East Asian Studies Alumni Spotlight
Cameron White, '14
I came to the East Asian Studies Department in a somewhat roundabout way. I had taken Mandarin before coming to Princeton, but it wasn’t something that I knew I wanted to commit to in the long-run. However, during my freshman fall, I took courses in both modern Japanese literature and Chinese language. In both cases, the classes had only a few students and the instructors were very passionate, making a future with the department very appealing.
Margaret Wang, '14
I was immediately drawn to EAS through the language department. As a native Shanghainese speaker, taking Chinese opened a lot of doors to my family's history. After taking my first Chinese language course in Princeton, which immediately became my favorite course, I explored contemporary Chinese society and culture with several other courses in Princeton. Eventually, I traveled to China for the first time through Princeton in Beijing. Forced to speak only Chinese for two months, this program really initiated my interest in East Asian Studies. Moreover, I also taught in Sichuan as a volunteer project immediately afterwards, which brought my attention to the education system in China.
Sasha Small, '14
When I first came to Princeton from London, I had no clue what I'd end up majoring in. During my first semester here, I decided on a whim to take second-year Chinese. At the time, it seemed like an insignificant decision. But after I spent my first summer in China under the Princeton in Beijing program, I knew that I wanted to continue my study of Chinese language and culture as my major. The East Asian Studies department appealed to me because it includes such a large scope of subject matter within many different academic disciplines. I am focusing on Chinese language and linguistics -- in addition to my major, I look forward to pursuing a certificate in Translation and Intercultural Communication. This past summer, I worked as an intern in Shanghai. I am involved in Advertise This, Service in Style, PACT, Princyclopedia, and tutoring at the public library.
Mary Schulman, '14
I had my heart set on majoring in East Asian Studies ever since I arrived at Princeton from Fairfield, CT. I studied Chinese in high school and helped teach the first- and second-year Chinese courses as a high school senior. I was fascinated by China’s uniquely ancient cultural heritage and the mechanics of the Chinese language—as a tonal language in which verbs are not conjugated and which often draws sharper distinctions between concrete and abstract nouns than between nouns and verbs, Chinese shapes and communicates ideas very differently than does English. The interdisciplinary nature of the East Asian Studies department and the excellence of the Chinese language program have been invaluable in my exploration of this theme. My independent research focuses on the concept of freedom in the Chinese intellectual tradition and incorporates both classical Chinese and Western philosophy. I am pursuing a certificate in Humanistic Studies due to the cross-cultural nature of my research; I have also studied language more broadly from evolutionary, neurological, and cultural perspectives.
Anna Lorentz, ‘13
Kindergarten Friends From Tokyo Meet Again
Born to a Thai mother, I was born in Bangkok and lived there until I was four years old. My American father, a Princeton alum ('76) who studied Japanese as an EAS major, met my mother during his yearlong exchange in Japan. (My mother was attending university in Japan at the time.) My parents' common language is Japanese, as my father does not speak Thai and my mother did not speak English at the time, so the only place that really made sense to start a career and raise a family was Tokyo. When I was four years old, my family moved from Bangkok to Tokyo, where I attended international schools until the age of 18. My parents are still based in Japan, so it is nice to be able to go back and visit them.
I met Kendra in Kindergarten in Tokyo and we were close friends. After she moved to Arizona, however, it was difficult to be in constant communication, so we were both unaware until running into each other during our freshman year that we both enrolled at Princeton! It has been incredible having Kendra here as a fellow EAS major, and to be able to reconnect with her through the EAS department, being in the several of the same courses and even handing in our theses together.
Joshua R. Weinstein ’09
At Princeton, I was an East Asian studies (EAS) major focusing on modern China and Chinese language. In addition to my interest in the language, I started studying Chinese because I aimed to concentrate in Sino-U.S. relations. After studying in China through Princeton in Beijing (PiB), I became even more passionate about my studies. After going back to PiB the next year, I had completed half the requirements for the EAS department. As a result, I had the opportunity to pursue a myriad of coursework, taking courses in 15 different departments including electrical engineering and art history. One of my junior papers was on changes to the Chinese language after 1949; and the other was on basketball player Yao Ming and the NBA in China.
