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GBC Resident Assistant (RA) Interviews with GBC Professors #6 - Interview with Professor Stephanie Assmann-Terada

Date: March 23, 2023

Place: Kobe Campus for Commerce, the University of Hyogo.

Question 1
How did you come to Japan and how did you start your journey at the University of Hyogo?

Professor Assmann-Terada :
I’ve been in Japan for almost 20 years. My interest in Japan started with an undergraduate program at the University of Hamburg in Germany, where I am from originally. I majored in Japanese studies with history and political sciences as minor subjects. During my undergraduate studies, I became more interested in Japan and went to Japan for the first time in October 1992, when I studied Japanese at a language school in Kyoto. I pursued my graduate studies with a MEXT scholarship from 1999 to 2001 when I did fieldwork for my doctoral dissertation at Doshisha University in Kyoto. Prior to my dissertation research, I worked at the Japanese company Citizen Watch in Germany, but eventually my interests took me to academia. After completing my Ph.D. in 2003, I embarked on an academic career in Japan. My first appointment was at Tohoku University in Sendai followed by three years at Akita University, which is quite a rural area, and five years at Hokkaido University in Sapporo in the very north of Japan. I’ve been at this university, the University of Hyogo, for four years.

Question 2
Cultural anthropology often involves immersing oneself in different cultures. Could you share an experience from your fieldwork or research in Japan that significantly impacted your understanding of cultural diversity?

Professor Assmann-Terada :
When I did fieldwork for my Ph.D. dissertation, I did a study on consumer behavior of Japanese women regarding clothes and cosmetics. I was fascinated by the “culture of the unspoken”. As I was talking to young women in their 20s and early 30s about their consumer behavior, I noticed that it was more about what was left unsaid as opposed to what was actually said, which provided genuine information. During the interviews I learned a lot about the struggles of young women. For example, I heard about whether they wanted to continue their education or whether they considered looking for a marriage partner. I learned about their thoughts about traditional family values. I had set out to research consumer behavior but through the lens of this topic, I received a lot of information about women, their societal position in Japan, their struggles and their dreams. Many experiences were often left unsaid, so that I had to learn how to “read between the lines”.

Question 3
What advice would you give to International students who are coming into GBC from your relevant experiences?

Professor Assmann-Terada :
I’ve been here for four years, and I am also involved in the residence assistance interviews when we select the students who will continue staying in the dormitory for another year as residence assistants. My observation has been that many international students find it difficult to connect with the Japanese students even though they share a living unit in the dormitory. My advice would be reach out as much as possible to the Japanese students. This can be a casual conversation, such as after class. It does not have to be a formal event such as the events organized in the Global House. Such events are also an opportunity to get to know fellow students, but it is also good to try and reach out to other students in very informal and casual moments. My second piece of advice is to learn as much about Japanese culture as you possibly can. Participate in traditional cultural events but also in very popular activities such as Karaoke. Take advantage of being in Japan and try and immerse yourself in everyday life as much as possible.

Interview by:
Global House Resident Assistant Hasan Afzal (Pakistan)

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