Gwyneth Henning

Gwyneth Henning

Class of 2011

Carl G. Seasword Award in Japanese

If you had told me in the fall of 2007 that four years later I would be graduating from Mount Holyoke with a major in Asian Studies and a minor in Anthropology, I would never have believed it. I entered Mount Holyoke ready to learn about politics, economics, and the world. It didn’t happen quite that way. Instead, I have achieved these intellectual goals through the framework of Japanese language and cultural study.

My academic and personal interests in Japan began at age 11 when my father was stationed on a U.S. Navy base in Sasebo – a small town in Nagasaki-ken. Throughout the following three and a half years, I studied Japanese language in school while learning about Japanese culture through my immersion in the local community. My most vivid adolescent memories of Japan revolve around Sasebo’s version of the “Ginza” – a shopping arcade that I spent countless hours exploring with my friends. My relationship with the local community during these years is one of many reasons why I consider Japan as my second home.

Japanese language study at Mount Holyoke showed me that language courses alone would not satisfy my appetite to learn about everything Japan. Through my Japanese courses, my interest in Japanese culture, history, and the like grew. My junior year abroad at International Christian University in Tokyo allowed me to absorb Japanese language and culture faster than I ever could have imagined. Through intensive language study, courses on Japanese history, politics, economics, and more, and day-to-day experiences living in a student dorm in Tokyo, I gained a deep appreciation for Japanese culture and society. Through both my personal and academic experiences, the intrinsic relationship between language, culture, and society has become apparent to me.

Through Japanese language and cultural study at both Mount Holyoke and ICU, I have learned about Japan, its people, and its connections in the international realm. However, more than this, I have gained a new way of thinking about myself, my own culture, and the rest of the world.

Wherever life takes me, I know that the skills and way of thinking I have cultivated as an Asian Studies major will greatly benefit me.