By Chetachukwu Obiwuma
This past class, we met a wonderful woman named Shanti Shoji. Shanti was there to talk to us about her non-profit, Kizuna Across Cultures, which she co-founded based on her interest in Japanese in her younger years. Kizuna Across Cultures is a program that connects Japanese classes with American classes in order to facilitate cross cultural interactions and support language learning. The program lasts for six months and the bridges built create more ingenuity on understanding Japanese language. For more on the organization, please refer to this URL: https://kacultures.org/.
I was not really interested starting out, but as Shanti gave us background of how she got into the organization, I was astounded. There were so many references to Japanese resources which still exist today, that we can use in our pursuits within the Japanese language. She mentioned the JET program, which is an exchange program where English speakers can teach English in Japanese schools for a year; the JICC, the cultural center for the Japanese Embassy in the U.S.; and her gap year in college to intern with another Japanese organization. The instances she gave us to show her journey in the Japanese language showed us the level to aspire for in our own individual pursuits of mastery in Japanese.
Meeting with Shanti is something that I feel like was very important for people studying Japanese, because it gives something to look forward to. All the opportunities that came for Shanti that were associated with her abilities in the Japanese language give hope to some people who don’t feel that pursuing language studies is solid enough for a career. Even if it has nothing to do with language careers, Shanti stands to serve as a way of telling people to become more serious about things like your communal environment.
Shanti talked about growing up in a community that had a significant Japanese population and how it became entrenched in her before she even started studying Japanese. She sets a precedent about language studies that more students need to be aware of. How can your studies serve as a potential bridge in the community? This does not require that you be the pillar of engagement in your community but that as an individual, you become more aware of the impact you can have in community. Become a more uniting force through the Japanese language. Take what you have learned out into the world and link more people together in order to promote unifying diversity. Let our differences make us allies and not enemies. Join with your two hands and fortify it so that it never breaks apart. Be like Shanti and learn to be an impactful individual through cultural immersion studies, such as the Japanese Plus program.