Archive for the ‘school’ Category
11 July, 2012 – 5:06 pm | Filed under japan, thesis | No Comments »
I just finished writing an article for JETAADC‘s annual returnee handbook, which they give to all JET Programme participants who are returning to the greater Washington, DC area. This is obviously applicable to JET returnees everywhere, but geared towards American participants. In the spirit of all the writing I did in my Japan journal while I was abroad, and in light with the fact that this essentially summarizes my master’s thesis, I thought I’d include it here.
“Every situation is different” isn’t quite behind you yet.
I didn’t know if I should begin with that bombshell, or with a more traditional reverse culture shock rundown. But the above is important to realize: there’s no singular, defined experience you’ll have when you return. It’s not over yet!
Also, brace yourself: there’s a bit of a roller coaster ahead. What makes this more intense than the culture shock you may have experienced when starting JET is that in many cases, you’re going home, to a place you know pretty well. Sometimes these moments of reverse culture shock will hit you when you least expect it, when you think you’ll feel settled and at home instead.
Think of reverse culture shock as a disconnect between the actual and the perceived: what home is and how you had viewed it, and—most importantly—who you were when you started JET and who you have become. Stepping out of your home culture while in Japan taught you about yourself and your cultural identity. Now it’s time to reflect on all this again, and to think about your emotions, thoughts, actions, and values that have shifted unexpectedly but indelibly. You can pinpoint and anticipate some of them, but others will make themselves known to you only after your return.
The process of readjustment is basically the same as with initial culture shock:
disengaging from the place you’re leaving,
euphoria once you arrive in the new place,
hostility once the perceived-actual disconnect hits you,
and reconciliation as you begin to settle in.
It’s that 3rd step that’s the hardest to deal with, especially if you dropped roots in Japan. Why is this happening? Why do these things not feel right anymore? Sometimes, these feelings even become strong enough within some people that they result in symptoms of depression if they aren’t treated. If you’re prone to that, or even if you aren’t, be aware of yourself, and don’t hesitate to reach out to get help getting through any rough points.
The biggest thing that many returnees benefit from or wish for is surprisingly simple: somebody to talk to. If you feel lonely or frustrated, reach out to the JET community, via a JETAA chapter or online. There’s such comfort and power in the phrase, “I know how you feel.” Even if you’re isolated geographically, you are not alone.
It’s not all bad, obviously—it’s just important to be realistic about what’s coming. But throughout, do stay positive, keep an open mind, and go with the flow. You’re wrapping up an incredible, life-changing adventure, and are moving on to a new one! Just know that there may be moments of irritation and frustration, but no matter where you are, keep moving forward. It’s easier said than done, but think warmly on the past without dwelling on it.
I would strongly urge you to document your experiences. If you’re still in Japan as you read this, take photos of everything you can, even the mundane things like items at the grocery stores, signs, and so on. Once you get back, consider keeping up a diary or personal chronicle for yourself, to help process your readjustment.
The greatest thing about returning is that the second phase of your identity as a JET participant begins. You can embrace all the good things about your time in Japan, and share them with everyone you encounter (you’ll be bubbling over with “when I was in Japan…” stories for months, if not years). Just as we were agents of grassroots internationalization in Japan, we’re now grassroots Japanese ambassadors, and can share the real Japan with our friends, family, and acquaintances. More importantly, ideally we all have a more nuanced and open-minded view of the world, and can move forward with heightened awareness of our greater human family. Embrace that—it’s an amazing gift.
And above all, I hope you have a wonderful time. Otsukaresama!
18 January, 2011 – 11:05 pm | Filed under assignments, design, posterous, school | No Comments »
I’m still sorting out the semester’s classes, but am definitely taking a Color and Communication class. I’ve wanted to take a class that was all about making and doing, and it has been so much fun so far.
For today, they asked each of us to bring in roughly 30 objects of various colors within a single category. I raided my roommates’ and my own spices, and collected about 25. Our aim was to arrange them while taking hue, value, and saturation into consideration, then to re-create the colors using an artistic medium (I used colored pencils), to understand the subtle shift in colors between similar objects.
The instructors then encouraged us to look into juxtaposing different pieces to look at the color relationships. (I hadn’t quite gotten to that point so they helped me out a bit…they look amazing but would probably taste terrible together.)
