2018 Finalists

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

Category I

Samuel Kim, University of Georgia (Professor Yuki Caldwell)

Hello, I am Sam. I am from Buford, GA which is about 40 minutes away from Atlanta, GA. I was born in Richmond, Virginia. However, I moved to South Korea as my father completed his doctoral degree. Therefore, it was quite challenging for me to learn English from scratch. However, it is funny how now I am learning Japanese in English. One of the reasons why I chose Japanese over other languages is because I like Takoyaki. I have tried some in South Korea. However, I would like to try them in Osaka where Takoyaki was born. Besides Japanese, I love watching movies & TV shows, listening to music, sleeping, etc.

Rida Mughal, University of South Florida (Professor Mako Nozu)

My name is Rida Mughal and I am a senior at the University of South Florida. I am currently studying accounting and Japanese and hope to graduate with my Master’s degree in accounting within the next few years. I first became interested in Japanese during high school because I thought the language sounded so beautiful. I decided to start taking Japanese courses in college. Since then, I have come to love Japanese language and culture and even had the opportunity to visit Japan last year. I hope to continue improving my language skills in the future until I become proficient.

Claire Wong, Baylor University (Professor Yuko Prefume)

I am a senior graphic design major at Baylor University. I started learning Japanese my freshman year of college and enjoyed it so much that I strived to continue learning the language. I have always wanted to travel to Japan and thought it would be great if I could communicate with the people I meet there. This summer, I studied abroad in Japan, and it was an unforgettable experience that has further enhanced my love for the Japanese language and culture.

Category II                

Rishab Bhatnagar, Hofstra University (Professor Patricia Welch)

My name is Rishab Bhatnagar. I am from Great Neck, New York and currently am a senior at Hofstra University, majoring in Japanese and Pre-Medicine. I have been studying Japanese for about 5 years in total now. I had first started having an interest in Japan when I was in 2nd grade. At that time I had been enrolled in Aikido classes and from there my passion had begun. Eventually, I had registered to take Japanese as my foreign language at Hofstra University. While I intended to study till the third level I ended up majoring in it and been grateful that I had done so since. I hope that I will be able to enroll in graduate school in Japan in the future and hopefully pursue a medical degree there.

Barbara Chen, University of Pennsylvania (Professor Kinji Ito)

Barbara Chen is currently a senior studying mathematics at the University of Pennsylvania. Growing up, she watched many Ghibli movies as well as popular anime such as Doraemon. As a result of this upbringing, she became interested in Japanese culture and language. She started learning basic Japanese through anime, manga, and Japanese music when she was in high school, and she began taking Japanese classes when she was a freshman at Penn. She is also pursuing a minor in Japanese studies.

Sandra Silva, Georgetown University (Professor Yoshiko Mori)

Sandra Silva is a senior at Georgetown University majoring in Japanese and Government. She is originally from Santa Ana, California, but also lived in Carpinteria, CA from 9th to 12th grades as a boarding student at the Cate School. It is there that she was introduced to the Japanese language. In Fall 2017, she studied abroad in Nagoya, Japan at Nanzan University. Silva is passionate about strengthening US-Japan relations. She has pursued this interest through internships at TV Asahi, Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA, and most recently with Kizuna Across Cultures. During her free time, she enjoys reading books and practicing calligraphy.

Category III              

Sarah Naomi Johnson, University of Virginia (Professor Miyabi Goto)

Naomi Johnson began her Japanese studies at Yujin Gakuen Elementary School in Eugene, Oregon. As a high school exchange student, she spent 12 months living with a host family and attending a public Japanese high school in Tottori, Japan. Later, she spent two years living in the Kanto region of Japan where she translated and taught courses on culture, pedagogy, and public speaking. She is now a third year student at the University of Virginia where she is majoring in computer science. She is interested in machine translation, language processing, and the intersection of communication and computers.

Zizhou Azusa Wang, University of Pennsylvania (Professor Kinji Ito)

I am from Shanghai, China, but I’ve spent earlier years of my life in Japan.I received a standard elementary education there and was immersed completely in Japanese society and developed a Japanese mindset. I study East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Penn, because I want to understand better the East Asian culture on a global scale from an objective angle, instead of being restricted to an insider’s perspective. In the future,  I want to develop and utilize my language and communications skills in a job where I can support Japanese companies expanding their businesses overseas, to help them grow abroad.

Xiyue Zhang, The Ohio State University (Professor Eri Terada)

I am a third-year master’s student in dual-degree program of East Asian Studies Program and Film Studies Program at the Ohio State University. I come from Changchun, China. I knew about Japan from Japanese animation and literature when I was a middle-school student, but I did not receive formal Japanese language training until I got into the OSU. I began with Level 1 in my first year. Then, I attended eight-week Japanese Language Summer School of Middlebury College in 2017. Since then, I have been studying in the Level 5 Japanese for more than one year. I won the first place in Advanced Level at the 19th Annual JASCO Japanese Speech Contest in March 2018. I am aiming at becoming a specialist in Japanese literature and film.