What can you do with a degree in Japanese or Asian Studies? The answers are as varied as our majors. For a list of recent graduates and what they are doing related to Japan, see the Alumni Page.
Many students who have taken Japanese (and some who have not) apply to JET, a program sponsored by the Japanese government that sends native English speakers to Japan for terms of one to three years, to teach English in Japanese high schools as Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs), and coordinate international activities in local areas as Coordinators for International Relations (CIRs). In a typical year over a thousand Americans are accepted ALTs and a few dozen as CIRs. Detailed information about JET is available on the program’s web site.
For students wanting to conduct a job search focused on Japanese companies, there are many web sites devoted to Japanese job hunting for foreigners. One face-to-face option is the yearly DISCO Career Forum in Boston. Disco International is a company that handles career opportunities for Japanese-English speaking students and job-hunters. Information specifically about career forums in Boston and elsewhere is available from their career forum web site.
This page lists alumni and their experiences with Japan: study abroad experiences while at Williams and Japan related work or study after graduation. Williams students or other alums who want the lowdown on a specific program or general advice on work or study in Japan can contact the people below using the online Alumni Directory (Access is restricted to Williams students and graduates).
The emphasis here is on recent alumni. The Office of Career Services maintains a more complete list of alumni working in Japan-related fields.
If you studied Japanese language or culture at Williams and don’t see your name here, please contact the web wrangler (follow the link at the contact info page). If you know of other recent program alumni who might want to be listed here, please encourage them to contact us, or send us their email addresses so we can get in touch with them.
- Kate Alexander (’02)
- Diana Carligeanu (’04)
- Owen Austin Cooney (’00)
- Sarah Croft (’04)
- Lillian Diaz-Przybyl (’04)
- Kate Dunlop (’99)
- Mya Fisher (’00)
- Todd Gamblin (’02)
- Dimitri Goudkov (’03)
- Daniel Arturo Heller (’96)
- Steve Hibbard (’00)
- Adriana Hochberg (’99)
- Jessica LeClair (’10)
- Matt McHale (’95)
- Roderick McLead (’05)
- Nicle Melcher (’88)
- Alex Eaton-Salners (’99)
- Kimberlee Sanders (’12)
- Jon Schuman (’93)
- Joe Seavey (’01)
- Bryan Sherman (’97)
- Craig Tamamoto (’02)
- James Whitledge (’09)
- Zac Whitney (’12)
- Matthew Young (’05)
- Tianyue Zhou (’12)
Kate Alexander (’02). I double-majored in Japanese and Biology at Williams – an unusual (and seemingly useless) combination. I spent a junior semester abroad at Waseda University’s International division program, and after graduation I returned to Japan as a Coordinator for International Relations on the JET program. After two years of JET I was ready to move on, but I wasn’t sure where to –I didn’t know how to translate my enthusiasm for Japanese into a career, and any opportunity to work in the sciences had passed me by long ago (or so I figured). Upon returning to the US, however, I was happy to find employment in a field that combines my two interests: International Regulatory Affairs. I now work for a biotech company in Cambridge named Genzyme, helping them get their medicines approved in Japan and coordinating communication with Genzyme’s Japan office.
Diana Carligeanu (’04). After graduating from Williams with B.A. in Economics and Japanese, I entered the “Regional Studies: East Asia” (RSEA) Department at Harvard University. Assuming all goes well, I will get my master’s degree in June 2006. As a Williams junior, I spent one semester at Waseda University, Tokyo. It was a great experience, and I hope to revisit Japan sometime in the next five years.
Owen Austin Cooney (’00). I am currently living and working in Tokyo. After two years in the JET Program as a Coordinator for International Relations, I decided to take up freelance translation in order to expand my range of skills. I remained in the Kansai area (where I had done JET) and moved from Kyoto to Osaka. I signed up with a number of translation agencies, which required translation tests before they put you on their list. It was very difficult at first, as most companies will not even contact you for work even if you are registered. Once you do a couple jobs for them, however, they come to trust you and rely on your services more and more.
