A Letter from an Alumna

Christine Okamoto

My name is Christine Okamoto. I graduated from GW with a BA in Chinese Language and Literature in May 1990. I had a wonderful time exploring all the topics of interest to me in the areas of East Asian language and literature, and at the same time gaining a wide perspective on other world cultures and philosophies and literatures. The professors in general and my advisor Professor Chaves in particular, approached the subject matter with a global view through the lens of East Asia. It was fascinating, thought-provoking, and academically rigorous, which is exactly what I wanted. I felt that this training gave me a solid platform for pursuing whatever other field in which I had an interest at the graduate studies level, and/or in the work force in general.

Although I was a Chinese major, in my last semester I took a class on modern Japanese literature with Professor Chaves, and this was a major turning point in my life. The material spoke to me so deeply that I felt strongly called to go to Japan, learn Japanese and immerse myself in the culture. After a brief stint at a publishing company in Singapore, an opportunity arose to work in Japan, and I jumped on it immediately. Working and studying Japanese and soaking up everything I could about the culture was deeply satisfying to me. In four years I had passed the top level of the government Japanese Language Proficiency Exam, and felt ready to leave Japan for a 2 year MA course in Language Teaching in Monterey, California. During that time I earned an MA in teaching English and Japanese, and taught Japanese at a nearby community college. I intended to go back to Japan, but in the meantime had married my Japanese husband, and he had an opportunity in Florida. There was not much going on in my chosen field in Florida at the time. This might sound like a bad thing, but it was actually an excellent chance to make something happen. I had had some training in translation and interpreting, and noticed that many companies that requested language services badly needed cultural consulting services as well. For ten years I owned and operated a translation, interpreting and consulting company specializing in Japanese and Chinese, and enjoyed doing everything I loved to do in the way that I wanted to do it, while helping many businesses solve their language and cultural challenges. I traveled all over the US and Asia doing very fulfilling work and loving every minute of it. During that time I opened a branch office in California, and my husband and I moved there to be closer to Japan.

The birth of our daughter gave me a chance to reinvent myself once again. I realized that I no longer wanted to travel all the time. I wanted to be closer to home and raise my daughter, while still doing other work outside the home that utilized my talents but that did not require constant travel.

We moved to Honolulu 8 years ago, as we felt it was the place we wanted to live and raise our daughter. I became a registered yoga teacher, and teach yoga every day at the beach park. Since I teach bilingual classes in Japanese and English, I became well known among Japanese residents of and visitors to Hawaii, and through that, a new business venture emerged. I now conduct intensive yoga teacher trainings in Japanese every other month, and travel to Japan a few times a year to conduct workshops. I bring my daughter with me on every trip, which is a wonderful opportunity for her as well. I feel very fortunate to do what I love every day, and I believe that the GW East Asian Languages and Literatures department was a wonderful preparation ground and launching pad for my very unique and varied career to date.

What I have learned is that if you choose what excites you and constantly look for new opportunities to share your gifts with the world, you can create a life of meaning and purpose. There are so many ways to live, and there are so many choices available to you at every moment. I have always followed my heart; looking back, I wouldn't change a thing.