University of Michigan student Sakila Islam won first prize at the 23rd Annual Michigan Japanese Language Speech Contest, held by the Consulate General of Japan in Detroit. The contest allows students of Japanese to showcase their language ability by delivering original speeches entirely in Japanese. This year’s contest was held on February 24, 2018 at the Novi Civic Center.

In her speech, Sakila, an LSA junior with majors in Asian Studies and International Studies, spoke about her experience visiting Ishinomaki, Japan last year. When asked about her experience participating in the contest, and studying Japanese at the University of Michigan, Sakila shared:

I started taking Japanese here at U of M because I wanted to do something different. I thought college was the best place to explore things I would otherwise never have the chance to, and delving into a language like Japanese was a perfect way of doing that. I wanted to ultimately challenge myself—and I’m glad I did because I realized how much I loved learning Japanese and ended up declaring a second major in Asian Studies (the first being International Studies). It was a string of coincidences and random decisions made on a whim that ended up with me discovering and becoming invested in Japanese Studies, but it was a serendipitous outcome all in all.

Preparing for the event required a lot of hard work, not just by me, but by my Japanese instructors as well. Yasuda-sensei and I, especially, spent hours in her office writing and rewriting the speech before submitting it. At first, I began asking everyone I could find for advice but taking in everyone’s suggestions led me to lose my own voice. Yasuda-sensei helped me start writing from the beginning again, working with the bare bones of my speech and expressing my true emotions. I’m happy to say that the final speech I produced and presented was one that truly reflected what I felt.

Studying Japanese at U of M has been one of the best experiences of my life! Every single one of the Japanese instructors has supported me through all my endeavors throughout my three years here at the university. Whether I need help with grammar, have questions about traveling to Japan, or just want to talk after a long day of classes, their offices are always open. They’ve created for me a home away from home and I am eternally grateful. Through my classes, I’ve met some of my closest friends and made connections around the world. Deciding to study Japanese here at U of M was hands down one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.