After a year in Osaka I decided to move to Tokyo where my family currently lives. Here, I continued translation and registered at a couple of good agencies through introductions and interviews. Over the past two years, I have done a number of interesting jobs, including translations for NHK, Coca-Cola, and Estee Lauder, writing copy for Hitachi’s American homepage, interpreting for the inventor of the English Rose, and pronounciation checking for Koyanagi Rumiko (a Japanese pop star). I also contribute as an editor/translator for an art magazine, called Art Yard (http://www.artyardjapan.com). We take up interviews with musicians and artists both Japanese and foreign. One of our most interesting articles was an interview with an Australian soldier who had been in the Iraq War. Our magazines are stocked at HMVs, Disk Unions, and cafes across Tokyo and Kansai, and we are currently working on an English web site.
My education in the Williams Japanese Language Program prepared me well for my current work. First and foremost I gained a solid base in keigo, which is important for any business communication in Japan. (I find that I actually know keigo better than most Japanese my age, in fact.) I also feel that the high level and intensity of the program gave me a confidence in my ability that helped me overcome the inevitable barriers. By no means had I learnt all I needed to know when I left Williams, but I was prepared and confident enough to continue learning and moving forward on my own. In the future, I plan to step up my career by building a specialty in a certain field. I am considering studying Japanese art, in particular the method of nihonga.
Sarah Croft (’04). I double majored in Astronomy and Japanese. While I never studied abroad during the academic year at Williams, I received the Tompkins Award after my Junior year, and went with Lillian Diaz-Pryzbyl to the Northeast Asian/US international conference in Sapporo, Japan for three weeks. While it was a very intense conference, it was also very interesting and very fun! I’ve gone back to Japan to visit family a few times. Since graduation, I’ve been working at a learning center outside Boston. A few of our families are from Japan, so I’ve been learning to give parent conferences in Japanese!
Lillian Diaz-Przybyl (’04). After three trips to Japan, including an independent Winter Study, a semester at Waseda University, and participation in the Sapporo program, and two years as president/shogun of the Anime Society, I graduated with a double major in Japanese and English. The worst thing about graduating has been more Power Dinners! However, it also means no more Core Conversations and kanji quizzes, and it led to my current job as a junior editor at TOKYOPOP <http://www.tokyopop.com>, the largest manga publisher in the United States. If you can’t live in Tokyo, after all, Los Angeles is a close second. I really like getting paid to read comic books (and work with American authors and artists to create a new American manga tradition!), but I still dream of someday pursuing higher education in Japanese literature.
Kate Dunlop (’99). As an Asian Studies major, I spent my junior year on the Associated Kyoto Program, while my coursework at Williams consisted largely of Japanese language and Asian history courses. After graduation, I first worked for two years as a JET CIR at the Kobe International Center. More recently, I worked for three years at an international trade show organizer in Tokyo. I have enjoyed both these work experiences immensely, and am now about to begin a master’s program in International Relations at Sophia University. I also currently serve as co-chair of the Tokyo chapter of the Williams Alumni Association.
Mya Fisher (’00). I majored in Psychology and Sociology, and studied Japanese in high school and for one year at Williams. I had been to Japan for a summer exchange in high school and spent a winter study there while at Williams. After graduation , I worked in Kawasaki for two years as a JET and returned to the states in the summer of 2002. I worked at Embassy of Japan in the Congressional Affairs section until 2004. During my time at the Embassy I was active with the JET Alumni Association of DC and assisted in the JET Office. In August of 2004 I left the Embassy to enter the International Education Program at NYU, where I am seeking a Master’s and potentially a PhD. My career interests are in Exchange Programs and International Student Advising. I continue to study Japanese at NYU and plan to take the proficiency test this coming December.
