Japan has one of the most advanced economies in the world, and a knowledge of its language and culture opens doors for cultural understanding and economic opportunity.

The Program in Japanese at UVM offers an undergraduate major and minor. We offer courses in Japanese language, literature, pop culture and a variety of courses such as history, politics, religion, and art through the Asian Studies Program. The language courses are from elementary to advanced levels using the four language skills: speaking, listening, reading and writing.

Veronica Ruth ‘24 – Combining Disciplines

I have studied Japanese since my junior year of high school, and continued all through my four years at UVM. Although I came to UVM intending to mainly study natural sciences, my experience with the Japanese department has been more rewarding than I could have possibly imagined. I planned to have Japanese as a minor to my neuroscience major, but I realized my junior year that study abroad was once again possible, and so was completing a Japanese double major. My junior spring, I had the opportunity to study abroad at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo, and this experience truly changed my life. I made lifelong friends, took the trip to Japan that I had longed for, and learned a lot. I studied International Asian Politics, which was an enlightening experience since it is so far outside of my usual field of study. I was even featured on AGU’s website during study abroad!

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I had more culture shock coming back to the States than when I left and was missing Japan constantly. I entered the UVM study abroad photo contest in the “Food” category and won with a photo I took in Tsuruhashi, Osaka (Osaka’s Koreatown!). Senior year, one of my study abroad friends told me about a Japanese-English career fair held in Boston and I decided to attend. At the fair, I found a company that researches biomedical drugs and technology for various pathologies and managed to secure a position as a researcher! I never expected to find a position that would combine my neuroscience and Japanese disciplines. I recently graduated, having made many close friends in the Japanese program at UVM; I am extremely grateful for the senseigata (teachers/professors) who have shaped my Japanese learning experience as well. I have a lot of nervous anticipation, but I will be starting my career in Kagoshima, Japan this coming fall!

Benjamin Smith '23

I have been interested in language study since I first started studying Latin in middle school. Though a challenging undertaking, learning a new set of vocabulary and grammar structures can open up so many doors to your understanding, even in a language that has been dead for over a thousand years. I often found that my interest in languages also extended to programming languages as well, and in the fall of 2019, I entered UVM as a computer science major. My first semester, I wanted to challenge myself and study a new, difficult world language that I did not know very much about. My orientation leader suggested that I try out Japanese, which she was also taking that same semester. Before I knew it, I had fallen in love with the language. Soon I had made Japanese my minor, and then my second major. Before graduation during my senior year, I had turned my focus to career options that would utilize my Japanese language skills.

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That year, I applied to and was accepted into the Japan Exchange Teaching Program (JET) and it was decided that I would teach English at a group of schools in Yao City, Osaka. A short time after graduation, I got on a plane and made the move to Yao. Living in Japan has given me a unique opportunity to experience the culture from a deeper perspective than one would get from a simple vacation abroad, and it has given me many opportunities to improve my conversational language skills in a professional environment. Teaching English has also been a very fulfilling experience, and it gives me a chance to share my passion for language learning with the students here. I’m not sure where my future career will take me, but I’m eager to explore what opportunities might open up to me after completing my time on the program!

Nancy Bernhardt ‘20

Despite never having formally studied the language before, I entered UVM's Asian Languages and Literature department as a first year in 2017 to study Japanese. Coming from a mixed family with Japanese heritage on my stepfather's side, I had grown up hearing stories about my family's time in Japan that sparked my interest in Japanese language and culture. My first Japanese class at UVM was interesting and informative, and the small class size made it lots of fun. The small size of the program also allowed me to form lasting relationships with professors who took genuine interest in my academic success. During my second year, I studied abroad for one semester at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, and I enjoyed every second of it. During that time I studied a variety of Japanese cultural topics, such as Korean and Japanese film, Japanese women's history, and Japanese work culture, as well as did intense Japanese language study five days a week. During my time in Tokyo, I was also able to meet and connect with my Japanese-speaking family for the first time; something I wouldn't have been able to do without my Japanese language education. When I returned to UVM, I realized I could graduate in three years with an Asian Studies major and Japanese minor, and my advisors helped me every step of the way. I also did the TESOL Undergraduate Certificate program so I could return to Japan to teach English.

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In early 2020, I passed my interview with the JET Program, and planned to return to Japan in summer of that year. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, my plans were delayed, but I finally arrived in Japan in November 2021. Now, I've been working at a large public junior high school in Kobe for almost three years now.

