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East Asian Studies

The Breakdown

Maybe you are drawn to the artistry and discipline of the samurai. Perhaps the wisdom and philosophy of Confucius truly speaks to you. Maybe you are a champion of the Free Tibet movement. Or perhaps you just want to be able to show off your chopstick skills. Whatever the reason, you are fascinated by Asia and its various cultures and customs. Therefore, you might want to consider East Asian studies as a major.

As an East Asian studies major, you’ll have the privilege of dipping into a variety of departments focusing on the geographic area of China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and Inner Asia. Indeed, your course of study will be quite interdisciplinary with classes ranging from economics and political science to film and art history. More specifically, you could cover topics such as the rebuilding of post WWII Japan, the rise of Mao in China or the tense relationship between North and South Korea (just to name a few). The majority of programs also require their students to become proficient in a regional language, typically either Chinese or Japanese. Generally speaking, most classes will be reading and writing intensive. Finally, a majority of East Asian studies majors spend some time studying abroad.

Should you choose to major in East Asian studies, you’ll discover it’s important to be open to different cultures and ways of thinking. You will also find it beneficial to have a good ear for languages and strong communication skills in general. In addition, you should be great at analyzing and synthesizing information. And, you should openly embrace the idea of long plane rides.

Nuts and Bolts

As an East Asian studies major, you’ll have the opportunity to explore a wide range of topics including: History of Buddhist Art, The Art of Tea in Japanese Culture, Political Economy of South Korea, Chinese Culture Through Film, Readings in Traditional Chinese Poetry, Elementary Japanese, Late Imperial China, Art and Archeology Along the Silk Road, Empire and Expansion in East Asia 1840s – 1950s, and The Legacy of World War II in Post-War Japan.

Decisions, Decisions

East Asian studies majors are typically curious about other languages, cultures and the way they develop. Therefore, not surprisingly, they might also be interested in studying Chinese, Japanese, philosophy, history, comparative literature, Korean, anthropology, political science, international relations, Middle Eastern studies, American studies, international business, Latin American studies, African studies, geography and economics.

What's Next

All right – we’ll admit it. East Asian studies does not necessarily prepare you for any specific career track. However, therein lies the beauty. The skills you’ll both hone and acquire are applicable to a variety of fields and professional pursuits. Indeed, if you do a little digging, you’ll find fellow majors in numerous industries. To begin, it’s fairly common for graduates to become translators or interpreters. Journalism is another popular route with majors often focusing on Asian stories/beats/bureaus. Many graduates, in search of adventure, seek positions with non-profits and NGOs, working and volunteering in Asia. International business is also a great path, with a handful of majors focusing on import/export. Additionally, government jobs are widely held with students becoming everything from immigration and customs officials to foreign service officers, dignitaries and diplomats. Still others might be found in such diverse fields as hospitality, consulting, social work and education. Truly you can start with East Asian studies and (perhaps ironically) end up virtually anywhere!


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