7 November, 2010 – 3:57 pm | Filed under commentary, daily life, school | No Comments »
Must keep posting, must not let this blog slip again…
Life’s been really busy lately (as if the subject line didn’t get that across already). I don’t think school has ever been this intense for me, and I don’t think I have ever felt so consistently behind like this before.
Part of it is that I took last weekend off to go to the Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington DC. It was incredible, and I was so glad to have been a part of it. I carpooled down from Pittsburgh with my housemate Kim and our classmate Chelsey, but ended up spending the weekend with my friends from Atlanta (Ethan, Jennifer, Matt, Kevin, and Alan). We got there almost 2 hours prior to the official start time for the Rally, and the Mall was already quite full, but we managed to carve out a space for the six of us. General thoughts:
- everyone was super-friendly, positive, approachable, and chill
- LOVED the signs!
- a guy actually interviewed me about my sign, but he didn’t quite get what it meant (it said “yay, zealots. </sarcasm>”) – I think he actually thought I was calling everyone there a zealot, and I’m not sure if I explained it properly (it was the sarcasm/HTML bit that he just didn’t get) or convinced him that that was not at all what I was trying to do, but oh well.
- in general it felt like they were preaching to the choir, but it just felt so affirming to know that so many other Americans do feel the same way my friends and I do: embrace equality for everyone, stop needlessly persecuting all Muslims, try to bridge this horribly polarized divide that has caused such a rift among Americans…
- there was no one takeaway from it, but that’s okay: it definitely impacted how I viewed the following Election Day, in the sense that instead of just voting Democrat across the board because I felt that they’re the party that best represented my views, I stopped and considered every candidate individually (and did end up voting for one third-party candidate). I also think that just the act of collecting in one place (estimates range from 200,000 to 300,000, and I really wouldn’t doubt it!) was in and of itself a huge and meaningful gesture, that a huge chunk of Americans are tired of the bickering and just want to rise beyond it for the greater good for everybody.
However, the one big downside: it set me back several days in my schoolwork and research. I worked pretty feverishly for the first half of the week and really burned myself out by Thursday, and had to take a day off. It was pretty intense; I just could not shut my mind off Wednesday, and had to put on something comforting and familiar to try to relax. (That something was The Empire Strikes Back, and it did do the trick.)
I’m still working pretty hard on several semester-long projects: thesis work has actually taken a back seat to the work for my classes. For my Social Impact class I’m trying to do field research but still have no idea if I’m truly making any headway. At this point, I’ll just be happy if I make a B and get through it. Information+Interaction+Perception will be taking off soon–we’ve been collecting our data and organizing it in a few different ways to try to help guide us towards a final product, which will be coming together in the next few weeks. (I’m creating an information design piece on factory farming.)
Thesis is slowly coming along…I’ll be doing a few dry-run interviews with some of my Pittsburgh JET friends, then reaching out and contacting some of my survey participants for both interview and journal recruitment. We’ll see how it goes!
The 2nd week of December will be a madhouse. We have our final presentations for I+I+P at the start of the week, and our thesis poster session AND Social Impact show the same day at the end of the week. It’s crazy that it’s just a month off.
Orchestra’s also moving along–we have a concert in two weeks. I switched out my strings a couple of days ago, only to find that one had frayed to the point that it was actually only hanging on by a thread. I took photos to document it–it’s incredible that it hadn’t snapped a month ago.
On top of that, I’ve been working hard on something super-secret that will go down when I’m back home for winter break…that’s all I’ll say about that, but if all goes according to plan, it will be great. :)
There are already things about this site’s layout that I want to change. Bah, if only I had time!
I don’t want this to become a “this is what I’ve been doing lately”/”let me document my day” blog. But I’m just doing this to force myself to keep on writing. May the next entries be more content-rich!
13 October, 2010 – 8:47 pm | Filed under design, personal, school | No Comments »
Yay, I’m slightly more marginally famous!*
Print Magazine approached Carnegie Mellon’s School of Design about having us graduate students write articles, reflecting both CMU’s approach to design and our own design interests, for the Imprint Blog–their blog about other interests and interesting areas of design beyond print. A number of the second-years volunteered, and we just started our weekly rotation of articles. (Last week my classmate Jenny kicked our column off by writing about designing for social impact, and next week my classmate and housemate Jeanette is up.) Everyone who’s volunteered is set to write one article this semester–we’ll see how it goes for the spring as well.
