Will Burgess, May 2010

JCMU has alumni all around the state (and world, even!) doing amazing things – including heading the popular Grand Rapids anime convention, JAFAX (Japanese Animation Film and Art eXpo)! Read our interview below with Will Burgess, an alum of one of our photography May short programs in 2010 and one of the heads of JAFAX, and learn about both his time on the program and his recent return to Hikone. Through this, you can also discover how JCMU helped push him towards a lifetime with Japan!


What is your name, and what JCMU program did you participate in?

My name is Will Burgess, and I participated in the two-week Digital Photography class taught by Don Werthmann in May 2010

What did you do after JCMU, and what are you doing now?

After I attended JCMU, I was only a few credits from graduating. I completed a late summer semester at Grand Valley State, graduated with my Broadcasting Communications degree and moved on to working in IT for a large power-sports company after. I also served as the chair for JAFAX, an annual Japanese popular arts and cultural expo held in Grand Rapids.


You returned to Hikone and JCMU a little while ago with your wife. How was your return?

Yes, I returned to Japan late last year with my wife, Michelle, on our honeymoon. I brushed up on my Japanese, and with the help of a friend on the JET program who actually lives in Higashiomi, Shiga, we managed to plan a well-rounded trip, that included at least one day of exploration and reminiscing in Hikone.

We started off by visiting Hikone Castle and I introduced Michelle to Hikonyan. We explored the gardens around the castle and the city and made our way to JCMU to see what the campus was like since I was last there six years ago, and so I could tell my wife what it was like to participate in my exchange there.

Even though the semester was out in August when we arrived, we met some of the staff of the building and I told them about my time there and who my instructors were. It was fun to visit again!

After we left, the staff snapped a picture of my wife and I. I’m ashamed to admit, I look a bit hot and sweaty because we walked from the castle to the campus in the late summer heat and humidity. I would recommend taking a cab next time!


What would you say to other alumni looking to visit JCMU in Hikone?

JCMU is a terrific institution. I felt very welcomed and comfortable while I stayed there, and I appreciated the amenities that are provided on campus from the private shared quarters with kitchen areas in the dorms, all the way to the convenient dining at COCO’s. I think JCMU is one of the finer international learning experiences on which one can embark. Even though my stay was short, the education I received, the experiences I encountered, and the friendships I made, will last a lifetime.

Plus, JCMU is involved with graduate and job opportunities if you want to further your educational or professional career in Japan. It’s an all-around excellent program.


Last year, Will was kind enough to reach out to JCMU and invite them to participate in the 2016 iteration of JAFAX – and we can’t thank him enough for his support! It is thanks to our amazing alumni like him that we are able to continue encouraging more students to have life-changing study abroad experiences in Hikone. If you are a JCMU alum looking to return to Hikone like Will did, then please feel free to send us an e-mail at jcmu@msu.edu and we would be happy to set up a meeting with you.

As a note, the 2017 JAFAX convention in Grand Rapids is this June 16-18! You can pre-register on their website now. If you or anybody else are in the area and are interested in Japanese pop culture, then we encourage you to attend. We hope to return this year, so if you will be in attendance, then we look forward to seeing you there!


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