East Asian Studies Alumni Spotlight
Zoe Zhang '16
I definitely did not think I would be an EAS major when I entered Princeton as a freshman! To the consternation of my first advisor, I wanted to be major in the Woodrow Wilson School and Public Policy, get a certificate in materials science and engineering, and then hop off to medical school.
My freshman year, I took courses in both Chinese language and Chinese history. The classes were fascinating, but the excellent faculty and discussions made them my favorite courses freshman year. I spent the ensuing summer working as a public relations intern at the Sichuan Provincial Museum, where I helped author an English-language guidebook and give daily bilingual tours.
As a sophomore, I took a seminar about China’s Frontiers, which convinced me that China had a far more complex history and ethnography than I’d grown up assuming. It convinced me that I could only love my thesis if I was an EAS major. My favorite aspects of EAS are the quality of the courses, great faculty, and the opportunity to explore East Asia-related topics from an interdisciplinary standpoint.
I studied abroad in the spring of my junior year at The Inter-University Program for Chinese Language Studies in Beijing. While I focused on advancing my knowledge of Chinese academic writing and Classical Chinese, I also had the opportunity to study Chinese law and do independent research for my JP. I even ended up as the language partner of a clerk from the Chinese Supreme Court!
Since declaring an EAS major, I’ve continued to work on the history of China’s frontier regions: My fall JP studied the 1951 “Liberation” of Tibet through the perspective of contemporaneous children’s books, and my spring JP focused on an 18th century travelogue’s contributions to the Chinese conceptualization of Xinjiang in the Qing Dynasty. For my senior thesis, I’m planning to continue studying Qing Dynasty Xinjiang.
On campus, I‘ve worked for the Rare Books and Special Collections department in Firestone, managed a consulting project for Princeton Business Volunteers, and served as the Head of Advertising on The Daily Princetonian’s business board. I’ve also had internships at a tech startup and American Express’ Enterprise Growth group. I think my experiences prove that it’s entirely possible to choose EAS and still do whatever you want after you graduate.
Besides my best friends, EAS is what I love most about my Princeton experience. I’m happy to be a resource for anyone considering a concentration in EAS, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bradley Berman '16
My path to becoming an EAS major was not direct. I arrived by way of financial engineering, but once I made the decision to switch nothing else could have felt more natural.
From a young age, I gravitated to music and language. I began to play cello at age five, studying it seriously throughout high school and the first half of my college career, as a member of the Princeton University Orchestra. My musical journey was the start of a life-long attraction to the aural experience.
Mandarin initially fascinated me because of its beautiful and intricate character system, which differentiates it from any other language. I have also discovered and appreciate Mandarin's practical applications. My decision to begin teaching myself Mandarin as a senior in high school arose from a true love for the language and passion to learn it. Entering Princeton, I began to pursue an ORFE major and EAS certificate. After attending Princeton in Beijing during the Summer of 2013 (my freshman summer), I fell in love with EAS.
The EAS major has provided me with an incredible experience of passionate, dedicated, approachable staff who care about providing students with an excellent East-Asia focused curriculum which promotes and encourages the exploration of East Asian history, culture, and language. I have formed incredible relationships with the staff, including my Chinese teachers and my language skills continue to improve drastically each year.
In addition to providing me with the opportunity to take all of the heritage Chinese language courses, literature courses, and now Classical Chinese (this semester), the EAS department also enabled me to explore my research interests. My Fall junior paper addressed the development of foreign companies in China using Proctor and Gamble as a case study to explore attitudes which Chinese citizens have towards foreign companies and the many obstacles which developing foreign companies often encounter in China. My Spring semester junior paper focused on medical tourism in China through an examination of the social phenomenon of pre-natal gender determination (by ultra-sound or blood samples) as a response to policy anomalies between Mainland China and Hong Kong.
This past summer, I was an intern with the National Committee on U.S. China Relations. The knowledge of language and culture which I've gained from EAS enhanced my experience with the NCUSCR and provided the foundation that I need to further increase my knowledge of U.S.-China relations and policy.
I am the President of the Princeton University Language Project, a student organization which provides non-government organizations which free translation services. I am also the Co-director of Communications of the Princeton University China Coalition, a student organization which enables students to develop intellectual and interpersonal skills to promote understanding of China's domestic and international policies from a Chinese perspective. In addition, I lead Mandarin tours on campus weekly.
Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com if you have any questions about the EAS major. I'd be eager to provide you with more information!
Briana Freeman '16
I’ve wanted to learn Japanese since I was ten years old. I never had the opportunity to do so until Princeton, so I was determined to choose a major that would allow me to take as many Japanese language and content courses as possible. I briefly debated EAS and Woody Woo for my first semester of Princeton, but chose EAS because it was much more flexible. It allowed me to focus on one region, and it was easier to work in a full year abroad in Japan.
I started out in Japanese 101 at Princeton. I remember sitting in class the first day thinking, “What am I doing here?” I had been telling myself that I wanted to learn Japanese for nine years, but now that the moment was finally here I wasn’t sure anymore. Maybe I should stick with French, since I’d taken it for four years in high school and was currently taking 108. Japanese just seemed so difficult.
Despite these doubts I stayed in the class, and I’m so glad I did. Japanese quickly became the class I looked forward to every day, so much so that I wished I could forget my other classes and study only Japanese. My wish came true when I was accepted to the Princeton in Ishikawa (PII) program. After just one year of Japanese, I headed to the small city of Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan. I had an amazing two months living with my host family, learning language and culture, exploring the city, and making friends from Princeton and other colleges. PII covers one year of Japanese in two months, so every day was busy, but also really, really fun.
After returning home to Boise, Idaho, for a short time, I was on my way back to Japan, but this time to spend a year studying abroad in Kyoto through the Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies (KCJS). Among the roughly thirty-five students in the program, I was the only sophomore. Like PII, I made many lifelong friends from other universities. I joined a local pottery studio, participated in a monthly community cooking circle, learned a bit of Kansai-ben (the Kansai dialect of Japanese), and was able to take content courses on Japan that are unavailable at Princeton. One course in particular, Japanese linguistics, has shaped my two Junior Papers and is still relevant for my senior thesis. I really enjoyed my time in the amazing, beautiful city of Kyoto, and I can’t wait to return.
After KCJS had concluded, I participated in another Japanese summer language program, this time atMiddlebury College in Vermont. Middlebury’s language school pledge, which requires students to speak, read, write, and listen to only their target language, did wonders for my abilities to communicate in Japanese. I lived every day immersed in the Japanese language and joined several clubs, including rakugo (traditional comic storytelling) and yosakoi (fisherman’s dance). My two months at Middlebury gave me confidence in my language skills that I’d never felt before, and I again made many friends who attended other colleges or who had already graduated.
Returning to Princeton felt odd. I’d only spent one year on campus, yet I was suddenly a junior. I’d grown so much during my year abroad, seen other parts of the world, and made many friends since I was last on campus. One thing was consistent though, and that was Japanese. I was reunited with the Princeton Japanese professors and my Japanese 101/102 classmates after so long. I placed into fifth-year Japanese and became a peer tutor for the language. I also started learning Korean, beginning a new chapter of my journey as an EAS major. I joined the American Sign Language (ASL) club , which had been formed during my year abroad, and am now an officer in the club. I also help graduate students with their English conversation skills as part of the English Language Program .
If you hadn’t guessed, I love learning languages. I love being able to communicate with people I otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to, and I love learning about other cultures from the people themselves. I plan to become fluent (N1 level) in Japanese, become functionally fluent in Korean, and continue my studies in ASL so that I can teach it to my children some day.
Being an EAS major is so amazing because it has allowed me to study the region of the world that I am most passionate about. It has given me the freedom to approach Japan from both an anthropological and linguistic angle and the opportunity to study both Japanese and Korean. If you have any questions about study abroad, summer language study, the Japanese or Korean language programs, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can get coffee!
rakugo: 2014 Middlebury College - Briana Freeman
Nicholas Keeley '16
Like many other EAS concentrators, I hadn’t chosen a major before coming to Princeton. Instead, my first introduction to the department was through language. While I was in high school, a relative told me how incredible his business trip to Shanghai had been, so as a freshman in college I enrolled in an introductory Chinese course in the hopes of visiting there someday. I remember being fascinated by the pattern-based complexity of Mandarin, and soon my interest evolved into a broader ambition of understanding the country where it originated. Language courses turned into ones about Chinese history and politics, and before long, I was faced with the decision on which department to join.
A lot of people ask me now why I chose the East Asian Studies Department over Politics or the Woodrow Wilson School, especially since my interests appear to cater more to the latter two. The answer revolves around two words: opportunities and flexibility.
