| by Lauren Gassman

In The News

Lauren Gassman is in the Master's in Japanese program.
Lauren Gassman (far right) on a trip to Japan with a group of students.

I seriously started considering a career using Japanese when I got back from my high school summer exchange to Japan. It was the first time I had been overseas, without my parents, and put in a situation out of my comfort zone. And I absolutely loved it. Even today, 17 years later, though the memories have faded, I still recall fondly the experiences that I had.

Upon entering college, I majored in Japanese language and culture, with a minor in Teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). I became aware of the Japanese and Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program through talks with my teachers and fellow students. Many students who went through the program had hopes to go to Japan on this program to immerse themselves in Japanese culture through facilitating English instruction in Japanese schools, or facilitate cultural exchanges through the CIR program. I knew the JET program was for me and I knew that if I went on the program, I would never return!

It was in March 2011, right around the time of the Tohoku Earthquake, that I learned I would be going to Japan and teaching at a private Buddhist high school. It was a dream come true. I would be fulfilling my desire to go back to Japan and actually live there! Being in Japan was a wonderful experience. I met so many impactful teachers and students, I was involved in the tea ceremony club, I helped the girls volleyball team practice their English, and I became close with a lot of the faculty, who treated me as one of their own.

However, the pull to home was too strong, and after 1 year, I said farewell to JET and came back home. I wanted to continue working alongside Japanese people and stay immersed in Japanese culture, so I reached out to a local immersion school in my community and took up an assistant teacher job in the preschool. I would help the older children, ages 4 and 5 with English play time, and I would play with the younger kids. The environment was wonderful, but challenging. After a year and a half, I decided to once again return to the classroom to become a teacher. I got my certificate in 2016 and have been teaching Japanese in high school ever since!

One day, while lamenting my poor teacher’s pay, I ran across an email for Middlebury Language Schools and their newly-minted Master’s in Japanese Language and Culture. I jumped at the chance, I wasn’t going to let the opportunity slip through my fingers. You can earn a master’s in 15-months—a 6-week summer in Vermont, followed by an academic year online, and a final 6-week summer in Vermont.

Applying to the master’s was easy enough, but the workload has been difficult! However, I know that this is a step in the right direction and come this summer I will be completing my Master’s! This has been eye opening about how much I still have yet to learn, and has rekindled that fire for academia. I hope that anyone wanting to take the next step will dive in feet first, you won’t regret it!

I thought the Middlebury Master’s in Japanese Language and Culture would be a wonderful opportunity for me to expand my Japanese skills, increase my marketability, increase my confidence, and reconnect with my love of Japan and Japanese to become a more effective teacher.
Picture of the Middlebury Campus.
The School of Japanese is located on the Middlebury College campus in Vermont.