International Education Week 2019 – Alumni Stories

Each November, institutions across the world take the opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange 🌎 During this year’s International Education Week, AKP shared some updates on social media about what our alumni have been up to since studying abroad in Japan. See below for a round-up of the various stories!

Working as JETs

Many AKP alumni take some time after graduation to teach English in Japan, and we were lucky to have two such AKP alums drop by the Kyoto Office this semester!

Kue Xiong (2013-2014, Connecticut College) is currently living in Oita Prefecture as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) on the JET Program and currently teaches at five elementary schools!

Meanwhile, Walter Pugil (2016-2017, Carleton College) has been working as a CIR (Coordinator for International Relations) since last summer in Kumamoto Prefecture. Earlier this month, he dropped by and talked with current AKPers about his work.

Revisiting Passions

Not all AKP alumni move on to Japan-related work right away! After graduating from Wesleyan University, Nina Gonzalez Sisson (AKP 2007-2008) worked as a grant writer and an admin at a non-profit, eventually obtaining a master’s degree in international business. Then a little over a year ago, Nina and her husband started a podcast using the long-running Japanese media franchise, Gundam, to talk about art, history, science, and culture. According to Nina, “it’s exactly the sort of interdisciplinary project that the liberal arts curriculum at AKP prepared me for. Plus, the Japanese language skills I developed have been invaluable.”

“I love that research, writing, and sharing information with others is my job now,” Nina shared with AKP. “And I don’t think I’d have felt confident enough to do it without having the personal experience of living and studying in Japan.”

Check out Nina’s podcast at @gundampodcast on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram and at!

Cross-applying Skills

Of course, there are many AKP alumni who make their way in fields completely unrelated to Japan! For example, Beth Jacobs (AKP 1987-1988) is currently the Vice President, Digital Strategies of the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, which is the steward of public broadcasting in the U.S. In an alumni interview with Bucknell University, Beth looked back on her time in Kyoto as “an incredible, life-changing experience.”


Paying it Back

Professor Armstrong is an alumna of the 1977-78 cohort under resident director Tadanori Yamashita. Without the advantages of internet or electronic dictionaries, she relied instead on physical E-J and J-E dictionaries (good for building stamina and muscles when carried about Kyoto!) and wrote constantly about her experiences. “The experience was formative for me in the sense that it helped me to determine the direction I wanted to go in life,” Professor Armstrong said, “and that was anything that had to do with Japan.” She got her first job out of college in Kobe thanks to her AKP host family and made a living as an interpreter/translator in a number of fields. Eventually, her love of language brought her back to graduate school and her professorship at Bucknell University. She still keeps in contact with her host family, and the picture on this post is one of her, her host father, and some writing colleagues taken last year!

Regarding how her alumni perspective has affected her term as resident director, Professor Armstrong shared the following.

“As resident director, I have the privilege to see how AKP has evolved over the years. Students have a more robust elective catalog, an outstanding language program, cultural activity grants, hitori-tabi opportunities, the joint seminar, kaiwa partners, etc. It gives me great pleasure to be able to give back to this program that gave so much to me as a 20-year college student. The opportunities that AKP students have now are many, but so too are some of the challenges they face. I hope very much that I can be useful in assisting students, who are passionate about Japan, to navigate their lives in the program, with their host families and their extracurriculars. I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to watch and participate in the program for these last 40 years.”