Passing the Torch: A Discussion Between Outgoing and Incoming FLAS Fellows
Two of the East Asia Center’s Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellows, Min Guo (Class of ’19) and Ian Smith (Class of ’20), sat down at the end of Spring 2019 to exchange insights about their FLAS experiences, career aspirations and more.
Min was a FLAS recipient for the 2018-19 academic year, during which she studied third-year Japanese. Ian received FLAS fellowships for Summer 2019 and the 2019-20 academic year, for intensive second- and third-year Japanese respectively.
IAN SMITH (IS): Min, you’re graduating in June 2019. How’s it been this quarter?
MIN GUO (MG): So busy! I’ve been preparing for my oral exam. But I’m looking forward to graduation. How about you?
IS: Same, though it’s at least another year until I complete my MA.
So Min, you received a FLAS Fellowship from the East Asia Center in 2018-19. Would you have studied a language without this support? And what sort of experiences have you enjoyed through the fellowship?
MG: I really like language study. After taking Japanese while an undergraduate I did a lot of self-studying, but that has limitations. If it wasn’t for FLAS, I would have probably kept self-studying Japanese, albeit at a much slower pace. But this year, I’ve had more professional training and was able to travel to Japan to immerse myself in a Japanese-speaking environment, where my progress sped up considerably. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without FLAS.
What about you? Why do you want to study Japanese?
IS: I’m hungry to learn many different languages, but Japanese is especially important for my academic and career goals. As someone who enjoys Japanese history tremendously and is always searching for new ways to understand historical events, enhanced Japanese language ability will be crucial. I read constantly but would be limited to English language primary documents without support from FLAS.
I hope to someday learn Mandarin and then really have a firm understanding of historical events in East Asia. Maybe Korean too! I’m also excited to meet new, like-minded language learners. Do you find there’s a community of FLAS Fellows to bond and grow with?
MG: I met other fellows in my language classes, who were also awarded FLAS to study Japanese. We were able to exchange our experiences as part of a smaller self-identified community. Some of our non-FLAS classmates also learned about our experiences, and were motivated to pursue FLAS or other funding opportunities. So yes, I really think it makes a difference being immersed in such a proactive language learning community.
Ian, what areas of Japanese study are you looking to explore with the FLAS fellowship?
IS: My interests in Japan are twofold. First, I am a modern Japanese historian who studies the military and economic history of Japan in World War I and the interwar period. I’m interested how the Empire was affected by global factors like New Imperialism and the Great Depression. Compared to World War II, there is much less scholarship on Japan during World War I.
My second focus concerns business, political economy and technological innovation in the postwar period. This has a more practical purpose in relation to my career aspirations in international business.
Min, what are your plans immediately after graduation? Is Japanese language proficiency important for your goals?
MG: Yes, I hope to apply my knowledge about Japan in my next job, and I am certainly looking at possibilities that employ these skills. I want to develop more expertise in public policy in East Asia, and being able to speak Japanese fluently is a big part of that. That’s why FLAS has been so great!
How about you? What kind of job would you like to do in the future with your Japanese ability?
IS: I have multiple career interests, but I’m still at least a year away from entering the job market. By leveraging my improved language ability, exploring other UW opportunities and pursuing mentally stimulating projects, I think I’ll be better positioned to understand my strengths and professional trajectory. But my ideal scenario would combine a career in business and academia. Thanks to FLAS, I have new confidence to pursue such ambitious goals!
Min and Ian are just two of the East Asia Center’s recent FLAS recipients. To view more profiles of some of our 2019-20 fellows, please visit this page.