Chris Nguyen (first to the left) is a member of the class of the 2015 who graduated with a double major in Economics and East Asian Studies. At Oberlin, he studied Japanese, and spent a semester away in Waseda University, Tokyo. He is currently a Shansi Fellow at J.F Oberlin University.
As a Shansi Fellow, I have had the wonderful opportunity to move back to Tokyo, Japan after having studied abroad there for half a year. During the summer I took an intensive Japanese course for 6 weeks, after which I moved to my new home of Machida, Tokyo, where I will be teaching English for the next two years to college students. I am firmly of the belief that language is a gateway to understanding culture, and so I am very pleased that my experiences studying abroad as well as my entire time with the Japanese department at Oberlin have given me some of the tools necessary to explore culture and relationships during my second time in Japan. I have been able to reconnect with my host family and catch up on the last year, talk to the owner of a shop selling yukata (traditional Japanese dress) about the complexities of the Japanese language, and on perhaps a not so interesting note, strike up conversations while signing contracts for a new cell phone or WiFi (goodbye, money). Knowing my passion for learning languages, I hope to convey my interests to my students in order for them to connect to a new culture through language.
On the other hand, I am a bit saddened that my other language studies have fallen behind. I do my best to speak to my parents in Vietnamese, their native tongue, but I find myself missing essential vocabulary without constant practice. I know that it’s for good reason: I am preparing to take the highest level of the national Japanese Language Proficiency Test in December, and am devoting my efforts to learning that as well as sounding more natural in everyday conversation in Japanese. That said, I still hope to someday pick up my Vietnamese studies again. Perhaps once I’ve got a grasp on those, I can study some other language that I had the chance to start in the US, like Mandarin Chinese, Korean, and Spanish, to continue to open my world views and make more connections!