Todd Gamblin (’02). I double majored in Computer Science and Japanese, and after graduating I spent a year working as a software developer at ValueCommerce, a small dot com in Tokyo. I entered the graduate program in Computer Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the Fall of 2003, and I spent the summer of 2004 as a guest researcher at Tokyo University on the NSF EAPSI summer program. Currently, I’m back in Chapel Hill, working on my Ph.D. My blog is athttp://waruiyatsu.com
Dimitri Goudkov (’03). I majored in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations. I took Japanese in my senior year because I had fulfilled all of my PSCI requirments and decided to do something I had wanted to do for a long time – to learn another language and be able to speak with my very good friends in Japan. After graduation, I took a year off and looked for jobs with an international bent. Now I teach World History at Salisbury School–a small prep school in Connecticut. I am interested in international mediation and conflict resolution and believe that the more langauges I know, the better my communication skills become. I do hope to go to Japan though and stay there until I speak Japanese like I do English. It should not be too hard with the solid foundation from Williams.
Daniel Arturo Heller (’96). At Williams I studied Economics and Asian Studies (Japanese and Chinese) and studied abroad at Nanzan University in Nagoya and at Princeton in Beijing. After Williams, I began a Japanese Ministry of Education (Monbusho) scholarship at the University of Tokyo, where I got an MA in Economics. I am currently pursuing a PhD in Economics from UT. I teach business administration (in Japanese and English) at Shinshu University in Nagano, but will be moving to Yokohama National University from April 2005. My homepage has some short articles I’ve written about my experiences in Japan (http://dheller.tripod.com).
Steve Hibbard (’00). I took first-year Japanese at Williams and participated in JET after graduation. I taught English in Niigata prefecture, and though I thought I would be in Japan only one year, I loved my ski town and students enough to stay for another on JET. Finally the drudgery of government work got to me and I moved to Tokyo (summer 2002) where I continued teaching, this time for a number of companies while gathering my own students on the side. After 6-9 months, I built up my business to the point where I was completely self-employed, and doing better than I had on JET. My clients also diversified somewhat, and I assisted in the translation of a published Japanese version of “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath and some other interesting projects. I spent a total of a year and a half in Tokyo (moved to Switzerland around Christmas 2003), and though it was definitely a grind at first, my quality of life, professional and otherwise, really rose to a great level and was still very much on the way up when I left Japan.
Adriana Hochberg (’99). At Williams I took four years of Japanese and TA’d junior and senior years. After graduation I went on JET as a CIR in the town of Konan, in Shiga Prefecture just north of Kyoto. I had a variety of interesting duties from teaching elementary school students about foreign cultures to assisting foreigners in Konan.
Jessica LeClair (’10). At Williams College, I double-majored in Japanese and Biology. I visited Japan during Winter Study of my junior year and researched traditional pickles. The following summer, I traveled on a Tompkins Award around Honshu, exploring natural areas and botanical gardens. After graduation, I received a yearlong Fulbright Fellowship to study at the Kyoto University Center for Ecological Research. I investigated the seasonal dynamics of freshwater plankton in Lake Biwa and observed the intriguing cultural habits of the Japanese people around me. My experiences in Japan inspired my current graduate work at the University of California Santa Barbara in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, where I am working with Dr. Heejung Kim on cultural psychology focused particularly on Japan.
Matt McHale (’95): At Williams I studied Japanese for 4 years and then participated in the JET program for three years as an Assistant Language Teacher. After that I returned to the U.S. and started working as an interpreter at a Japanese-owned car parts factory in Indiana, and later on did some translating and research for a consulting company in Cambridge, MA. I’ve been the president of the JET Alumni Association’s New England since 2002 (www.nejetaa.org).
Roderick McLead (’05): I graduated Williams in ’05 with a double major in Japanese and Political Science. After my junior year through the Tompkins Award, I traveled around Japan for two weeks conducting surveys about the popular perceptions of the Yazuka in Japan, luckily leaving Japan with all of my fingers. After graduating Williams, I embarked on the JET Program, where I am currently in my second year as a language teacher in Shimane-ken in a small city on the Sea of Japan. I have met a lot of people who have studied and/or majored in Japanese while in Japan, and I am still convinced that Williams has the best Japanese Program. And despite what many students may think, core conversations are in fact VERY useful in Japan.
