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Jiayin Yuan, BA, 2020

Field of study: B.A in Asian Studies (Honors), International Studies, Psychology (Honors)

Graduation year: 2020

When I originally enrolled at the University of Michigan in 2016, I had little idea that Japanese Studies would play such a significant role in my undergraduate journey and beyond. The intensive Japanese language classes I took during my freshman year at Michigan were my first introduction to Japan, which sparked my interests in both the country’s culture and language. The same year, I decided to enroll in my first Japanese cultural course—a course taught by Professor Erin Brightwell on premodern Japan’s foreign encounters. What I assumed would be a course to fulfill my humanities requirement quickly changed into the class I most looked forward to taking each week. From there, my passion for Japanese literature only grew, and by my sophomore year, I had made the decision to declare Asian Studies as my major. During my final year at college, I conducted my honors thesis project under Professor Brightwell’s guidance, researching the narratives and representations of named swords in The Tale of the Heike, a medieval Japanese war tale. Despite the challenges, the sheer enjoyment of researching what I love and the level of intellectual stimulation I experienced during my research convinced me that premodern Japanese literature is my true passion and the field to which I want to devote my career.

In the year following my graduation, I participated in the 10-month intensive program at Inter-University Center for Japanese Language Studies in Yokohama, Japan, to strengthen my knowledge of the language and prepare for graduate school. After my time at the IUC, I came back to the U.S and started my MA in East Asian Studies at UCLA in the fall of 2021 with a concentration on Japan. I intend to eventually pursue a doctoral degree in Japanese literature after the MA to further my interest in medieval Japanese war tales. Every step of my journey thus far has been reliant on the encouragement and inspiration of my advisor Professor Brightwell and other mentors at Michigan, who have been incredibly supportive and nurtured my interests in Japanese literature to fruition. To say that my time at Michigan shaped both who I am as a person and the direction of my career is not an exaggeration. I will always be grateful for the assistance, wisdom, and guidance the ALC and its faculty provided me with. Go blue!