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JET Setters: Three Japan Studies Students Accepted to the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program

Compiled by Tasha Ramsey

Three students of Japan studies have been accepted by the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) program, sponsored by the Japanese government. Mikayla Rogers (Japan studies minor), Naomi Hayes (Japan studies minor), and Samantha Warford (Japan studies major) will work full-time as Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) in the public school system in Japan this fall. We caught up with two of the three participants for some questions as they prepare for their travels.

Naomi Hayes

Hometown: Louisville, KY
Major: Biology
Minor: Japan Studies
Year: Senior
Fun fact: President of Korean pop dance group on campus for four years

Mikayla Rogers

Hometown: Richmond, KY
Major: Biology
Minor: Japan Studies
Year: Senior
Hobbies: reading sci-fi, fantasy and philosophy, sports, and hiking

A&S: How did you become interested in Japan/Japan Studies?

Naomi: I am half Japanese so I have always held interest in Japan. Since I have family abroad, it has motivated me to study the language and culture in order to become more familiar with it. When I saw that UK had a Japanese program, I thought it was a good opportunity to learn Japanese in a formal setting.

Mikayla: One of the main things that got me hooked on Japan studies at UK was simply taking my first class from the Japanese department.  Originally, I needed the Japanese history class to fulfill a UK core requirement, but the ideas and perspectives of the professor (Marro Inoue) were really new and interesting, so I wanted to continue taking them! And of course what self-respecting anime fan doesn’t want to be able to watch without subtitles.

A&S:  Is this your first time traveling abroad? If not, where else have you been?

Naomi: It won't be my first time abroad. I studied abroad in Japan last summer and have visited family several times.

Mikayla: I spent a semester studying in Japan last year.

A&S: What are your expectations for your JET experience? Do you know anyone else that has done it? What are your concerns/worries?

Naomi: I don't really know what to expect with JET but I do hope I can learn a lot about whatever area I get assigned to, especially the local culture. I also hope I can become fluent in the language. My biggest fears lie in whether or not I can make a good impression on the students.

Mikayla: I imagine that I will meet so many new people from so many different backgrounds! This was my experience the first time I lived in Japan (for study abroad) and I hope it will happen again. I also am looking forward to meeting all the students. I’ll be getting a chance to impact a lot of young lives and I’m excited to become a positive force in the world! I have met a lot of people who have been JETs in the past. For example, a close friend’s mother raves about how much fun she had and tells some amazing stories about her time in Japan. My main concern is that it is just so difficult to read Japanese. Kanji is beautiful, but is it difficult to learn.

A&S: What are you most excited about to experience culturally in your free time?

Naomi: I look forward to eating authentic Japanese food the most.

Mikayla: Some of my favorite aspects of Japan are the festivals. I am completely mesmerized by the music and food. I will attend as many as possible! The atmosphere of Japanese shrines is also something I love. They are usually very peaceful and beautiful places to go and think, so I look forward to exploring whatever town or city I am in to find them. I will also hopefully get the chance to travel a lot. Within Japan, I want to hike as much of the beautiful mountain countryside as possible. I am very much looking forward to visiting many of the friends I have around other countries in Asia also!

A&S: What would you tell a prospective student interested in Japan Studies?

Naomi: I would tell anyone interested in Japan studies to make use of every opportunity presented to you. There are so many chances to get involved in the local Japanese community and to go abroad.

Mikayla: I would like to let them know that the Japanese program at UK is such an amazing group to be a part of. The professors, Inoue Sensei and Patton Sensei, are not only wonderful teachers, but also simply care so much about the success and happiness of their students. You will find amazing support in this program.