Merideth Bush – From Gringa to Gaijin (Spanish, Japanese)

All Student Stories, Master of Public Administration

Story written by Merideth Bush, MPA, ’16

Spanish has always been an important presence in my life.  My mother lived as a medical missionary in Guatemala before marrying my father, so I became familiar with the language at a very young age.

I went on to major in Spanish in college, and then to travel abroad to Guatemala to study Spanish and volunteer with the same medical missions organization my mother had served with.  Determined to continue to develop my Spanish fluency, I moved to Chile to work as an English teacher after college and built a cozy life for myself there with a wonderful community of Chilean friends.

As much as I loved living in Santiago, after a year or so I became restless.  I wanted to continue to improve my Spanish, but I also wanted to begin to develop another language.  Furthermore, I had become interested in human trafficking, and wanted to put myself in an environment in which I could learn more about it and prepare myself for a career combating

I have been able to embark on an incredible new linguistic adventure that has proven to shape my career aspirations in a way I never expected. Thanks to MIIS, I was able to maintain my Spanish level and study abroad in my Santiago home at the renowned Universidad Católica de Chile. Upon arrival at MIIS, I was torn between undertaking Mandarin or Japanese as my third language.  At the end of my first year, the decision became abundantly clear after my participation in research in Beijing and Tokyo as a part of the East Asia Seminar.  It was my first time traveling to Asia, and, while I was charmed by both cities, it was ultimately the language and culture of Japan that stole my heart.

The following year I took a seminar on Japan’s role in the world, and conducted my research for the class on the sex trafficking in Tokyo.  in-front-of-the-japanese-diet-during-the-east-asia-seminarHere at MIIS I have studied human trafficking in many forms all around the world, but the unique situation in Japan still stands out to me.  Furthermore, during my research I learned that there are well-documented examples of women from Latin America being trafficked abroad in Japan.  All semester I have been auditing a Japanese course, and this summer I hope to participate in Middlebury Language School’s summer intensive Japanese program in Vermont.  Hopefully this will open the door for me to pursue a 10-month fellowship to study Japanese in Yokohama, and a grant to put both my Spanish and my Japanese to use studying human trafficking in Tokyo.

I came to MIIS with an exclusively Latin American linguistic and cultural background, but through my love of languages and my interest in human trafficking, MIIS has opened my eyes to a new culture and a new language that have captured my heart.  Hopefully someday soon I will be able to put both my Spanish and Japanese fluency to good use as I join the counter-human trafficking world community.