A leg up on Japanese language literacy

Matthew Matsuyama, 2018 MIA candidate, spared time from his studies in Tokyo to opine on his Boren Fellowship, including how its readying him for a civil service career

By Matthew Matsuyama | GPS News

Matthew Matsuyama

This September I began a yearlong Japanese language Boren Fellowship at Hitotsubashi University—one of Japan’s preeminent social science institutions. During my time in Japan I will focus exclusively on improving my Japanese, a second language I began studying seriously as an undergraduate student. 

Though this is not the first time I have lived in Japan, I previously had to balance studying the language with other obligations. This year is different. A Boren Fellowship allows me to focus entirely on studying and polishing my Japanese. Moreover, studying at Hitotsubashi means that I am able to take classes in Japanese on the topics that interest me most, taught by leading professors in fields of economics, law, social science and commerce. Many of the classes offered at Hitotsubashi resemble those I would be taking as a second-year student at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy (GPS), which is what led me to apply to Hitotsubashi as my home institution.   

Given my interest in working in Japan in the future, a year spent studying the language intensively complements the qualitative and quantitative skills I gain at GPS. Moreover, GPS’s first-year core coursework provided me with the fundamentals to feel comfortable with enrolling in a number of different classes at Hitotsubashi.

At GPS, taking advanced Japanese language courses under Eiko Ushida allowed me to refine my Japanese. I researched and presented on malapportionment in the Japanese electoral system and about how the Trans-Pacific Partnership would impact Japanese agriculture. I felt confident going into my year at Hitotsubashi thanks in large part to Ushida’s classes.

When I return to San Diego next fall, I know that I will come back with a set of language skills that will have me prepared to work in Japan. Moreover, I hope to return with a more nuanced perspective of Japan and a better understanding of the challenges facing the country today. Coming back to GPS and knowing that I can communicate the concepts I learn there in Japanese will give me a lot of confidence going forward. 

After graduating from GPS, I hope to fulfill my civil service obligation by working for the U.S. State Department in the Trade and Economic Policy Unit in the Economics Section. There I can utilize the qualitative, quantitative and linguistic skills acquired at GPS by analyzing trade agreements between the U.S. and Japan.

I know this year will be a transformative experience linguistically, professionally and personally. I encourage those who are interested in furthering their own foreign language study to look into a Boren Fellowship and would be more than happy to provide GPS students with any advice or answer questions.

For more perspective from GPS students who have landed Boren Fellowships, read “Our 2015-16 Boren Fellows.”