Alumni in the Workforce: Career Paths After JCMU

You’ve heard it over and over: “JCMU will change your life.” How? By teaching you a new language? By forcing you to wear a bike helmet? By introducing you to funazushi?

Although you certainly will be changed by eating fermented lake fish, the real impact of JCMU will appear in your personal and professional life. But how can just a few months in Japan affect your career path? Today we’re going to explore some of the ways JCMU alumni have used their study abroad experience to propel them into diverse and exciting fields of work.

For many alumni after graduating from college, the next step is to apply to an English teaching program in Japan. JET and AEON are popular choices, although there are other options that you can find with a little research. In fact, there are a few JCMU alumni participating in the JET, especially if you take the Teaching English in Japan Summer program or any similar classes during the academic year.

Elycia Cook stands between two mentoree students, and holds a sign with the words "mentor life"
Elycia Cook with two mentoree students

Elycia Cook, an inageral student of JCMU, was a JET teacher twice, and used those experiences to build a sales career in Japan and the US. Currently, she’s the CEO of FriendsFirst, a community outreach organization that mentors and supports teens in at risk areas of Denver. She credits the mentor who encouraged her to apply to JCMU as inspiring her to make a difference in young people’s lives.

Another JCMU-student-turned-teacher is Cassie Walker, who wrote this blog post right before leaving for her JET assignment. She is a 2017 Teaching English in Japan alum, and also worked as a Peer Advisor at JCMU’s MSU office. Her TEJ classes gave her the “hands-on, specific details [she] needed to feel confident in the Japanese classroom,” which are hard to learn without immersive studies like those offered at JCMU.

Some students, like Karlo Lagapa Delos Angeles (Academic Year 2014-15) go on to teach in the US, or other countries around the world. Some go on the grad school, including the prestigious Middlebury Institute of International Studies, which specializes in translation and localization. Fall 2015 alum Nick Chang is set to graduate with a masters degree from MIIS this year.

Other students pursue career paths that don’t appear to be connected to Japan, but are in some way influenced by their time at JCMU. Conrad Louis-Charles studied at JCMU during the academic year of 1989-90, and now works as a photographer, primarily in documentary and travel. He found that the opportunity to visit Japanese galleries, gardens, and museums contributed not only to his understand of the world but to his artistic vision.
Sadly, Conrad Louis-Charles passed away in 2018, but his JCMU story will forever serve as a reminder of how study abroad can transform your life.

Eric Michaelsen gives a presentation to JCMU students about his career

Many students who come to JCMU for the Health and Culture in Japan program go on to work in the healthcare industry, but one 2007-2008 Academic Year alum also found his calling in medicine. Eric Michaelsen began as a teacher in new Orleans, but now practices acupuncture and herbal medicine in New Mexico. His time in Japan gave him additional insight into traditional medical practices which many of his American colleagues have a harder time accessing. In 2017 he returned to Hikone to talk about his career with JCMU students. The alumni network is strong, and it loves to support its members!

Glynn Washington with fellow JCMU alumni

One of our better known alumni is Glynn Washington, the founder and host of WNYC’s Snap Judgement. Like Elycia and Conrad, he was also one of the first students to study at JCMU in 1989. He went on to major in Asian studies and work in education and entrepreneurship, but has made a name for himself as a radio and podcast personality. And he’s not the only alum in entertainment—Greg Warner, who came to JCMU during the academic year of 2003-04, writes a website all about the popular Japanese manga and anime One Piece. So whether your passion is for storytelling or anime, your time at JCMU just might help you get there.

JCMU almuni also work in international exchange and communication, such as David Janes at the United States-Japan Foundation and the Laurasian Institution. Many of the JCMU staff in both Michigan and Shiga are also former students, including current Resident Director Ben McCracken. His 1998-99 study abroad at JCMU kept him involved with Japan even as he built the first part of his career around law.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless for JCMU almuni. You could become a teacher, an artist, or even a radio host. But what all these successful alumni have in common is their passion to experience new things, to push past their comfort zone, and to search for a way to make a difference in the world. And you could be next.

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