My thesis ended up being a cross between my primary academic area of interest and my passion for Web-based entrepreneurship. After taking a sociology graduate seminar, “Web-Based Social Research,” I teamed up with my professor in that class, Matthew Salganik, on a Web-based research method of my own. I had been involved in the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), and, as president, I had an idea to crowd-source the prioritization and generation of student government initiatives by showing two options and asking which one was more important. Additionally, students could add their own ideas to this set of options. We ended up developing a website using this methodology with pictures (photocracy.org) to evaluate conceptions and perceptions of national identity in and between China, Japan, and the United States. AllOurIdeas (based on the original USG idea) and Photocracy went on to be funded by Google, and continue to be spearheaded by Professor Salganik.
Entrepreneurial skills and spirit
After graduation, I was supposed to work for a management consulting firm. Shortly after returning to New York, however, I restarted a Web project from USG. The project was the “CrushFinder,” which enabled students to list other students they liked and let them know if any of the people they “crushed” liked them back (crushes were anonymous unless the feeling was mutual). Although our company originally started around that idea, we have since changed the product many times. Now, we are working on a site called YouAre.TV—a television program that users can appear on from their webcams.
Danny Samit '08
Danny is currently an MBA Candidate at Harvard Business School. At Princeton, he graduated with Honors in East Asian Studies and was awarded the Leigh Buchanan Bienen and Henry Bienen Senior Thesis Prize for his documentary film on Japanese whaling http://www.kujirathemovie.com, which won the Jury Award at Japan Film Festival Los Angeles 2009 and went on to screen at festivals in three continents.
His interest in East Asian Studies began the first semester of freshman year, when he took Intro to Japanese and Professor Richard Okada's intriguing freshman seminar on Japanese popular culture. He had a wonderful experience at Princeton-in-Ishikawa the following summer and decided to start taking Chinese language courses concurrently with Japanese. Due to the strength of both language programs, Danny was hooked on learning both languages and went on to Princeton-in-Beijing the following summer. Danny eventually took 14 Asian language courses instead of the required 6 for majors.
Danny's coursework and research in popular culture has helped him understand why stories resonate and are powerful, which is incredibly useful to him in the entertainment industry where he has worked for United Talent Agency and Fox Networks Group. Before business school, Danny drew on his East Asian Studies background to help Fox launch a new service throughout Southeast Asia as an International Business Analyst at Fox International Channels in Hong Kong.
More than anything, as an East Asian Studies major, Danny learned to see the world from multiple perspectives, and this will help him solve problems and think strategically no matter what he does in the future.
Tarryn Li-Min Chun '06
Tarryn Li-Min Chun is currently an A.M. candidate in Regional Studies - East Asia at Harvard University. She first set foot in Jones Hall as a high school senior visiting colleges and was awed by the amazing spread of sushi at the East Asian Studies open house (and, of course, the brilliant faculty and wide array of courses offered by the department). Thrilled to finally have the chance to study Chinese, she began her freshman year with Chinese 101. Fascination with language led to literature courses and a major in East Asian Studies. When not memorizing Chinese vocabulary, Tarryn worked on many campus theatre productions and served as president of the Princeton Triangle Club. Her senior thesis, advised by Professor Perry Link, combined her loves of theatre and Chinese literature in a study of avant-garde Chinese drama.
After graduating from Princeton in 2006, Tarryn spent two years as a Princeton-in-Asia fellow in Taiwan, where she taught English at the Affiliated High School of Tunghai University and continued her study of Chinese at Tunghai's Chinese Language Center. Highlights of her experience ranged widely, from dressing up as a ladybug for her seventh-grade class's Halloween party to biking in Yunnan province during summer break to attending modern dance performances by Taiwan's Cloudgate Dance Theatre.
Inspired by her studies at Princeton and her time in Taiwan, Tarryn hopes to pursue a PhD in Chinese literature with a focus on modern Taiwanese literature, drama, and culture.