Vanissa Prempeh ’17 is pursuing a certificate at the Johns Hopkins University-Nanjing University Center for Chinese and American Studies. She is a recipient of a Hopkins-Nanjing Starr fellowship. This semester Vanissa is taking four graduate level courses, three of which are taught in Chinese, classes including, Chinese Foreign Policy, Anthropology and Chinese Studies, Legal Foundations in International Relations and Economic Principles. Outside of the classroom, she is heavily involved in the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court team.
This past May Vanissa graduated with honors from Lafayette College; with a double major in Government & Law and Asian studies and a Chinese minor. Her area of focus within the major was International politics with a regional specialization of East Asia. Indicative of her background in the Ghanaian informal economy, Vanissa’s senior thesis looked at Chinese migrants in the African informal economy. She is pictured below with her thesis supervisor, Associate Professor Seo-Hyun Park, of the Government and Law department.
Some of Vanissa’s previous research projects include a comparative study of African migrants and their integration into Guangzhou and Yiwu society; as well as an Overview of China’s engagement in the African continent by region (and select country case studies).
Just after graduating in Asian- and Engineering Studies summa cum laude, Joseph Ingrao ’16 joined the team at Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF), an international organization of organic farmers. WWOOF has provided Joe with the opportunity to learn on farms around the world, which has been one of Joe’s passions since he become deeply involved with campus sustainability initiatives. Right after graduation, Joe has connected with two farmers in Sicily. Two farmers in Japan hosted him in 2017. His six-month journey will lasted from October 2016 through March 2017 all told. Upon returning from abroad, Joe took an internship with ACLU in Maryland. He is currently applying to several of the top law schools with the hope of effecting positive change in the wider world.
Joe graduated with a major in Asian Studies, another major in Engineering Studies, and a minor in Anthropology and Sociology. With the guidance of the Asian Studies faculty, Joe was able to balance and combine these various subjects into a study of socio-technical history in Asia. This culminated in his capstone project, a critical re-telling of the global agricultural history of the 20th century that places Japan in the spotlight. The flexibility of Lafayette’s Asian Studies professors and this ability for cooperation with other disciplines highlight the program’s overall strength; and the language skills and political as well as cultural knowledge of Japan that Joe gained in some of his most memorable courses at Lafayette laid the groundwork for subsequent applied studies.
Nicholas Limburg ’15 has been polishing his Chinese language skills in preparation for doctoral studies. In his third year in Zhejiang Province, he has submitted his applications for advanced study at a handful of the top Asian Studies graduate schools in the United States. While studying abroad in Kunming, China, during his junior year Nick operated out of a bilingual field office in Yunnan Province, where he learned World Health Organization protocols as he dealt with public health issues such as tuberculosis. He graduated with honors after writing a thesis under the direction of Asian Studies Professor Il Hyun Cho, also a member of the Government & Law Department.
Recently, Nick sent this sketch from Lishui, Zhejiang Province, China:
I am the only foreigner at my primary school. For many people in my small city, I am the first foreigner they have seen in person. My first few weeks here consisted of being addressed with timid hello’s and a great deal of staring and pointing. However, after the initial shock and strangeness had passed, my students began approaching me to chat with what English they had. The brief exchanges I now have with students as I stroll across the playground range from “Hello. How are you?” to “I will go see a film this weekend. What about you?”…When I came to China I had an intellectual grasp of daily of life formed from my college books. Now I have a budding understanding born of experience as people invite me to socialize with them. The people here are quite friendly and often invite me to festivals, scenic sites, or simply dinner. I discuss, or at least listen to, their daily lives and recent events in the city, China, and the world. One of my more memorable occasions is visiting a friend’s family for National Day. The grandmother taught me how to fold a local food called meimaosu:
In 2017, Matthew Keeler ’14 earned his master’s of science degree at the Rutgers School of Biomedical Science. He currently assists researchers by performing surgery in the laboratory as he pursues his dream of becoming a physician.
