EAS Alumnus Ben Parisi
Ben Parisi, a native of Downsville, New York, graduated in 2003 with a degree in East Asian Studies. Like many students, his interest in Japanese began almost accidentally. Spurred by his roommate, who was studying Japanese, he signed up at the last minute for EAJ101. Kaya-sensei granted him permission with the condition that he come in every day in the early morning to be tutored. He came in for two weeks straight. He notes, "I seriously doubt that many departments have teachers who are dedicated enough to be willing to do something like that. I never had a bad teacher or a bad class in the department, and I found it to be a great place, both regarding the faculty and students."
Ben spent three semesters at Kansai Gaidai, living with a host family, making friends, and experiencing new things every day. He writes, "There were constantly new challenging opportunities, things to do that I'd never done before, things I'd never seen, things I had thought inedible and found to be not bad at all."
After graduation, Ben went into the JET Program and was assigned to Oita prefecture. He had 12 schools, 9 elementary and 3 junior high, plus 2 kindergarten that he visited occasionally. It was a very rural area in the mountains, and most of the schools were quite small--one of his 1st grade classes was one girl. He writes, "I became a celebrity that year, went to help neighbors harvest rice (in return for what was, for me, a year's supply of rice), went to the hospital to get stitches in my finger after I cut it (after being warned not to), and went into the mountains to make charcoal. Now, making charcoal is about as exciting as it sounds, sitting around a fire drinking with old men until the sun came up, and it was cold, but still, not many white guys from the Catskills have made charcoal."
At the end of his year in JET, he returned to his hometown, worked for a while, and went to John Jay College of Criminal Justice for a semester, before deciding that law (not law enforcement) was his passion. He moved to Arizona, studied for and took the LSAT, and applied to law schools. He hopes to study international law with a focus on Japan, to find a way to merge his background and first love of EAS into a good career, then possibly teach law.
Ben writes, "I hold the department in the highest regard. I always found its professors very helpful, accessible, and open. What separated professors in the EAS department from those from other departments was that they were all not only extremely knowledgeable in their field, they were passionate about it. When someone has a true passion for something, it can be contagious. While professors in many departments make you feel that they want you to agree with them, I always felt like the EAS department professors merely wanted you to share in their passion.
I can't say thanks enough."
August 28, 2009