My undergraduate major is East Asian Languages and Civilizations. A while ago, for the one required class (Issues in East Asian Studies), I wrote up my background and realized that I really had quite a unique experience to bring me to that major. Even though I’m going to go on to be a librarian and probably never “use” this degree beyond getting me into library school, I’m still very happy that I’m getting it.
Read why below the break!
My first memory of EALC education is being told that my family would be moving to Korea after living in Pennsylvania. I was 6 years old at the time and had no idea where Korea was. My parents pointed it out on a map, and I understood that it was by Japan and China, and was kinda like those. (I don’t remember learning much about Japan or China, though.)
When we moved to Korea, I enrolled in the Department of Defense-run school on base, Seoul American Elementary School. At SAES all students went to Korean Culture class once a week–this was my first formal introduction to East Asian studies at the tender age of 8. All right, the class mostly consisted of playing traditional Korean games and learning some crafts rather than hardcore comparison study of American vs Korean cultures, but it was still a great introduction to the fact that my culture was not the only one on the planet. (As if living in a foreign country and being a minority group didn’t tip me off.) In addition to the crafts and games, we did learn a little about the Korean language and even some history. I didn’t retain much, but it sparked an interest.
Because we were living an ocean away from most of America, most of the TV channels we had were Malaysian, Singaporean, Australian, or otherwise non-American. One of these channels broadcast Japanese anime. I was hooked on one in particular: Fushigi Yugi, translated as “Mysterious Play” on AXN. This new love of anime, coupled with Japanese video games like Pokemon and Super Smash Brothers, would keep my interests alive until I got to college.
We moved back to the states in 2000, and although we returned to Korea in 2002, I no longer had Korean Culture classes. Instead, I learned more through Girl Scouts and by actually paying attention to the news in Korea this time. I was able to comprehend a wider view than I had before, where Korea was just so overwhelmingly different.
Post-Korea, I just stayed interested in anime and anime culture. Through high school, my exposure to the East was entirely through anime and anime-related means. I cultivated an extensive manga collection and even attended quite a few anime conventions. I immersed myself in a different kind of culture, one in which cosplay and fan music videos were just par for the course. It was a different kind of foreign and it’s a culture I enjoy even to this day. Bleach and Naruto fanboys and fangirls may get on my nerves, but I still love anime and manga for what they are–entertainment.
I had decided before I got to college that I would take Korean as my foreign language requirement. (Gaelic was not an option, or I may have ended up as a Celtic history major. And I very nearly went for Tibetan on a lark…good thing I didn’t.) I started in the fall of 2008. Although it seemed like it might be too difficult to start with, I loved it so much I continued for a full second year. Through learning the language, I rekindled my love for Korea in particular. I had forgotten how interesting it was.
Along the course of my first year at college, I also decided I wanted to be a librarian after graduating–but applications for library school aren’t particularly helped or hindered by any kind of undergraduate degree. Most schools just want you to have one, no matter what it’s in. So, my undecided major was still undecided. By the end of my first year, though, Korean was so interesting that I decided to try out EALC with a course in the fall that could double as a Core requirement: Japanese Art History. After that went swimmingly, I took a course the next quarter (Winter 2010) all about Shinto. I continued my studies this past quarter with Gender in Korean Film and TV Drama and am currently enrolled in two more East Asian courses: Introduction to Japanese Theatre and The East Asian Film Musical. I expect to graduate in either Winter or Spring of 2012. By then, I might know where I will be attending library school, and what I would like to do with my life. Who knows! :)