Studying Asia leads to opportunities near and far
During his four years at St. Olaf College, Bradley Sancken ’15 immersed himself in Asian studies.
He participated in the college’s Asian Conversations program, studying in Beijing and Tokyo. He learned Korean through the St. Olaf Alternative Language Study Option (ALSO) program, then spent a semester studying at Yonsei University in Seoul. He was involved in interdisciplinary projects focused on environmental issues in Asia. And he’s been a member of the Korean Culture Association and Vietnamese Organization: Inspiring Cultural Engagement (VOICE).
Now he’s applying those experiences to an internship at the Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI), a think tank based in Washington, D.C., that works to promote dialogue and understanding of economic, political, and security relations between South Korea and the United States.
After his internship at KEI, Sancken will move to Japan for a position with the Labo International Exchange Foundation. The Japanese organization promotes cross-cultural understanding by exploring global narratives in the English language and promoting and organizing homestay exchanges. Sancken will be able to help students in Japan participate in the same homestay exchange opportunities he was able to have.
“I am hoping to combine the hard skills I will develop in my internship in D.C. with the soft skills of cultural competency and language that I plan to refine in Japan. My goal is to return to D.C. to work with an international organization,” Sancken says.
A wealth of opportunities
While at St. Olaf, he took advantage of a number of opportunities to learn more about Asia.
He joined Asian Conversations, an interdisciplinary program that integrates the study of the Chinese and Japanese languages with investigations into the culture, history, language, and societies of Asia. Through the program, students spend Interim studying in Beijing and Tokyo. Sancken also took classes in Japanese.
Over the summer in 2013, Sancken further embraced the liberal arts and obtained a different perspective about Asia by going to East Africa and interning in Tanzania and Rwanda.
There he saw, experienced, and researched firsthand the impacts of East Asia’s globalizing efforts in East Africa, expanding his perception of Asian Studies beyond the Asian continent. He received internship funding from the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career to work with Mwangaza Education for Partnership and Global Youth Connect as part of a technology training seminar and human rights advocacy development and training program.
The Alternative Language Study Option (ALSO) program at St. Olaf also enabled Sancken to learn Korean, which prepared him for his study-abroad experience at Yonsei University in Korea in the spring of 2014.
Throughout his time at St. Olaf, he has also been a member of the Korean Culture Association, Vietnamese Organization: Inspiring Cultural Engagement (VOICE), and Environment-Asia Connections, which he started as an earlier part of the Henry Luce Foundation grant. Through that organization, he created events that facilitated discussion of environmental issues in Asia. He also worked as an international student counselor for two years.
“I recommend taking advantage of the Asian language classes and cultural immersion opportunities on campus, not only because East Asia is growing politically and economically as a region and will continue to be influential into the future, but also because the St. Olaf Asian Studies Department’s professors have served as inspiring mentors and have challenged me to expand my thinking and skills over the past four years,” Sancken says. “Students can gain many different work and travel experiences through St. Olaf connections.”