By Alysa Morley
Jun 8, 2021
Two-time Sycamore alumna Rika Nanjo (‘20, ‘17) found her life path as a graduate student in Indiana State’s Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics (LLL) department. Being bullied and feeling like she never fit in gave Rika an interest in learning languages to help her connect with others. She’s ready to share her experience.
How has your life changed since coming to Indiana State?
“Growing up in Japan, I was always interested in languages. Even when I was young, I wanted to learn English because I thought if I could speak English, I might be able to find someone who understood me. Then, in my 20s, I tried to fit into normal Japanese life. I tried so hard to ‘find’ a career, and I wasn’t happy at all. I worked jobs I was good at, but they didn’t satisfy me. When I got into ISU’s LLL program, I was happy every single day. I don’t regret coming to ISU in my 30s because my life has improved, but I wish I knew when I was 20 that my life would be better in 10 years.”
What opportunities have you had as a student here?
“Coming to ISU’s LLL department was my wake-up call. They brought my life back. Gave me a graduate assistantship. Gave me my purpose. A new perspective on language. Most people see language as a requirement to graduate, but linguists see language differently.”
What would you say to people considering Indiana State?
“I would say follow your own path. During my master’s program, I found out my dad had cancer. I considered quitting and going back to Japan. I told myself, ‘sooner or later, I will lose him. What would I have left if I use him as a reason to quit studying LLL?’ My parents wouldn’t have wanted me to give up on my goals.”
“For those hesitant to go back to school, or those who encounter naysayers, I say do it. I had people telling me I should be married and have kids by now, but I went to school instead. Don’t listen to them, listen to your intuition. At the end of the day, it’s YOUR life.”
What’s next for you?
“My dream is to be a college professor in Japan. I want to teach linguistics, English to Japanese students, and Japanese to foreign students. I didn’t know about adult education before coming to Indiana State, and I’m super interested in how to educate adults. Being an adult learner myself will enhance my teaching.”
Rika’s next steps to becoming a college professor are pursuing a master’s degree in Japanese Language Pedagogy, followed by a PhD in Second Language Studies.