Changgyun Jay Jang ‘19

Changgyun poses in front of city lights

In my second year at UVM, I started taking Japanese courses with curiosity of learning a new language, but I never imagined myself that I would choose Japanese as minor at that time. The more I studied Japanese, the more interest I could feel. My study abroad experience at Doshisha University in Kyoto and International Christian University in Tokyo had brought me more curiosity about Japanese society and culture. It motivated me to learn Japanese even more to communicate better with native speakers. After graduation, I started my first career in Tokyo working for a mobile insurance and tech company called Asurion. The experience of working in Tokyo was a valuable experience that I will never forget. It was a fantastic time to work with Japanese colleagues every day and to feel the true culture of Japan, which I had only learned by video and books. When I just started Japanese at UVM, I could never have imagined that I would work in Tokyo after graduation. I am originally from South Korea and returned home after working in Tokyo for two years. Now I am using the experiences and knowledge I gained at UVM and Tokyo to work for my parents' company, GIB Co., Ltd. I travel to Japan, Germany, and France several times a year to each of these countries. It's amazing that Japanese courses at UVM have had a big impact on my life in such a positive way.

Clair LeVier '18

As a student majoring in Japanese at UVM, studying abroad at Kansai Gaidai was the perfect complement to my degree and strengthened both my studies and my experience. I was able to grow so much as a person by traveling on my own to a foreign country and learning how to get around. Kansai Gaidai offers the perfect environment for an international student, as they have a strong international program and you will be able to meet other students from around the world, as well as become friends with local Japanese students. Along with this, the location of the university is perfect as it is right in between the bustling city of Osaka (great night life and shopping) and the beautiful old capital Kyoto, with both cities being easily accessible by train. I then attended Aoyama Gakuin in Tokyo for my second semester abroad, and I can honestly say that although both places have a lot to offer, I was glad that I was able to experience the Kansai region and study at Kansai Gaidai. While being able to experience all that the Kansai region has to offer, you will be able to improve your language skills tremendously and make friends from around the world.

Danielle Tom '18

Describing my study abroad experience at Toyo University in the heart (or one of the major arteries—not too sure, I never took anatomy or geography) of the largest city in the world in one short paragraph is just as hard as trying to swim to Japan from California. But I’ll do my best! Class time was short, in all honesty you spend almost no time in the classroom and all the time exploring the city, going on trips or just hanging out (but the learning part is real—I had friends go from not knowing ANY Japanese to having conversations in only one semester, these professors really know what they’re doing). Not only was class short though, it was also really fun, the professors know that we’re studying abroad and the last thing we want to do is sit in class so we went on field trips to places we as foreigners never would have thought to go (and they were amazing), the lectures were always done with a large amount of passion and zeal so even the earliest class at 10:05 was a blast.

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For field trips we went to places like the Cup Ramen Museum where we got to make our very own ramen noodles and the Disaster Prevention Museum where we experienced a simulated earthquake and got to wear full-body rain suits to experience typhoon conditions! Living in the city was one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made. I honestly didn’t think I’d like it at first, I mean, I chose to go to UVM because it was a campus and not exactly a city but still a “city”. But Tokyo is amazing, I would have days where I’d want to do something but wouldn’t know what and I would just go for a walk down to the park and there’d be some kind of festival going on or I’d find some side street that I’d never seen before and venture down it to find some historical place, shrine, or small museum. I lived there for a year and there’s honestly so much that I have never and probably will never see just because it’s so vast and there’s always new things to see and do. But, one thing that I want you to take away from this is, everyone will say “It’ll change your life” but that’s not it, “Japan” doesn’t change your life, YOU change your life in Japan and it makes everything worthwhile.

Ciara Ertle '17

I first became interested in teaching English abroad when I was younger and my grandma told me about her experience teaching English in South Korea. It seemed like such an adventurous and fun thing to do so I was really excited to call and tell my grandma the news that I was taking a page from her book and going to live in Japan. I started studying Japanese at UVM because of Murakami Haruki. He is a world famous, modern Japanese novelist whose books I am obsessed with. I wanted to learn more about the language in which his books were originally written and I found Japanese to be very beautiful and interesting. But very soon after starting Japanese class, I was bitten by the bug of Japanese literature and language and added Asian Studies as another major to accompany the English one I was already working on. I took classes on Japanese history, literature, modern culture, language, and even other Asian religions and philosophies. I think I ended up taking more classes than I even needed for that major. I mean, as proof that I couldn’t get enough and that I am a true Japanese literature geek, my friends formed a short summer book club to read and discuss Murakami novels with our professor after graduation. So it was only natural that in my sophomore year I would want to apply to study abroad in Japan. My friend and I completed the rigorous study abroad and visa application process and soon found ourselves on a plane to Tokyo to start at Japanese university.

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We had an incredible 5 months. We lived in a sharehouse apartment in Asakusa and got to meet people from all over the world. We took Japanese classes during the week and explored Japan every weekend. We even got part time jobs as English conversation tutors at our university. We had so many fun new experiences and were very sad to leave Japan when the semester finished. So much so, that after being back in the US for a little while, I knew I wanted to try to return to Japan. I applied to the JET Program, a program that assigns English speakers to be Assistant Language Teachers in Japanese public schools. When the March results came out, I was ecstatic to find out that I was assigned to be one out of the 84 English teachers living and working in Takasaki, Gunma. I have currently been teaching at my elementary school here for 8 months and I love it so much that I just recently decided to stay here a second year. Since I work at an elementary school, I am actually more of a T1 teacher instead of an assistant, meaning I plan and run all my own lessons (about 16 a week) with the assistance of the home room teachers. But I love every second of it. I work at a smaller school with about 200 kids. So now I have 200 little best friends that love to play English games with me, bring me random rock and acorn gifts after recess, play tag and dodgeball with me outside, draw Pokémon with me, and play seemingly endless games of Rock Paper Scissors. I feel so lucky that I am happy to go to work every morning because of these crazy amazing kids, and I am so glad I pushed myself to have a completely new and scary adventure. Of course living alone in a foreign country can be very difficult at times, but I think that the experiences I have here will be some of the most important of my life.

