Well-versed in Japanese, Carly Shiever ’21 is studying culture and society, and Japanese language this semester in Hikone. The program, intended for students majoring or minoring in Asian language or culture, is coordinated through the Japan Center for Michigan Universities. The international relations and Asian studies double major is also working with children at an after-school center in a Buddhist temple.
The owners of the after-school center, a local monk and his family, have encouraged Shiever to practice her language skills and, just as importantly, increase her understanding of Japanese culture. “Here, gratitude and respect are shown with the detail and care taken in preparation, in thanking people repeatedly and offering help without asking for anything in return,” says Shiever.
At her internship, Shiever teaches reading and plays American games with the children. To reinforce the Japanese emphasis on traditional greetings, she offers each child a handshake as well as a formal greeting. “It helps get them a little more comfortable with me,” she says.
After work, Shiever spends time with the monk in conversation and shares meals with his family. “It’s a great example of how kind and welcoming a lot of Japanese people are and how excited they are that foreigners want to learn more about their culture and daily practice,” she says.
Prior to her arrival in Hikone, Shiever served as a delegate to the 71st Japan-American Student Conference (JASC). “JASC emphasizes the development of U.S.-Japan relations, connecting student leaders from across the world and facilitating cross-cultural communication,” she says. Her involvement included online weekly meetings for three months followed by a three-week conference in Kochi, Kyoto, Tokyo and Gifu.
The conference, she says, gave her in-depth insights into the culture, language and traditions of Japan, and allowed her to discuss topics ranging from racism to nuclear warfare with her peers. Next year, she will return to Japan as a member of the executive committee for JASC 72.
Shiever credits her HWS professors, including Tanaka Lecturer in Japanese Kyoko Klaus, Associate Professor of Asian Studies James-Henry Holland and Associate Professor of History Lisa Yoshikawa with preparing her for her experiences. “I never thought I could pursue Japanese language until I met them. They have convinced me otherwise.”
Following graduation, Shiever hopes to go to grad school, but first she is exploring the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program, an initiative of the Japanese government that places international participants in schools and government offices throughout Japan for a year. “I think having a globally-minded view of the world is so important,” she says.