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Alumnus Profile: Phillip Bachman

July 18, 2016
Photograph of Phillip Bachman
Phillip Bachman

Degrees completed: Bachelor of Arts, Asian languages & literatures and linguistics

Hometown: Eau Claire, Wisconsin

Why did you choose to major or minor in Asian languages & literatures (ALL)?

I chose to major in Asian languages & literatures, because I had found that through studying and living in another language and culture (in my case, Japanese), I was able to expand the way I viewed and experienced the world.

Why did you choose to study Japanese?

Originally my parents made me start studying when I was eight years old. My mother is half Italian, and my dad had spent six years in Taiwan and China as an English instructor before marrying my mother. Because of their combined experiences with foreign language and cultures, they understood the importance of learning a second language from a young age.

Being an only child, I spent most of my days at home playing playing video games, namely the Sony PlayStation. My parents, in the pursuit of finding (in their words) “a more productive hobby,” thought that since the PlayStation and video games were from Japan, that if they nudged me to study Japanese I would have a lasting interest in the language and culture. Low and behold, they turned out to be correct in their assumption. I have now been studying Japanese for 15 years, and am currently working in Japan. Because of my parents never ending support, I have been able to have so many wonderful experiences.

What was your favorite part of your experience in the department?

The one thing I will always be grateful for, and never forget, is the amount of one-on-one support that I was provided. My professors took time out of their days to talk to me individually, wrote countless recommendations, and pushed me to apply myself. Furthermore, I was able to create a personal, and professional relationship with my professors that has lasted beyond college.

Tell us about your experience winning the Japanese Language Speech Contest? How has the FLAS impacted your research/studies? How do you feel they enhance your study of ALL and/or your career plans?

First of all, if it wasn’t for the support of Professor Michiko Todokoro-Buchanan, I would not have entered the speech contest, applied for the Critical Languages Scholarship (Via U.S. State Department) or FLAS. She went out of her way to push me into endeavors that she thought would not only be a great opportunity for me to build, expand and challenge my language abilities, but that would also provide me with a brighter future.

In March 2014, I participated in the 28th annual Japanese Speech Contest at the Consulate-General of Japan in Chicago. It took me about two months to prepare, apply and pass the first round of screening for the speech contest. It was the first time that anyone from the University of Minnesota had applied, let alone participated in the annual contest. This meant that I was going into the contest as a representative of the University of Minnesota. Keeping that in mind I enlisted the help of my professor and friends in order to hone my speech into one that was worthy of bearing the University of Minnesota name.

On the day of the contest, I was the last of 40 to present. After hours of waiting, and months of preparation, I gave my five-minute speech in front of some of the most important people in the Japanese community in Chicago. It was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of my life. However, because of the support I received from my professors and friends, I was able to come home with the overall grand prize. The speech contest gave me an extra-curricular avenue to what I had learned at the University of Minnesota. It is an experience that I will never forget.

The FLAS (Foreign Language and Area Studies) fellowship was integral to my successful graduation at the University of Minnesota. Not only did it relieve financial stress, it was the key factor in allowing me to concentrate on my graduation thesis. It gave me the breadth and resources I needed to understand my subject of analysis, and show my professors, my parents, my peers, and myself what I was able to accomplish when I was able to apply all the knowledge and skills that I had gained over the years at the University into my own research.

What do you do? Do you enjoy working in Japan?

Currently I am working as a member of JSR Corporation’s Human Resource Development Department, Global Human Resources Team. I am working towards creating and managing an international HR structure for a burgeoning global corporation, as well as providing long term support for international employees in a homogeneous society.

I enjoy working in Japan, but it is not without its difficulties. I am currently the only western employee at the company. There are daily language barriers and cultural barriers that I have to learn to overcome and adapt to. While working in Japan is not for everyone, I can safely say that working and living abroad is an invaluable experience and I see myself living here for many years to come.

What is something about the ALL or Japanese department that most people wouldn’t know?

I felt that the Asian languages and literatures department is one of the few departments at the University of Minnesota where the professors will push you into applying for scholarships and extracurricular activities and then go out of their way to provide the appropriate support for you to succeed in each endeavor. Furthermore, the ALL department is one where students can easily make long relationships that will last beyond the four years of college.

What ALL courses would you recommend for majors? For non-majors who want to take an ALL course?

The language courses are all top-notch and will provide all majors and non-majors with a good base for learning their target language. Outside of the language courses, I would recommend Japanese modern literature. While it is a reading intensive course, it provides a thorough overview of Japanese literary movements, and their cultural importance over the past century.