanese from grammar and vocabulary to a spoken language, to a means of creating and sharing with others. By the end of the program, I will possess a richer understanding of Japan and a sense of how I might find a place within Japan.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
- At the end of the summer, I will have knowledge of the fundamental grammar of Japanese, a greatly expanded vocabulary, and be able to read and write at least 200 kanji.
- At the end of the summer, after eight weeks of continuous language use, I will be able to recognize written and spoken Japanese at a much faster pace than if I remained in the U.S.
- At the end of the summer, I will be able to test into 3rd-Year Japanese as a junior and thus maintain a competitive pace of language development for the remainder of my undergraduate career.
- At the end of the summer, after eight-weeks living in a homestay situation, I will have an intimate understanding of daily Japanese life and the expectations placed upon individuals in Japanese society.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
At Princeton in Ishikawa, I will be taking 2nd-year Japanese, and a typical day features three hours of morning language instruction—not to mention the language pledge which ensures that only Japanese may be spoken during class and program activities. Activities are scheduled in the afternoon and include cultural events—like a visit to a national park—or special lectures. Additionally, lessons are offered in traditional Japanese arts, such as in cooking or taiko. Remaining time is dedicated to homestay, under which students are placed in the homes of local families for all eight weeks, strongly encouraging involvement with day-to-day life in Kanazawa Prefecture.
Given the incredible number of outlets for language practice and cultural immersion, I think it will be impossible not to maximize my experience. I fully intend to spend time with my host-family, adjusting to their habits and trying to see through their unique cultural lens. Should the opportunity arise, I also intend to practice Japanese waka (poetry), specifically tanka, and perhaps even receive lessons in the koto. I am certain that I will receive strong language instruction, but the cultural experience of the program is dependent upon me, and I will pursue this experience with passion.