Nicole Melcher (’88). After graduating from Williams with a B.A. in Political Science in 1988, I spent two years in Tokyo working for OTC, Inc. teaching English conversation to Japanese businesspeople and junior high school students. I obtained a Master of Science in Foreign Service (M.S.F.S.) degree, with a concentration in International Trade and Development, from Georgetown University in 1992. From 1991 to 1995, I worked for a think tank called the Overseas Development Council (ODC) in Washington, DC. While there, I worked to promote U.S.-Japan cooperation on foreign aid issues. (ODC went out of business a few years ago.) Since 1995, I have worked on U.S.-Japan trade issues in the Office of Japan at the U.S. Department of Commerce in Washington, DC, and I became the Office Director in 2003. As part of my work, I visit Japan 3-4 times a year and participate in bilateral trade negotiations.
Alex Eaton-Salners (’99). I double majored in Computer Science and Asian Studies (Japanese track) and spent my junior year abroad at the Associated Kyoto Program. I returned to Japan in 1999 on a one-year contract with AEON Corporation to teach English in Hyogo Prefecture. I concurrently attended a half-day cram school where I prepared for and passed the Level 1 Japanese Proficiency Test and the Shihi Gaikokujin Ryuugakusei Touitsu Test (qualifying me for admitance to Japanese universities). I held other jobs while living in Japan–including web designer, translator, and advisor at a patent law firm–before returning to the US in 2002. I am currently a third-year law student at UC Berkeley where I am President of the Japanese Law Society.
Kimberlee Sanders (’12) During high school I began to develop an interest in anime and manga, but I was a bit of a late bloomer in the Japanese department at Williams. I actually didn’t take first-year Japanese until the fall of my junior year. However, once I began studying, I quickly fell in love with the language. After taking first year Japanese, I was able to spend a summer in Hakodate, Hokkaido at an intensive eight-week program through the generosity of an Asian Studies Department Linen Grant. I then completed third-year Japanese in my senior year.
After graduating from Williams with a degree in Literary Studies, I have moved to Yokohama, Japan to study at the Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies for a year. Once I complete my year, I hope to either stay in Japan and work for another year or two or return to the U.S. to enroll in a graduate program for Japanese literature or cultural studies.
Jon Schuman (’93). I graduated from Williams in 1993 with a major in Asian Studies. I had studied on a summer program in Gifu and then at Nanzan University in Nagoya during part of my junior year. After graduation, I returned to Japan on a Monbusho Fellowship to study at Tsukuba University for a few years. I returned to the States for a joint-degree graduate program in law and diplomacy, and decided to join American International Group (AIG) after graduate school. I have been working with AIG in Tokyo for the past five years, initially with a role in legal and government affairs and more recently as the head of product development for AIG’s asset management businesses in Asia. I also serve as co-chair of the Financial Services Committee at the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan which is active in a variety of advocacy efforts vis-a-vis the U.S. and Japanese governments. I attribute much of my sustained interest in Japan to the wonderful Japanese language education that Williams has provided.
Joe Seavey (’01). I moved to Tokyo immediately following graduation. After a stint at a pharmaceutical company, I joined a start-up market research consultancy managed by foreign entrepreneurs. Over the course of four years, I became a member of the management team that grew the company to 25 and achieved VC funding. I also consulted to multinational clients like L’Oreal and Disney on how their brands could more effectively market to their Japanese target consumers.
There is no doubt that my Williams College Japanese training helped me succeed as a businessperson in Tokyo. I worked for Japanese bosses and clients, and managed Japanese direct reports and vendors. In my job, I occasionally moderated focus groups to elicit consumer feedback or generate ideas for clients; in such an artificial setting, one must be effective at positioning their communication in order to make people feel comfortable enough to open up. I also believe that students will benefit from assimilating into a fully Japanese club when studying abroad. Playing for the Squirrels rugby club at Waseda University during my junior year
(link: http://www.geocities.co.jp/CollegeLife-Club/8644/) pushed me to utilize the classroom training, and produced some great friendships that last to this day.
After five years in Japan, I moved back to the US. I am currently at 1st year MBA candidate at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, where I am pursuing a career in consumer products marketing and strategy.
