As the first student who will complete the newly established Japan Study and Waseda University Double Degree Program, Jennifer Waldman ’18 will be one step closer to a goal she’s had since childhood.
“I want to help build a cultural bridge between Japan and the United States,” Waldman says. “It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was five.”
In May, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Earlham College, and after one year of study, she’ll get a second bachelor’s from Waseda University in Japan.
At Earlham, her major was Japanese Studies and at Waseda her major is International Liberal Studies. Waldman is the first Earlham student scheduled to complete this double degree program, which allows students to earn two degrees in five years. Earlham students spend their junior year in the Japan Study Program at Waseda, and then, after graduating from Earlham, they spend their fifth year studying at Waseda.
“I’ve wanted to do the same thing since I was little—interpreting,” she says. Part of her childhood was spent in Kentucky where Toyota was the largest employer.
“I always felt this invisible barrier or a disconnect,” she says. “I asked myself ‘what can I do to help eliminate that feeling and bring the Japanese employees into the local community?’”
She immediately became interested in anime and began watching Japan’s version of Iron Chef.
“I was really interested in understanding the words, so I listened without using the subtitles,” she says. “I became super interested in Japanese, and my grandma bought me Rosetta Stone for Japanese.”
She moved to Indiana when she was nine and was invited to attend the Indiana Academy at Ball State in Muncie for her junior and senior years in high school.
“Being able to focus on Japanese language and culture at the Academy helped solidify my interest in Japanese interpreting,” she says. “My Japanese professor at the Academy encouraged me to come to Earlham because of its focus and programs on Japanese.”
During her junior year she went on Earlham’s Japan Study Program and skipped ahead to Japanese language level five (of eight).
“I lived with a host family who couldn’t speak English, and that really helped,” she says.
During the past summer she was a research intern in Washington D.C. at the U.S.-Japan Conference on Cultural and Education Interchange.
Waldman says she is excited to be back in Japan to complete her second bachelor’s degree before pursuing graduate school in Japan to study interpreting.