– You are a native speaker of English. When did you realize you wanted to further immerse yourself in the Japanese language and culture?
Growing up in a multilingual household, I always enjoyed learning languages. As I was researching and applying to colleges, I made my decision partially because I wanted to study Japanese, a language that was attractive to me for being so different from anything I had studied before. I soon fell in love with it, especially after studying at Waseda University in Tokyo for a year, and in the end, graduated with a major in Japanese Studies. I did not know what I wanted to do as a career at the time, but I knew I wanted to use Japanese in some way. I decided to apply for the JET Programme to immerse myself in the language and hopefully figure out my future path, and thankfully, I was accepted.
– How much time did you spend in Japan and what did you do there?
After getting my BA, I moved to the southern prefecture of Kumamoto, where I worked with the JET Programme for five years. I spent three years of that time as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) teaching English to elementary and middle school students in the beautiful island town of Amakusa. I then transferred to Minamata City, where I worked as a CIR (Coordinator for International Relations) for two years. My position included everything from administrative duties for the local International Association and organizing a sister city exchange program, to organizing cultural events and writing a column in the city newsletter. My work also included some translation and interpretation, which I loved and which inspired me to apply to MIIS.
– How did you hear about MIIS and what did you study at MIIS?
I first heard about MIIS early on in my JET career from a fellow ALT (who also told me about the scholarship offered to all returning JETs!). She came to MIIS a couple years later, and I followed in her footsteps a couple years after that. I originally applied for the Translation and Localization Management program, but after my first semester decided that what I really wanted to focus on was the practical, language side of translation and interpretation, so I switched programs to MAT. In addition to my translation coursework, I have taken two years of interpretation classes and earned the Localization Management specialization, so I like to think I’ve gotten a well-rounded education here.
– Tell us about the key immersive learning opportunities (such as internship and practicum) and other key insights gained that have informed your future career direction.
After my first year, I interned for a summer at Daikin North America, a Japanese-owned manufacturer of HVAC systems outside of Houston, Texas. This was a really great learning experience for me. I was still leaning towards working in written translation until my internship, but my work at Daikin was primarily related to interpretation. I found there that there was a lot about interpretation that I loved, and I know now that I want a career that allows me to do both.
I also participated in an immersive learning opportunity this semester while auditing the Seminar in Foreign Policy, Trade, and Development in East Asia course. This course involved a field research practicum during spring break, wherein students visit Tokyo and Beijing to listen to lectures and interview experts in a variety of topics. Two students each from the Japanese and Chinese T&I programs attended to serve as interpreters, myself included. I learned a lot about the major issues facing East Asia in terms of security, trade, and foreign relations—information that is very transferrable to my general knowledge as an interpreter. During the practicum portion, we visited government ministries, research centers, and even the Diet. This was a great opportunity to get a taste of life as a freelance interpreter, and being able to help my fellow students in their research was a wonderful bonus.
– You are about to graduate. What are you going to do after graduation?
I am heading to Europe! I will be a Translation Fellow at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, where I will spend an intensive six months learning about intellectual property and being trained in the field of patent translation from Japanese to English. I’m very excited about this opportunity!
– Any words of wisdom for language students who want to incorporate Japanese into their future careers?
There are so many opportunities out there that require language skills. Bilingualism is a great benefit to both you and to employers, and fewer and fewer people in the US have the advanced skills required in languages like Japanese or Chinese. If you have language skills, I would encourage you to look into the different careers that require them because there’s something for everyone. If you want to work in translation/interpretation specifically, be very critical about yourself and don’t rush into it. It can be a very demanding field, so make sure you have a really solid foundation. Take the time to live in-country and intensively study the language, culture, modern history, and current events of Japan. But don’t be scared off—it’s also a very rewarding field!