My article this week is on intercultural design, its importance, and why I think it’s better to be intercultural than cross-cultural. (Had I had the foresight to include a title, it would’ve been less proclamatory and more punny.) I believe it may have been edited minorly for length (that, or my lack of sleep is making me misremember how I’d written and edited it), but the message is the same. Check it out and let me know what you think!
* When people come to hear of my Pirates of Dark Water fan site, I tell them that I am very, very, very, very minorly internet-famous. :) (Yes, with four “very”s before the “minorly.”)
In other news, I am an “aunt” again–my cousin Yamuna had a baby girl this morning, YAY!–and I determined that printing out the results of my first thesis survey would take nearly 400 sheets of legal-sized paper. Wow.
8 October, 2010 – 9:05 pm | Filed under assignments, design, school | No Comments »
My head is spinning as a result of the last week, which was spent in Chicago at the 2010 Design and Emotion Conference. It was my first true design conference (SXSW Interactive in 2008 kind of counts, but…), and my first academic conference. I didn’t present a paper, but I did volunteer and sat in on something like 30 talks about various design papers and 3 of the 4 keynote speeches (I only missed the 4th because I had a headache, but it’ll be online shortly anyway), and had some great conversations and met some great people. It was a great experience, and has given me a lot to think about. (Maybe I’ll write a write-up in a few days.)
We got back late last night, and today I’ve jumped right back in with catching up on my large pile of schoolwork and research. Besides my thesis, I’m in two other classes, with their own research projects:
- Social Impact By Design (mentioned by Jenny on printmag.com’s Imprint blog!) – I’m exploring the idea of getting people to take more responsibility for their surroundings. This could relate possibly to something like littering or vandalism, or being more considerate of people around them, or just shaking the idea that “it’s not my problem; someone else owns it/someone else will deal with it”.
- Information+Interaction+Perception – I’ll be developing some designed product/artifact/campaign that educates and informs about the health and environmental benefits of vegetarianism (in a friendly and totally unobtrusive way, to counteract the headstrong and pushy image a number of vegetarians have built).
For the latter, I’m working on reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma right now, and searching for relatively unbiased and reputable sources of information.
For the former, I’ve started by reading up on designing for persuasion. But that brings up some questions: does persuasion imply some sort of tangible and measurable reaction? With something like this, which is more of an implicit and personal cultural shift in how a person responds to a situation, does that mean that this project would still fall under the umbrella of persuasive design? I’m not persuading people to take a specific action; I’m “persuading” (or suggesting?) that they think differently, and possibly even internalize a message or concept that changes their view, which will, in turn, change their actions. Or…is that actually what persuasive design is all about?
Obviously I’m only getting started on my research for this. But the psychological implications and strategies implicit in design are really fascinating to me, and I’m looking forward to learning much more about this.
1 October, 2010 – 5:29 am | Filed under thesis | No Comments »
This was a big part of why I finally got around to getting this blog started again. I realized that I didn’t have it in me to chronicle every minute detail of my thesis research in a dedicated blog, and I didn’t want to make it all public anyway. But I would like to have a place to post cool findings and thoughts as I go along.
My topic (specifically, the “one-liner” my advisor asked me to prepare):
“I am developing a resource to aid North American JET Programme returnees who have spent several years living in Japan as they go through reverse culture shock upon their return.”
Why did I choose this?
1. I really wanted to do something related to international experiences somehow, as I have a strong interest in intercultural design and communication.
2. The JET Programme has a solid network of alumni associations that I figured would make it easy to get access to a pool of research participants. (Plus, I still have friends and contacts from my own experiences abroad.)
3. There is plenty of information out there to prepare JET participants for the culture shock they’ll experience when they first arrive in Japan, but there is relatively none to prepare people for the (often times even stronger) shock of returning home afterward, and what is there is often overlooked or disregarded somehow.
The truth is that it is a rough “homecoming” for many folks; you sometimes don’t realize how much you have changed when you spend time abroad, and life has gone on at home and the people and things you knew may have changed as well. It’s not the comforting constant it had been before. I know people who genuinely went through quarter-life crises once they returned because their fundamental values and outlook on life had changed drastically, and their former career paths were no longer relevant for them.
I have a general hypothesis, based on my own experiences with the JET Programme and reverse culture shock: community, and talking to others, is one of the best ways to get through it.