Due to the department’s relatively small size, I’ve had the privilege of working individually with its incredibly friendly and helpful faculty/staff on a variety of occasions, to include being coached on rapping in Chinese for a national speech competition. I’ve managed to attain a conversational proficiency in Mandarin that has proved immensely useful during overseas internships – an achievement largely attributable to a world-renowned, immersive summer language camp run by EAS’s Chinese Program, called “Princeton in Beijing.” I’ve studied, been challenged by, and written about subjects that I would never have previously considered (my first JP was on national anti-spitting campaigns in China). But perhaps most importantly of all, EAS’s adjustable course requirements have enabled me to explore my interests beyond East Asia – ranging from course enrollments in neuroscience and philosophy, to extracurricular involvements such as Mock Trial, RCAing, and ROTC. Most recently, I was even afforded the opportunity to study in Singapore as I prepare for my thesis. Not many departments can offer the same kind of personalization to one’s interests as EAS does to its students.
Overall, I’m grateful for the experiences I’ve had at Princeton and through EAS so far, and would be happy to share more of them with you (both ups and downs). As mentioned above, I’m studying Southeast Asian relations with China at the National University of Singapore this fall semester, but I can be reached easily by email at email@example.com.
Ross Donovan '16
As I entered Princeton, I knew that the study of language was something that fascinated me. I started learning Chinese when I was 12 years old, and by high school I was immersing myself in Chinese music, TV shows, and news radio for hours every day.
I felt immensely happy during my first year at Princeton when I realized the depth of the Chinese department, that it would allow me to take literature classes in the language and engage with other students who shared my love for Chinese language.
My path to East Asian Studies came late, however, after I had been set on pursuing an independent concentration in linguistics. By the end of my sophomore year, I began to consider the broad possibilities of majoring in a field like EAS, bounded only in region but not in discipline. Between my love for the Chinese language and my growing curiosity about Chinese culture and history, along with my other interests that spanned from queer studies to hip-hop culture, I saw East Asian Studies as offering the range of courses and flexibility of content that would help me grow the most.
Now, as a senior in the department, I am very thankful for my decision to study East Asian Studies, because I have never had to compromise my wide-ranging interests or my desire to use my Chinese language skills as much as possible. I researched dialect-based rap music in China for my fall Junior Paper, and in the spring I looked at the work of queer Chinese filmmaker Cui Zi'en. For my senior thesis, I am focusing on queer Internet novels in China and the way that they create narratives of identity.
I have spent the last two summers in Shanghai, first exploring hip-hop dance at a studio with the Dale Summer Award, and then working for an online magazine, Neocha, that focuses on creativity in Asia. On campus, I am an RCA in Butler College, a member of the USG Committee on Diversity and Institutional Equity, and a member of Sympoh Urban Arts Crew.
Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions about the East Asian Studies department or would like to talk more.
Michael Katz '15
Despite studying Chinese in high school, East Asian Studies was not even in my top 20 major choices coming into college. Moreover, although I selected it as my major after sophomore year, I still had not taken a single EAS-listed class at Princeton. However, it was a natural choice. I had spent the summer after my freshman year doing Princeton in Beijing (PiB), Princeton’s intensive Chinese language immersion program. Then, I decided to intern in Beijing after sophomore year through Princeton’s International Internship Program (IIP).
When making my choice, I knew that EAS would satisfy my desire gain domain knowledge over highly contemporary subject matter. Through the EAS department curriculum, I have been able to discover more about subjects that I knew would interest me (e.g. Japanese culture) and those that I had no clue were intriguing (e.g. Chinese gender and sexuality). In my fall junior independent work, I explored the unique characteristics in Chinese web entrepreneurship that emerged after the economic reform, helping Chinese tech giants to conquer their international foes on Chinese soil. For my spring junior independent work, I looked at the effect of guanxi-based institutional business practices on Chinese failures in private M&A involving Western companies.
My senior thesis will focus on comparative trends in Chinese and American intellectual property infrastructures. Through the assistance of the department, I will be returning to China over winter break to interview subjects about how these changes have affected the Chinese innovation culture amidst high innovation aspirations from the government. Overall, the EAS department has both provided me with an amazing learning environment and equipped me with critical-thinking skills that will serve me well in any profession.
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.