Nondie Hemphill

Nondie Hemphill

Class of 2010
Barbara Yen Sun Prize

In May, 2009 I witnessed history.

In the Spring of 2009 I traveled to Japan through the CIEE study abroad program. While there, I attended Sophia University in Tokyo. I joined my University’s Kyudo club, a wonderful experience which enabled me to practice my Japanese extensively, learn very polite speech forms, and experience the demands, rewards, and joys of Japanese club culture. This time greatly increased my interest in the Japanese language, but more importantly, I was present when Japan made history by adopting a new Lay Judge System: a momentous decision that affects all Japanese people and drew the attention of the international legal community. Subsequently, I decided to pursue an independent study of Japan’s new legal system. Thanks to the Asian Studies Program and support from the Barbara Yen Sun Prize, my research proceeded.

The Barbara Yen Sun prize combines two of my passions, East Asian Studies and law. I have been interested in the Japanese language and culture since high school. I believed that learning a foreign language would broaden my world view and enrich my perceptions. I was particularly fond of the Japanese language. The guidance I received at Saint Paul's School for Girls nurtured my curiosity and provided me with a solid linguistic foundation.

As a first year at Mount Holyoke, I received third place in the advanced Japanese language essay contest held by the Consul General of Japan in Boston with my essay about gender dynamics in Japan. I became interested in law after working at the Baltimore City council President’s office in 2007.

Thanks to the Sun award, I have been able to research the changing Japanese legal system from sources unavailable to me otherwise. I believe that certain concepts cannot be conveyed through text and certain cultural nuances cannot be taught in the classroom. The Barbara Yen Sun Prize enabled me to translate primary documentation regarding Japan’s new legal system and interview Japanese law students about recent judicial reform. Through these primary sources and detailed conversations, I understand my research topic in a way that secondary sources might not have conveyed.

I have been awarded the US State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship to return to Japan this summer to study the Japanese language and culture intensively. I hope my research on Japan’s new Lay Judge system contributes to the field of Asian Studies and I plan to continue my research on the subject. The Barbara Yen Sun Prize has allowed my research to be more extensive and has helped to expand my own knowledge of the topic and region.