EAST ASIA PRACTICUM (CHINA & JAPAN)
During the Spring 2019 East Asia Practicum Field Study, I traveled with my class to Tokyo, Japan and Beijing, China. While there, we conducted research interviews with officials, academics, professionals, and other regional experts from both countries. Besides that, we visited sites of historical and cultural significance, and spent time learning about each of the communities and countries in which we were studying. In the evenings, we were allowed free time to explore at our leisure, which we put to use tasting local cuisines, viewing scenery, and interacting with those we met around town. We spent four full days in each city, allowing for a deep immersive experience despite the limited time available to us while on Spring Break.
On an academic and professional level, this experience offered exceptional insights into the political, economic, social, and other factors that affect international relations in East Asia. This was particularly helpful in my studies of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, because if not for the East Asia Practicum, I would not likely have encountered the perspectives shared by our interviewees, much less in such a vivid and interactive form. Indeed, it would have been nearly impossible for anyone to receive the degree of high-level access that we did while on this program, whether public, professional, or press. I was extremely impressed that we received such a warm welcome in the corridors of power, such as each country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Japanese Diet (Parliament) building, China’s top research and policy universities, and even the executive boardroom of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Beyond this, without the East Asia Practicum I would not have had the opportunity to travel to Japan, nor would I have learned so much about that country, because it is outside my usual area of study. On a personal level, I was pleased with this opportunity to broaden my horizons and to learn for the sake of learning itself rather than professional or academic advancement. These travels were not just informative, but also enjoyable: while on the East Asia Practicum, my classmates and I shared both knowledge and laughter with one another and with the local communities that hosted our experience.