I spent the summer and part of the fall beginning a basic literature review–reading up on the psychology behind reverse culture shock primarily, but also starting to explore topics surrounding my hypothesis. I started drafting user research materials (a general survey for a broad snapshot of JET alumni, interview questions to get insight into specific individual experiences, and a journaling activity to get a more emotional look into RCS) and obtained IRB approval.
First I distributed the general survey (much later than I intended, but oh well). I disseminated it both via Facebook and a few relevant forums, and Steven, the webmaster of JetWit (a great website serving the JET alumni community), kindly offered to post about it as well. I also asked Jessica, the JET coordinator at the Japanese consulate in Atlanta, if she’d mind passing the URL on to her list of alumni.
Through my own efforts, I’d gotten a dozen or so responses. Thanks to Steven posting the link to JetWit, I got roughly 30. Once Jessica sent out the URL, I received (wait for it…) 90 responses in 12 hours. It’s been a little over a week now and I’ve received well over 200 responses–twice what I thought I’d get! They’re finally tapering off but still coming in, amazingly, and each one has such an incredible amount of insight to offer.
Here are a few snapshots of my attempts to collate some of the data thus far:
To the JET alumni community: thank you so much. I don’t have words to express how incredibly grateful I am for your kind assistance, and that so many of you took the time to give such thoughtful and detailed (and very moving, in many cases) written responses to nearly every question. This is such an enormous help. (Particularly since, in looking at that last image, nearly every prefecture in Japan is represented. I still am reeling from this amazing response!)
9 May, 2010 – 1:03 pm | Filed under school | 1 Comment »
(photo courtesy of Juliana.)
29 April, 2010 – 2:48 pm | Filed under personal, school | No Comments »
It is a very surreal feeling to have the president of a large division of a company worth $6 billion annually call you twice in a day. And not only that, but to have him call because he wanted to make sure that he had adequately answered your interview questions for a project you’re working on, and that you had enough material to work with.
This gentleman is the CEO of the North American operations of a Japanese engineering and manufacturing company, and he has been incredibly gracious in helping me with my Global Communication project, both through sending long e-mails and chatting over the phone. I’m really honored that he’s freed up so much time to answer my questions via e-mail and the phone, and he’s been completely relaxed and approachable. I really wish more CEOs remembered that their livelihoods ultimately revolve around people. The world would be a much happier place.
Man, maybe I should just ditch this blog–I’ve done such a poor job of staying on top of things. Maybe things will be better this summer, when I have an internship and a more regular schedule! Who knows?
Anyway, life’s crazy but I feel like I’m over one hump and have a day to breathe before jumping headfirst into tackling the next. I just completed my last official class of the semester, but we still have a ton of work to do for a major presentation next week for Studio (that we’re presenting both here at Carnegie Mellon and at the Chicago offices of Motorola, one of our corporate sponsors), and I have three papers due on Monday.
After Chicago, it’s time to prepare for Philadelphia–I’m moving in a few weeks for the summer to do an internship there.
I got 6 hours of sleep last night and 4 the night before–off to get some coffee and some lunch, and chill the afternoon away.
9 March, 2010 – 2:24 pm | Filed under commentary, daily life, japan, school, web | No Comments »
Spring break is here! It’s not super-relaxing, but it’s nice to not have stressful deliverables hanging over my head, for once. I still haven’t gotten to actually see any of the “touristy” stuff around Pittsburgh, but getting out and enjoying the warm(er) weather and wandering a bit around Oakland and Shadyside has been really nice. I’ve walked around 7 miles in the last 2 days–not a ton, but it’s more than I’ve done in a long time (though I probably balanced it out with that chai from Caribou and that amazing ice cream from Oh Yeah!…). If not for a meeting I have with my new thesis advisor this afternoon, I would definitely make it out to the Mattress Factory or the Carnegie Museum of Natural History or something.
What actually prompted me to post something in here, though, was the Gchat status message of my friend Shuby:
Yelp took my review away! Weirdos.
I’d heard a fair amount about the controversy surrounding Yelp already, both the original East Bay Express story and the more recent allegations of extortion. I used to be a really big fan of theirs–the idea of an online review feature with vetting and such a generally positive vibe really appealed to me–but after this recent news, I scaled back heavily and just sort of “hovered,” but didn’t use them so actively anymore.
