Illinois College -> Academics -> Majors and Programs -> Japanese Studies

Japanese Studies

What is distinctive about Japanese Studies at IC?

IC offers both a major and a minor in Japanese Studies.

The Japanese Studies Program is interdisciplinary. In addition to acquiring competence in the Japanese language, students gain a broad understanding of traditional and contemporary Japan through a wide range of Japan-related courses from various departments and programs. We also encourage our students to complement Japanese Studies with a second major or minor, which helps to prepare them for a wide range of future careers.

Our Japanese language program is designed to prepare students to effectively utilize language skills and cultural knowledge in daily communication. Thus, the language courses at all levels integrate authentic materials (e.g., letters, manga, websites, TV programs, films, and anime), and students gain both the practical experience and the cultural knowledge needed for them to communicate effectively with native speakers of Japanese.

Illinois College has enjoyed a special relationship with Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan over 20 years. This relationship has created a variety of on-campus and travel opportunities for IC students.  Recently Illinois College has also established a new exchange agreement with Kanazawa University in Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan. This has added even more study abroad opportunities for Illinois College students.

What opportunities are available for IC students?

IC offers a variety of opportunities, both on and off campus, for students to gain direct exposure to Japanese language and culture.

IC students have Study Abroad opportunities at Ritsumeikan and Kanazawa Universities either for one semester or for a full academic year.  Shorter summer and winter programs are also available. One unique feature of IC is that students’ financial aid “travels with” them to off-campus locations. Additional awards exist to subsidize travel abroad.

Every other year IC faculty members lead a trip to Japan in early summer through the BreakAway program. The group spends 18 days in Japan travelling and experiencing all facets of Japanese life, from countryside villages to mega-metropolitan Tokyo. The trip includes stops in Hiroshima and other historic sites such as Nara and Kanazawa.

The Japanese House affords interested students a place to immerse themselves in Japanese language and culture. Current residents include students in Japanese Studies as well as exchange students from Japan. Students in the Japanese House speak in Japanese on a daily basis and organize a variety of activities such as cultural events, presentations, and discussion panels to enhance multicultural awareness and understanding of Japan within both IC and the Jacksonville community.

In addition to full-year exchange students from Japan, every year a group of 27 Ritsumeikan students visit Illinois College for four weeks in February and March to learn about American culture and to study English through the Intercultural Exchange Program. These Ritsumeikan students stay with a local host family for two weeks and then move into a college dorm for the final two weeks of their stay. There are a variety of programs where IC students can meet and interact with these students. For example, select IC students serve as hosts for the Ritsumeikan students and IC classes collaborate with Ritsumeikan classes to learn more about each other’s culture and language. 

Phi Sigma Iota is a nationally acclaimed honor society that recognizes students’ outstanding achievement in foreign languages, literature, and culture. The Japanese Honors Program also provides outstanding students with opportunities to demonstrate their Japanese-language skills as well as cultural knowledge of Japan and honor their academic achievements at Illinois College.

What opportunities are available after graduation?

Combining a foreign language with another major opens the doors to a variety of career opportunities. The most popular path immediately after graduation among students in Japanese Studies has been teaching English in Japan. The JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) is a program in which the Japanese government brings English-speaking college graduates to Japan to serve as assistant English teachers at public schools. Students with higher Japanese-language proficiency may alternatively work in local government offices. The Japanese government pays room and board and JET participants earn a monthly stipend. In the past three years three IC students have been accepted to this prestigious program. In addition to this program, one graduate went to teach English in Springfield’s sister city of Ashikaga, Japan, and another has been hired to teach English at a private language institute in Japan.

Other alumni have gone on to graduate programs and to positions in local, regional, and global service organizations, including the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps and the U.S. Marines.


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