Physics major Christopher Woytovich ’08 has a passion for learning languages. In addition to English, which he acquired after moving to the United States from Taiwan at age 13, Woytovich is proficient in Mandarin Chinese, and has taken course work in Hindi and, while at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Japanese.
This summer he has the opportunity to improve his command of the latter language as he undertakes an 8-week intensive language and culture program in Japan.
Woytovich is one of 141 students in the United States to receive a David L. Boren Undergraduate Scholarship, which is funding the trip. He also will receive a grant from the Colleges to pay his travel expenses. Through the program, he plans to spend 40 hours a week in the classroom learning Japanese, with cultural trips and sightseeing on the weekends.
Being proficient in multiple languages is important to Woytovich because he recognizes the impact globalization has on the economy. The opportunity he is being given this summer is an ideal match for the rising senior’s career aspiration. He hopes to become an environmental or biomedical engineer, working with the United States, China and Japan to improve their scientific technologies and recognize their social responsibility to reduce global warming without compromising economic growth.
“I want to help build relations between the scientific communities in Japan and China, he said. “I want to unite scientists to make contributions to their field and to better understand and respect cultural influences.
James-Henry Holland, associate professor of Japanese Language and Culture, said Woytovich is well-suited for the program, and that the Japanese program at HWS has given him a leg up on the competition. “His application showed that he already knew a lot about how to study languages in general, and Japanese in particular, Holland said.
“Christopher has a good sense of the issues involved in the notoriously difficult ‘polite language’ of Japanese, and his analytical skills can be applied productively in this kind of a program.
Japanese academics are interested in fostering strong relations between their nation and the United States through students with talents in both the sciences and languages. Japan is an important center of technical and scientific innovation, and American students who are able to use the Japanese language are welcome in many settings, Holland said.
“There are scholarships to Japanese universities for Americans who speak Japanese, and in the sciences, there are fewer people who are qualified. A student of physics, such as Christopher, who learns Japanese should have many open doors awaiting him later in his career, Holland said.
On campus, Woytovich is the former vice president of the International Student Association and the Asian Student Union, past member of the Hobart Student Government, past-president of Anime Central, a member of Math Club and former member of the fencing club. He is a Hobart Class of 1950 scholar.
Boren Undergraduate Scholarships are offered though the National Security Education Program to provide opportunities for American undergraduates to study abroad. The NSEP awards scholarships to American students for study of world regions critical to United States interests, and focuses on geographic areas, languages and fields of study deemed critical to U.S. national security. The program recognizes that national security has expanded to include the traditional concerns of protecting and promoting American well-being, as well as the challenges of global society, including sustainable development, environmental degradation, global disease and hunger, population growth and migration, and economic competitiveness.