But talking to Shuby revealed that a negative review of hers had been pulled; it was still visible on her profile, but no longer visible publicly. That was the final straw for me, and I e-mailed Yelp to have them delete my account, with an explanation of why. It’s one thing when there are these faraway allegations with some random website you aren’t extremely invested in that occur with people you have no relation to, and it’s easy (or easier) to brush them off. When it happens to a friend, though, that’s something else.
Anyway, in other news, let’s see…
Like I mentioned, I do have a thesis advisor for next year–yay! He’s the professor who taught our Design Studio last semester, and we’ve struck up this great rapport and had some good conversations about our similar international experiences (he grew up in the Philippines and is very well-traveled, and like me, he doesn’t identify with being completely American or completely from the country of his birth). I also have a secondary advisor–my fantastic Global Communication professor (who’s from Romania), and I’m considering assembling a “committee”-of-sorts, involving relevant HCI and Psychology faculty. Most importantly, though, I do have a tentative thesis topic in mind: developing a resource to assist JET Programme participants upon the completion of their time in Japan, and particularly addressing reverse culture shock, as well as other more administrative things (like pension refunds and the like).
I like the topic, but I feel guilty for going back to “the Japan thing” yet again. I’m sure I’ve driven my housemates and all my classmates–not to mention all my friends back home–crazy with how often I still bring it up, over two years after the fact, but I guess it’s a real case of “you can take the ALT out of Japan, but…” with me. I was fortunate enough to have a great experience that has impacted and changed me…however, the return process was rough, and very difficult at times. Reverse culture shock did really impact me for a solid year after coming back, in small and big ways–and I’m far from the only one. I’m also not the only one who felt unprepared for what Life After Japan would be like.
Anyway, I’m meeting my advisor this afternoon to just touch base and see where to go from here. I may also broach the subject of focusing on something similar but not Japan-related–I was thinking of doing something to help international Indian students when they arrive in the US, but my Global Comm professor advised me against it because she said I, as an Indian, would be “too close” to the subject matter and may not be able to be purely objective. (She only found out 5 minutes later, though, that I’ve only been back to India twice, my first time being when I was 18.)
I’ve also been doing some web work, but not the “for fun” kind…though I find the challenge of constructing a site in standards-compliant XHTML and CSS to always be fun, so it’s rarely “not fun.” I’m redesigning the blog/website of my studio group, and as part of my assistantship, I’m helping to architect and build a site with information about some of the technical resources the School of Design has, and I’m also helping to develop a guide with information for incoming grad students that can be a reference for current students. That should be pretty cool–hopefully it’ll come to fruition by the end of this term, but if not, I volunteered to help out over the summer (wherever I’ll be…). Maybe eventually I’ll find the time to finish implementing the redesign of my website, too (and moving it over to the new web space I purchased last week for much cheaper than my current host)…
Anyway, time to get my day going–meetings, wandering around, and packing! I’m off to Atlanta tomorrow for just a couple of days, to run errands, see family and friends, and pick up my car. Hope you all enjoy the rest of your week!
28 February, 2010 – 3:34 am | Filed under assignments, school | No Comments »
I was on the fence about posting these, but oh well, what the heck, right? This is a scenic writing assignment – we’re supposed to describe a scene in such a way that an impartial reader can immerse him/herself in it easily, and without imposing our own opinions onto it.
(Well, “these” = “this” – this is the 3rd paper I’ve written for this course so far, and it’s the best one of the lot and my favorite so far. The others require some revision, but eventually I’ll put those here as well.)
Some names have been changed and some circumstances have been tweaked (this combines a couple of different visits to this cafe), but this is mostly factually accurate. Including the music, incidentally; I’m kind of amazed I was able to identify the majority of it.
The warm, sunny glow emanating from the foggy windows of the 61c Cafe stands out against the chilly, blustery weather. It feels cheerful and enticing, and a number of people succumb to it on this winter’s evening. Even on a weeknight and well into the evening hours, a steady stream of people continue to come and go. Some stop in for a hot drink before going on their way again, while others settle in for a while, to get work done or relax in pleasant company. Books, laptops, and drink glasses are stacked and positioned strategically to make the most out of the small amounts of table space. Backpacks, purses, and shoulder bags occupy empty chairs around the patrons, as the floor is almost uniformly dingy and damp, thanks to the weather outside.