My interest in environmental policy and sustainable development was developed during my time at the University of California. However, since the U.S. often falls short on adopting appropriate environmental policies, Japan has always been my regional interest. It is also an exceptional timing to study in Japan, as Tokyo is promoting a lot of new ideas relating to sustainable development for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. Through living in Japan and learning the Japanese language, I have become more determined in pursuing a career in sustainable development and environmental policy.
At Keio University, I was fortunate to enroll in the Japanese Language Program (JLP) that offered comprehensive and subject-specific Japanese language courses. My Japanese language skills improved immensely, and I am now capable of having long conversions in Japanese. Being able to do so also led me to new perspectives on Japan’s environmental policy, culture, and society since I can now speak with Japanese people directly and do not have to rely on secondary sources in English. This gave me a chance to restore my curiosity for various things in life. Since I now get to see a world that I was not able to see due to the language barrier, I now have access to so much more new information.
While I no longer plan on pursuing a PhD in political science, my research and career interest in environmental policy and sustainable development remain the same. I believe that I can contribute more as a non-academic given my communication skills and the ability to work with people from different fields. I became even more certain of this as I pick up the Japanese language. My international background has exposed me to different cultures, and I have come to notice that experiences like this require years of cultivation. People who speak British English and American English sometimes do not understand each other. There are cultural and regional barriers beyond the language barrier. While people can still communicate as long as they speak the same language, the ability to carry the conversation smoothly should not be undermined, especially when it comes the ease of collaboration. I truly believe that people with an international background and are multilingual will be the key to solving many global issues in the years to come.
One of my goals of this study abroad program was to integrate into the Japanese society. My past study abroad programs have always felt more temporary. Being one semester each, there were many things that I could wait until I get back to the U.S. However, this time, I lived more like a local. Language barrier remained as the biggest challenge; but being able to overcome that barrier was also the most rewarding. Looking back, it is interesting to notice that I have come a long way—from barely being able to speak on the phone to being able to confidently explain my situation in various cases. The process and progress are truly rewarding. As a foreigner, I have come to realize that never understanding 100% of what is being said is inevitable. In addition, finding alternative ways to express myself with the Japanese I know is the ultimate key to becoming integrated in Japan. I am grateful to say that I achieved my goals of this study abroad program.
Moving forward, although I have finished my UCSD degree this spring, the host institution, Keio University has offered me to keep studying in its Japanese Language Program this fall. I will also be seeking job opportunities in Tokyo.
Emily A. Yeh