Christopher Mahmood "17

Ever since I was in middle school, I was interested in Japan, but when I first arrived at UVM in 2012, I had very different aspirations. However, after taking Professor Ikeda’s Japanese Popular Culture class, and meeting the other department faculty at the various events hosted by the program and Japanese House, I decided to take the plunge and change to a Japanese major. After taking lectures with hundreds of students who I would never really get to know, taking small classes with other Japanese learners and the amazing faculty was a wonderful experience. The language courses are well-paced and rewarding, and in my five years at UVM I never had more intellectually challenging and interesting courses than when I took Professor Ikeda’s Japanese Literature courses. There’s also a ton of opportunities to learn about Japan through classes offered in collaboration with other departments as well, such as Samurai in History and Film, offered by Professor Erik Esselstrom in the History department. On top of the coursework, there were so many opportunities within the department outside of class, such as  the Anime Club, Taiko Club, and all kinds of guest lecturers and community events.


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The highlight of my Japanese Program experience, however, has to be studying abroad. I spent one year living in a quiet corner of Tokyo, studying at Toyo University through ISEP.  There, I had the time of my life improving my Japanese alongside students from all over the world, as well as taking classes with Japanese students. I even worked as a staff member at the English Community Zone, an English-only lounge for students studying English to hangout and ask questions. It was my time abroad that allowed me to put all I had learned at UVM into practice, and helped me decide to return to Japan after I graduated. On top of becoming much stronger in Japanese, I made tons of friends and connections for life, and learned what it’s like to actually live in Japan, not just visit as a tourist.
After I returned to UVM for my senior year, I was able to maintain my progress in Japanese through the challenging 5th year curriculum offered by the program, conducted entirely in Japanese. My time spent in the program came to a head when I applied for, and was accepted, as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) for the JET Programme, where college graduates from around the world are offered jobs teaching English across Japan. I now live and work as an assistant teacher for elementary school in the beautiful seaside town of Akkeshi, on the southern coast of Hokkaido. I use the Japanese I learned at UVM everyday, planning lessons with my homeroom teachers, or translating documents for my Board of Education at the town hall. If you had told me on my first day at UVM that a few years later I would be sitting here writing this at my desk in Japan, having just watched my first year of students graduate, I’m not sure if I would have believed you. But, thanks to the all of the support and knowledge I gained through UVM’s Japanese Program, here we are!



Morgan Velba '17 – Thriving Outside the Comfort Zone

Velba poses in front of a bookcase

"Studying abroad in Osaka for my junior year was by far the most rewarding decision I've made in my academic career. Being alone in a foreign country was intimidating at first; I was forced to use my Japanese language skills every step of the way. Through complete immersion, however, I rapidly increased my listening and reading comprehension skills. I participated in a Speaking Partner program and was able to practice speaking Japanese in a casual setting on a regular basis. My confidence in speaking Japanese has vastly improved; I used to be extremely shy but I immediately began coming out of my shell the moment I landed in Kansai Airport and needed to figure everything out on my own, from reading kanji on signs to asking strangers for directions . . . I loved exploring by myself and striking up conversations with the Japanese locals; you can learn so much more from speaking with somebody than you ever could through textbooks alone."

Eric Warshawsky ’17: Total Immersion

Warshawsky smiling, flowers in the background

"I have always been interested in learning languages and had been studying Russian for several years but during my second year at UVM, I decided to take Japanese due to my prior interest in Japan, its language, and culture. Study Abroad was always something I wanted to do, and during the second semester of my third year I went to Aoyama Gakuin, located in the center of Tokyo. . . . It is instantly and constantly rewarding to be in a country whose citizens speak the language you are studying . . . While I worked hard in my classes, especially my Japanese classes, there was also a lot of time to travel and explore outside of Tokyo. I went to many rural areas around Tokyo as well as Matsumoto Castle, Mount Fuji, Kyoto, and Osaka. Each one of these trips not only was a fun way to experience more aspects of Japanese culture, but taught me so much about Japan and Japanese."

Learning Communities

The UVM Japanese Program offers many opportunities to learn and practice Japanese language skills and to engage in a welcoming learning community. Opportunities include study abroad, language-exchange programs, service-learning projects, Collaborative Online International Learning with university students in Japan, tutoring sessions, and interest clubs such as Japanese Language and Culture Club, Taiko Club, Anime Club, and Kendama Club.