― Tell me where you are from and how you came to develop such a love for Japan.
I am from Minneapolis, the capital of Minnesota. It is corn belt country, producing soya beans, maize, and wild rice. I went to the University of St. Thomas, a small private university where I majored in political studies. Minnesota is very cold in winter, with temperatures as low as －20℃. The most famous thing about the place is how cold it is in winter.
A friend from my class at high school had an American father and a Japanese mother. I became very fond of Japan after trying Japanese food at their home and hearing all about Japan from them. My first visit to Japan was in 2008 on a graduation trip when I was 18 years old. Together with my friend, we visited Tokyo, Kyoto, Mt. Fuji, and Hiroshima, finishing up with a visit to his mother’s family in Shimonoseki.
In my second year at university I did a four-month exchange at Sophia University. This included a home stay with a host family in Jiyugaoka. My host mother was from Kansai and the family were enjoyable to stay with. Even though I am now back in Japan, the timing hasn’t yet been right for me to go and see them again. I plan to send them a letter and pay a visit after I get a reply.
― How do you feel about living in Tokyo and the lifestyle here at the university?
I have always loved Tokyo, ever since I first came here on my travels. It’s such a wonderful city and it’s great to be living here again since September (2015). You may not notice it but Tokyo is really huge. It is full of energy yet still so easy to get around. When I first arrived back I found somewhere as close as I could, expecting to find it difficult due to lack of familiarity, and I am currently living in a shared house in Nezu, but from next semester I intend to move to a place near Nishi-Nippori with two Japanese friends I met while at Sophia University. One of them works at a company and needs a place close to a railway station. With the three of us pooling our money, we can get somewhere quite spacious.
I passed the entrance examination for GraSPP on my second attempt. I was so set on coming to GraSPP and I was very glad to be accepted. I had no intention of going to an American graduate school. There didn ‘t seem any point in an American going to an American graduate school, and the fees are very expensive. I felt that going to an overseas graduate school would bring significant benefits that go beyond study. The GraSPP program is full of things I wanted to do, making it the best choice. When I passed on my second attempt, I was working as a local employee at the Japanese Embassy in Washington. In all, I spent about nine months working at the embassy. My supervisors there were very surprised to hear that I was going to leave the job and to go to the University of Tokyo.
Even though I visit countries other than Japan, I always find myself coming back here. As going back to Minnesota for the winter holidays costs a lot of money, I plan to take a “trip home” to Iejima in Okinawa where I spent two and a half years working as an assistant language teacher under the JET program. I wanted to go back to Japan and drew on my experience at Sophia University to apply for a place on the JET program. I had expected to be given a post in Tokyo, so when I first heard where I would be going I looked it up on Google Maps and was completely surprised!! Still, I’m truly grateful I got to go to Iejima. It was like winning big in the lottery. I’m so looking forward to catching up again with the people there I got to know so well. After that, I plan to take a trip around Southeast Asia until about March. I have already reserved an LCC roundtrip airline ticket for only about 30,000 yen. As I don ‘t have a fixed schedule, I plan to limit the number of places I go to and take it easy while I am there.