Nellie R. Davis

Nellie R. Davis

Class of 2011
Winner of Jackie Siebert ’85 Japanese Language Award

Have you ever watched a calligrapher draw a Chinese character? It is a dance, something that is inherently built into how the character was developed and then understood and embodied by the writer.

I was never able to appreciate this sense of balance between firm action and delicate hesitancy until I tried and failed over and over again. At times I have felt the ease of the brush dancing, but it is achieved through repetition—a practice, which is a balance between thinking and not thinking but instead, acting in full awareness. I believe the same kind of practice is necessary when learning a language.

Ever since I started studying the Japanese language at Mount Holyoke, I found the character writing system and grammar structures fascinating. But I never harnessed a flow—a way of getting out of my head, and actually feeling comfortable using the language. That is why studying abroad has been so essential to my study of Japanese. Learning Japanese is still a rollercoaster of ups and downs, but thanks to two years at MHC and spending a year abroad in Kyoto, now, at least sometimes, I am beginning to feel this sense of balance.