Bryan Sherman (’97) I spent my junior year at AKP in Kyoto and returned to Japan for two years after graduation to participate in the JET Program as a language teacher and Coordinator of International Relations. Upon returning to New York in 1999, I applied to work at a human resources consulting firm and then spent about five years working with Japanese companies in New York and California as a cross-cultural trainer and human resources consultant. Currently, I am the human resources manager for Sumisho Computer Systems (USA), a Japanese IT firm in New York City. (You can also read the full text of Bryan’s encouraging letter to Williams Japanese students.)
Craig Tamamoto (’02). I double-majored in Japanese Language and English at Williams. As a Tompkins Award Recipient, I spent two weeks during the summer before my senior year traveling throughout Japan, visiting Hiroshima and Nagasaki and interviewing teachers and students to try to understand present-day feelings about the atomic bomb attacks that ended World War II.
James Whitledge (’09). At Williams I double-majored in Japanese and biology. During the summer between my sophomore and junior years, I received a Linen Grant to study in Kanazawa at Princeton’s PII intensive summer Japanese language course. The following summer I used the Tompkins Award to visit Japan again, this time conducting a research project on the A-Bomb Memorial and also visiting Kyoto, Nara, and Kanazawa. After graduating I moved to Japan to work as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT), and I have just started my second year as of August 2010. I live on the northwest coast of Hokkaido and keep busy with surfing, hiking, ski racing, and many other sports while trying to eat as much seafood and speak as much Japanese as possible. The Williams Japanese program was an amazing springboard for my Japanese skills and interest in Japan and I am convinced it is far superior to other college Japanese programs.
Zac Whitney (’12). I got interested in Japanese way back in middle school with Anime and video games and the like, but I feel like the real catalyst was when I went to Japan as part of a sister city exchange program in the summer between 7th and 8th grade. Once I got into high school, I started studying the language and really fell in love with it and just never stopped. Once I got to Williams, I managed to narrowly test into the third year class, and studied for four years, taking the fourth year level three times by the time I graduated. I was actually a linguistics contract major, but I’m pretty sure that the courses I took were just shy of what it would have taken to make an Asian Studies major on top of that. During my junior year, I had originally planned to study abroad for the spring semester, but largely due to the Touhoku Earthquake, I participated in KCJS’s six-week summer program in Kyoto, where I studied classical Japanese.
After graduating, I was accepted by the JET program as a Coordinator for International Relations (CIR), and am now living in Suzu-shi, Ishikawa. The position is really vaguely defined as something along the lines or raising international awareness in your community, but for me it means that I work in the Tourism and Exchange division of Suzu City Hall, teach preschoolers and elementary schoolers about other countries, write an article for the town newsletter each month, and plan some international events. Of the two positions offered by the JET program (the other being a pretty straightforward English teaching gig), this is the one that requires a certain level of Japanese ability. I’m thinking about staying for couple years before going on to grad school for a degree in linguistics so I can live out the rest of my days in an ivory tower. Comparing myself to the other CIRs, I feel like I’m one of the few to have come straight out of undergrad, and even among those to be one of the few who hasn’t spent a serious amount of time in Japan before, and I feel like the Williams Japanese program has really empowered me to be in this position.
Matthew Young (’05). I majored in English, but after visiting Japan briefly in 2003 I decided to take first-year Japanese during my senior year. After graduating, I participated in the JET program for one year, and had a great experience teaching at elementary and middle schools in Kagoshima prefecture. I’m back in New York now pursuing a career in film, but I’m continuing to study Japanese, and hope to go back very soon.
Tianyue Zhou (’12). I started taking Japanese as a freshman, thinking that I would only take the language for one year to fulfill the division requirement. After the first year, however, I began to fall in love with the language. I continued with the Third Year Japanese courses before going on a study-abroad program at Waseda University, Tokyo. I was then able to pursue a research project on Japanese drama series under the Asian Studies Department Linen Grant the following summer.
With a prospective degree in Japanese, I was able to secure employment with the Tokyo office of an international corporation as a management trainee under the marketing department during the fall of my senior year. I am joining the company this coming October and plan to work in Tokyo for the next three to five years.
- Lillian Diaz (’04): Tokyo Pop, the largest manga publisher in the U.S. where she works as a junior editor.