We recently caught up with Erisa Steckler, a second-year graduate student, to chat about her time in the JSIS Japan Studies program. Erisa graduates at the end of winter quarter 2020.
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Erisa and I am an M.A. student in the JSIS Japan Studies program with an interest in Japan’s current international relations. Prior to this program, I was an undergraduate at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and earned my B.A. in International Studies in June 2018. During grade school, I had the opportunity to attend a Japanese public elementary school every summer in Yokohama through a special student study program (体験入学). Since then, I have always had an interest in studying Japan—whether that be through understanding its culture, society, language, or position in the world.
Why did you choose the JSIS Japan Studies program?
After earning my B.A. in general International Studies, I wanted to gain more expertise and knowledge about Japan, and so the Japan Studies program was a natural choice.
As a former undergraduate student in the Jackson School, I was aware of the quality of content and teaching that the school offers. I was especially fond of the various Japan-related courses, ranging from topics in anthropology, history, economics, politics, and international relations. I find that studying diversified topics allows for a clear understanding of internal and external perspectives of Japan, which is important for my interest in Japan’s international relations and foreign policy.
Would you say that you have changed (intellectually, personally, etc.) as a result of attending the JSIS Japan Studies program?
Most definitely. Due to this program, I am not only more confident in my knowledge of Japan but have also become more confident in sharing my own perspectives. I am constantly challenged to openly consider different perspectives and conceptualize new ideas. I came into the program with a general knowledge of the country but have now gained a deeper understanding of Japan (and the world) as a result of this academic experience.
What were your research topics for your MA completion?
I chose the two-paper option. My first paper examines the militarization of Japan under Prime Minister Abe, as there has been a substantial evolution in Japan’s military capability and defense policy after his 2012 re-election. My second paper analyzes Japan’s FDI in China and its change as a result of geopolitical tensions.
What are your plans after graduation? How do you see your time in the program as helping you in the future?
So far, I’m looking into Japan-related jobs in the Seattle area but am also considering working in Japan in either the private or public sectors. Wherever the future leads me, I am certain the tools and skills the JSIS Japan Studies program has provided throughout my time here will serve as an asset.
What advice would you give prospective Japan Studies MA students?
Don’t procrastinate and manage your time wisely. There are lots of weekly assignments/readings for every class, but don’t let that overwhelm you. Once you figure out how to manage your time, you’ll find your flow. Writing essays can also be time-consuming, so it is important to plan ahead and dedicate enough time for researching and writing.
Engage with other students in the program. Finding a way to balance school and your social life can be difficult as a graduate student but connecting with your peers outside of classes can be a great way to take a break from the academic setting. Personally, it was rewarding to connect with fellow students that share the same passion for Japan.