Learning Japanese? In Indiana? (I Really Think So)

When you think of international ties—do you think of Indiana and Japan? According to Yuriko Ujike (continuing lecturer, Japanese), “There is a strong tie between Japan and Indiana in terms of economic investments as well as education and cultural exchanges. There are more than 280 Japanese business facilities that operate across Indiana employing more than 58,000 people.”

Since the Japanese program’s inception in 2010, Ujike has helped many students develop the language and cultural skills to succeed in Japanese business settings. More than a dozen students and alumni who studied Japanese at IPFW also studied in Japan through study abroad, an exchange program with the University of Miyazaki in Japan, or the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program.

Curt Hemsoth (B.A., English & linguistics, ‘14) was one of the first IPFW students to teach English in Japan through the JET program. He applied for the JET program because it was a natural continuation of the “unique skill set” Hemsoth had acquired at IPFW: a degree in English & linguistics, minor in anthropology, and certificates in Teaching English as a Second Language (TENL) and international studies.

For Hemsoth, taking his first Japanese class was an afterthought: His friends were joining, so he figured, “why not?” But Hemsoth wasn’t apathetic for long. He took two years of Japanese language courses, founded the student-led Japanese Club, and was accepted into the JET program after graduation.

During his time in Japan, Hemsoth taught English to grades 1–9 students in Kyonan, a town near the southern tip of Toyko Bay. He designed classroom activities, administered speaking exams, and coached an English speech team. Beyond his JET duties, Hemsoth also helped develop the elementary school curriculum, created a community English circle for adult learners, and judged multiple speech contests.

The JET program stipend allowed Hemsoth to travel across Japan (and even pay off some of his student loans)! As part of the program perks, Kyonan, his contracting town, paid for the flight to and from Japan, gave him a yearly salary of $24,000, and even subsidized some of his housing expenses.  He used his free time to travel. Hemsoth visited Tokyo, Matsushima Island, Kyoto, Osaka, the peace monument in Hiroshima, and more. Not bad for his first job out of college!

Another ambitious Japanese language student created networking opportunities through the program. Jennifer Cole is pursuing a communication major, sociology and English & linguistics minors, and certificates in TENL and international studies, along with her Japanese language and culture studies.

With the encouragement of Ujike and Associate Professor Mieko Yamada (sociology), Cole entered an essay contest for the TOMODACHI Daiwa House Student Leadership Conference. Her essay was one of eleven chosen to receive funding for the October 2017 conference.

Cole participated in three days of leadership sessions, and most of the panels were composed of Japanese and American business and industry leaders. There, she met Council General Naoki Ito, who spoke with her about strengthening the relationship between Japan and Fort Wayne.

Cole shared, “The conference helped me create connections to help me achieve my goals as both an IPFW student and a future ESL teacher. I learned many important things about networking and received personal advice from many successful individuals. And since I plan to teach English in Japan after graduation, my attendance at this conference will help with my JET application.”

So are you interested in learning more about the doors studying Japanese can unlock for you? Or want more information on any of the programs mentioned? Then please contact Ujike at ujikey@ipfw.edu.

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