2017 Finalists

The following is the list of this year's finalists. Congratulations to all!

Category I

David Burnett, University of Wisconsin-Madison (Professor Naomi Geyer)

I was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin so it is an honor for me to represent the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I began learning Japanese on my own in the 7th grade. My interest in Japanese began with video games. I also enjoyed writing Kanji. After my sophomore year in high school I passed the AP Japanese exam. I was very fortunate to receive two scholarships to travel to Japan during my freshman year of high school thanks to the Kizuna Program and YFU. One scholarship allowed me to visit the area damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake and the other to live with a host family and attend school for six weeks in Akita prefecture.

Herbert Fletcher, Georgetown University (Professor Motoko Omori)

I’m a sophomore at Georgetown University. I first was introduced to Japanese when I was a young child through anime and video games. Since then, I fell in love with the culture and lan guage and have been determined to become fluent. During my senior year of high school, I decided that it was time to learn, so I ordered a Genki textbook from Amazon and studied independently until I got to Georgetown, where I enrolled into Japanese 011.

Asma Khan, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (Professor Tomoko Hoogenboom)

My name is Asma Khan, a Political Science major at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. I initially started learning Japanese at Sudbrook Magnet Middle School, but gradually moved on to studying it in high school and college after gaining an increased interest in the language. 

Category II                

Gus Holdrich, Baylor University (Professor Yuko Prefume)

I am a senior at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, studying Linguistics and Japanese. I grew up in Bethesda, Maryland, and began studying Japanese my freshman year in high school. However, I really began applying my self after a 6-week trip the summer before my senior year, and have been working on a Japanese minor since coming to Baylor University. My sophomore year, I completed a year-long study abroad at Hosei University in Tokyo. I have always enjoyed learning more about the Japanese language and culture. 

Youyou Huang, Georgetown University (Professor Motoko Omori)

I am a junior majoring in International Economics and minoring in Japanese at Georgetown University. Like many youths nowadays, anime introduced me to Japanese. At first, I depended on subtitles. But, later, I saw some debates online about the mistranslation in subtitles which led to the misinterpretation of character’s words and personalities. So, I began learning the basics of Japanese by myself. After being able to understand some Japanese without subtitle, I started to believe that, even with translation, the language barrier could cause the cultural barrier due to different cultural contexts. Although I have little time to watch anime now, I would not stop learning Japanese, which built up my confidence in language learning, motivated me to study about another country’s politics and culture, and became my lifelong asset.  

Kevin Yuan, Georgetown University (Professor Yoshiko Mori)

I am a senior at Georgetown University, double majoring in Japanese and Economics and minoring in Mathematics. I am from Glen Allen, Virginia. My high school focused on government and international relations and offered over a dozen different languages, and I chose to take Japanese starting from freshman year due to an interest in Japan’s pop culture and an appreciation of the country’s natural wonders. Since then, I have participated in various cultural exchange programs with Japanese students, and more recently returned from a year studying abroad at Waseda University in Tokyo.

Category III              

Logan Lampkins, University of North Carolina at Charlotte (Professor Fumie Kato)

I am a senior at UNC Charlotte. I am currently set to graduate early with a double major in Japanese and International Studies. In high school, I registered for a Japanese class after my interest was sparked by a Japanese hiragana writing tutorial I found online. This small interest eventually turned into a passion and I decided to study abroad for a year to fully immerse myself in the language and culture. Now, I am pursuing a career in translation and interpretation. Learning Japanese has been one of my most rewarding experiences so far, and I aspire to further develop my Japanese skills. 

Jennifer Shin, Johns Hopkins University, SAIS (Professors Rika Seya and Yasue Oguro)

I was born in New Jersey, U.S. and grew up in South Korea until I moved back to the U.S. at age 13 and started learning Japanese in high school and won first place awards in the advanced division of Washington State Japanese Speech Contest for High School Students and the Aurora Foundation’s All-USA High School Japanese Speech Contest. While attending Boston College and majoring in International Studies with minors in Asian Studies and Economics, I was placed first in the advanced categories of New England Japanese Speech Contest in 2011 and New England Japanese Essay Contest in 2013, and studied abroad at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan in my junior year. Currently a graduate student in Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, I aspire to work as an East Asian specialist within the U.S. Department of State upon completion of my graduate studies.

Yi Zhao, George Washington University (Professor Takae Tsujioka)

I am an International student born and raised in China. I started learning Japanese when I was a middle school student, it did not become my favorite thing until I got touched into Japanese music. For several years, I studied Japanese on my own in order to know the meaning of lyrics of my favorite Japanese songs, from which I got to know many friends with the same interest. It also helped me to maintain my cultural identity after I came to United States. Now I’m studying Japanese literature in GWU, hoping to upgrade my language skill to a professional level.