By Breanne Smith and Monica Chapman
Yen won't be much of a problem for two Ohio University students planning to study in Japan.
Meghan Ventura and Michael Marion both were awarded $4,000 Bridging scholarships for study in Japan -- marking the first year that multiple Ohio University students have earned the award. Marion also received an additional $5,000 Gilman scholarship.
The two will spend the fall and winter quarters studying Japanese language and culture at Chubu University near Nagoya, Japan.
"The key to getting these scholarships is that you have a solid, in-depth reason for wanting to study in Japan," said Chris Thompson, director of Japan study abroad and an associate professor of Japanese language and culture. "In both cases, Michael and Meghan were able to distinguish themselves by having a relevant application for their Japanese, which set them apart from other applicants. I'm expecting great things from both of these students."
The US-Japan Bridging Foundation works to expand opportunities for American youth to study in Japan and to prepare for global leadership roles. The foundation awards about 100 scholarships annually from a pool of 500 undergraduate applicants.
The Gilman International Scholarship Program provides study abroad scholarships for students who receive federal Pell Grant funding. Established by the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000, the award provided funding to 700 of its 1,659 applicants in the 2008-09 academic year.
Ventura, a junior journalism major in the Scripps College of Communication, hopes to pursue a journalism career in consumer electronics or entertainment media.
"(Meghan) has an unusual -- maybe unique -- mix of talents: journalism, Japanese language and culture, and U.S. pop culture," said Professor of Journalism Anne Cooper-Chen, who advises Ventura.
Ventura's interest in Japanese culture goes hand-in-hand with her passion for Japanese video games. In high school, she began contributing to MyGamer.com, an Internet source for video game enthusiasts. Today, she is hoping that this venue will pave the way for her to attend the Tokyo Game Show press days Oct. 9-10.
Ventura said her travels will enable her to further explore video game journalism and the feasibility of a writing career in Japan.
"I've always been interested in Asia -- even since I was a kid," she said. "As I got into higher-level education and college, I got more of a chance to explore East Asian culture. It's so interesting and so unique, and I can't wait to experience it for myself."
Marion, a computer science major in the Russ College of Engineering, also has technological aspirations -- as a computer software designer.
"Michael really sees how (Japanese) ties into computer engineering and the kinds of things he sees himself doing in the future," said Thompson, who taught Marion's Japanese 113 class.
Thompson is helping to facilitate ongoing discussions between Marion and professors at Chubu University about how to increase opportunities for engineering students to participate in study abroad.
"Often engineering students are deterred because of schedule conflicts, but (Michael) really tried to balance both and did it successfully," he said.
Marion hopes his Japanese minor will complement his computer technology skills, providing an edge as he enters the job market in the spring of 2010.
"I'm a coder by nature, and I'll go where ever it takes me," Marion said. "The world is shrinking. I want to be marketable to a variety of places, and God knows there are opportunities."