At Lafayette College, Matt double majored in Asian Studies. In addition to his classroom work, Matt participated in interim study-abroad classes to Japan (Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima) and to South Korea (Seoul, Busan and Gyeongju)/Japan (Tokyo/Osaka). Regarding his Asian Studies work at Lafayette College, Matt reports that his long-term exposure and immersion in the academic study of such complicated region prepared him well for the analytical sections of his MCAT exams, giving him a decided advantage over his more narrowly trained competitors.
Scott Kominkiewicz ’12, is currently an admissions officer at Vanderbilt University. Nashville, TN. Following graduation, Scott went to Japan to teach English through the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. Kominkiewicz’s fascination with Japanese culture began his sophomore year, when he took a world history course with Paul Barclay, associate professor of history. Three years of learning the language followed with Naoko Ikegami, instructor of Japanese. He also spent a semester in Saitama, outside Tokyo, which was cut short by the devastating earthquake and tsunami and subsequent disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Determined to return to Japan, he accepted a position as an Assistant Language Teacher through the JET Program in Hokkaido Prefecture. In addition to teaching, he also was also selected to manage the Hokkaido English Challenge, a non-profit camp that provides an English-immersive environment for interested junior high and high school students as well as funding for exceptional students to pursue a homestay experience in an English-speaking country. After his sojourn in Japan, Scott returned the United States and found his calling as an admission’s officer after an internship at Princeton University’s Undergraduate Admission Office. “I am forever thankful to the entire Asian Studies faculty for introducing me to Japanese culture, and fostering my fascination with it. I’ve noticed that what I learned in my classes at Lafayette has prepared me for success in every one of my experiences post-graduation,” says Kominkiewicz. Next year, he plans to begin work on his M.A. in Education.
Nathan Shatz ’11 I graduated from Lafayette in 2011 with a double major in Math and Asian Studies. He spent the second semester of his junior year in Beijing, and loved it so much that he moved to China after graduating. Now with six years in China, he us fluent in both the language and culture. Equipped with dual degrees in mathematics and Asian studies, Nathan experienced a job search most people would die for. “I contacted the school online. Within a day, I had an interview. Within a week, I had a job,” he says. That school was Birmingham International English in Changsha, Hunan, China. “It’s the biggest city no American has heard of,” Shatz reported as he was getting started in his new post. “Seven million people live here.”
Shatz continues, “Without Lafayette College, I don’t think I would have found my China trajectory. I first came to China because my Lafayette Chinese teacher recommended me for a three-week government exchange program in China. The experience was transformational. I added Asian studies as my second major and began to take as many classes related to China and Asia as I could fit in. In the Asian studies classes I met internationally-minded professors and had small-sized classes, which led to big-time learning and awesomeness. For my Honors Thesis in Asian Studies, I worked with David Stifel and did research in China. There is a Chinese proverb that says reading 10,000 books can’t compare to walking 10,000 miles. (读万卷书不如行万里路 du wan juan shu bu ru xing wan li lu) Experiencing China first hand led me to discover my passion and direction, and I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to live the life that I do.
For Will Dunkel ’07, coursework focusing on Japan and China led naturally to a desire for a better understanding of the lands and cultures of those in the land affixed between, namely the Korean peninsula. It was that yearning that convinced Will to move full time to Korea in early 2009. For the past eight years Will has called Seoul, Korea home. What had begun as a simple foray into living in Asia has grown into a life-long passion. Several years as a teacher in Seoul led to opportunities to again study, as I have since earned my Master’s degree from Korea University in Korean studies focusing on Korean New Media. I am forever indebted to the support given to by Lafayette faculty, who even now years after my graduation still provide guidance and academic advice as I pursue a Ph.D. in Korean Studies. Students who are curious and have any interests in Asia would be well served by working with a faculty that is fully determined in growing and nurturing students of all ages.