A Franklin College student thought she had her future all figured out with plans to work at the Statehouse and attend law school.
Instead, she’s headed for Japan to help students learn English for two years.
Shanice Myers will spend the next two years in Kuji, Japan, helping students there learn English and assisting the city’s mayor. Her trip is part of the college’s partnership with Kuji, a sister city of Franklin. But before packing her bags in July, Myers will receive her political science degree from Franklin College on May 24.
A few months ago, Myers expected to be preparing for law school. But now she’s learning the basics of the Japanese language and important customs of that country, such as bowing before the mayor when he enters the room.
Myers worked with the Indiana Senate during this year’s legislative session and thought she would continue that job full time. At the time, she thought working in the Statehouse would be perfect: She likes helping constituents and would get a tuition reimbursement to go to law school.
But she received an email about the program in Kuji and decided to apply. She was chosen from a group of six students, all of whom submitted a resume, transcript and a letter detailing why they were interested in the program. All candidates were then asked to participate in an interview.
Franklin College has been sending two students to Kuji, a city of about 30,000 people in northeastern Japan, for about 25 years. Participants assist instructors who teach students English, while also helping Kuji’s mayor with planning events and accommodating guests.
Students develop enhanced global skills and the ability to interact with different cultures. They also develop a greater self-reliance, often having to communicate nonverbally. Many students slowly learn Japanese during their time in Kuji, an area that does not have many people who speak English, said Jennifer Cataldi, current program organizer and director of global education at the college.
“Simply, I expect our students
to be involved deeply in foreign culture and diversification,” said Franklin College professor Hisaya Kitaoka, the previous organizer of the program. “I want them to relate to a different culture, and they are expected to learn when there.”
Myers meets with Kitaoka about once a week to learn the basics of the Japanese language, such as asking where the bathroom is located. She also is learning about the currency and logistical issues, such as how she will get to her apartment, Myers said.
She is nervous about going to a country where she does not speak the language but is excited to try new foods and learn about a different culture.
“Franklin College really emphasizes the importance of being culturally aware,” Myers said. “They want us to strive to do anything and everything in terms of different groups and organizations.”
Students are required to live in Kuji for two years and have the option to renew for a third year. The program is unique because students do not have to be fluent in Japanese or even be an education major, Cataldi said.
Cataldi’s husband, for example, participated in the program, and he was an American studies major, she said. Myers is a political science major who doesn’t speak Japanese. She began college as a biology major but switched to political science with thoughts of going to law school. That led to internships with Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind.; the U.S. Army Legal Services department; and the Indiana State Senate.
Myers will receive an apartment and vehicle, round-trip airfare to Japan, paid sick leave and an annual salary of $33,000, according to the Franklin College website.
She knew little about Indiana, and much less the city of Franklin, when she visited Franklin College as a high school senior. Myers is from Clinton, Maryland, which is about 20 minutes from the nation’s capital. She decided to visit Franklin after meeting an admissions recruiter at her high school.
“I fell in love with the hospitality of the Midwest and Indiana,” Myers said.