Study of East Asia is a rich and rewarding pursuit. Students will experience or deepen their understanding of East Asia, learn an Asian language (Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Tibetan), have the chance to travel abroad (for language study or research) with the possibility of funding from the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, and learn a disciplinary focus in a department that is well-known for its small student to teacher ratio and its excellence in language study.
East Asian studies will prepare you well for the global marketplace, giving you important grounding in Asian civilization as well as writing and researching skills that will be useful wherever you go. Careers that East Asian studies students have pursued have included becoming lawyers, academics, advisors to international think tanks and universities.
Please see below what some of our undergraduate alumni have pursued after their time in the department:
Andrei Dinu-Ionita, Japanese Studies & Computer Science
My undergraduate education consisted of a combination of hard sciences and the study of Japan’s language and political economy. During college, I attended the Princeton in Ishikawa Japanese language program, traveled extensively across Japan’s countryside, and worked at Hitachi, Ltd.’s and Pasona, Inc.’s headquarters in Tokyo during summer internships. I met CEOs and senior executives of several major Japanese companies and established connections with Japanese government officials. This helped me develop and research my thesis paper, regarding the use of contactless train cards as a new form of electronic money. My research investigated the factors that contributed to the widespread adoption of this form of payment at a time when electronic payment was in its infancy elsewhere in the world.
After graduating, I briefly worked as a software developer in New York, before co-founding the American subsidiary of a Japanese internet services company. Together with two Japanese cofounders, we established a business in the educational software market. We currently employ more than 20 people in the US in addition to 120 employees in Japan, and have long-term contracts with more than 20 universities across the United States, as well as more than 100 universities in Asia. Moreover, I contributed to diversifying our product line and was a key decision maker in strategic investments and acquisitions.
As of last year, I have been pursuing a joint Masters degree in Computer Science and Business at New York University’s Courant Institute and Stern School of Business, and I will be joining Google’s New York branch in February 2015. I look forward to bringing software at Google-scale to all parts of the world, and particularly Asia, which continues to be a major strategic goal of many American Internet companies.
Wei Wei Hsing, Chinese Studies
As an EALAC and Economics double major in undergrad I loved learning about the juxtaposition of economic, political and social development in China and left with a strong sense of how the three are inevitably intertwined. So many professors left deep impressions – Professor Yang’s classes taught me about the opportunity for agency even in authoritarian political structures, Professor Zelin opened my eyes to the rich economic history of China, and Professor Nathan’s foreign policy course and his advice on my senior thesis still informs how I approach any news I see on China.
I’m now working for Acumen, a social investor with a portfolio of companies focused on delivering better healthcare, housing, education, water, energy, and agricultural inputs to the poor in South Asia, Africa, and Latin America. I live in Mumbai, India – a big contrast to China! In my role I gather data on the impact we’re creating through our investments and derive insights that we can use to determine where markets work well in solving social problems, and where they don’t work as well.
Studying China so closely in college was essentially like studying one case study very deeply over the course of four years. I didn’t learn much about the geographies where I currently work, but I did learn frameworks for understanding how societies change and develop that have helped me get to know other places. And learning to read and write Chinese was a huge plus!
Tania O’Conor, Chinese Studies
I focused my undergraduate studies on Chinese modern history, politics and society; graduating in 2010 with a B.A in East Asian Studies from Columbia University. As an undergrad, I advanced my Chinese skills
through the Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) summer intensive language program at Suzhou University. Subsequent travel to China’s Yunnan province inspired my interest in the Naxi ethnic minority group and focus for my senior thesis. My research led to a curatorial internship at the Rubin Museum in New York City, where I laid the foundation for an exhibition showcasing the traditional art and artifacts of the Naxi.
After graduating in 2010, I moved to Taipei, where I continued my Chinese studies at Taiwan Normal University as a Huayu Enrichment scholarship recipient. Given my Brazilian heritage, I became increasingly interested in the growing ties between China and Brazil and applied my Chinese and Portuguese language skills to research the evolving economic and political relationship. In the summer of 2011, I moved to Rio de Janeiro to work as a Research Associate at the China-Brazil Business Council (CBBC), where I co-authored an in-depth report tracking and analyzing Chinese foreign direct investment in Brazil from 2007-2012.
For the past two years, I also worked at the Fundação Getulio Vargas, a leading Brazilian university and think-tank, where I promoted the internationalization of the School of Social Sciences through conferences, colloquia and cooperation agreements with partner organizations in Asia, Europe, and the Americas. In fall of 2014, I returned to Columbia to pursue a Master’s degree at the School of International and Public Affairs as a 2014 Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) scholarship recipient.
Sixiang Wang, Korean Studies
During my undergraduate years at Columbia, I majored in East Asian Studies. I took a wide-range of classes in the department. I had a particular interest in language, learning Korean and Japanese anew and polishing my Chinese. I also spent a lot of time taking classes in Korean history and Chinese literature, in particular courses in Chinese poetry and classical Chinese. For one summer in 2004, I studied Korean at Yonsei University’s Korean Language Program. After I returned, I was able to combine my interest in these areas in my senior thesis, which focused on use of classical Chinese poetry by Korean diplomats in their interactions with imperial China.
When I graduated in 2006, I took a job at the Horace Mann School teaching Mandarin Chinese to high school students. It was the first time the Horace Mann School had offered Chinese, so I had to design the program from scratch. It was a daunting task that I could not have accomplished successfuly without my rich experience as a language learner during my years at Columbia. During this time, I also help found a English as a Second/Foreign Language program for adult learners in New York’s Chinatown. Called the Chinatown Literacy Project (CLP), it paired youth volunteers from New York’s high schools with language students. In addition to volunteering for its weekend classes, I eventually served on the Board of Directors of CLP’s umbrella organization, Chinatown Youth Initatives, and helped with organization and fund-raising.
I returned to Columbia’s East Asian Languages and Cultures Department in 2008, this time a doctoral candidate in its PhD Program. I wished to further pursue my interests in the history of Korea and continue to explore the issues that had inspired me during my years here. I worked on a dissertation the intersections among cultural production, literary practice, and diplomatic policy in how Korea managed its relations with imperial China in the early modern period. I intend to finish my PhD in Spring 2015 and move on to teach the history of Korea and East Asia at the university level and contribute to these fields in my research.