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Gabrielle Tarbert

Class of 2013
Major/Minor: Political Science

Campus Involvement

Japanese Politics

When I came to Washington College, I knew I wanted to major in political science. I had never had a big interest in international politics, choosing instead to focus on domestic political issues. So studying Japanese politics for the entirety of my junior year was not something I pictured myself doing. Because Washington College is a liberal arts school, we are required to fulfill distribution requirements. This requirement was the reason I found myself seated in Dr. Oros’ International Politics of East Asia class in the fall of my junior year. A small class of only nine students, half of whom were international students from East Asian countries, I was overwhelmed and intimidated.

Thanks to an excellent professor who was passionate about his subject area, as well as my new international friends, my interest in the region expanded. After being assigned to give an in-class briefing on Japan security issues, I became more attuned to current events related to Japan.

When Dr. Oros approached me with an opportunity to take a course in Japanese Politics and Foreign policy, supplemented with a spring break trip to Japan, I immediately applied. I was accepted into the course for the spring semester, along with 18 classmates. After only a short time studying Japanese culture and politics, I was boarding a flight to Tokyo. This trip was funded by a generous grant from the Japan Foundation.

My experience in Japan was incredible. We did everything: explored Tokyo, experienced the nightlife of downtown Shinjinku, visited ancient shrines and museums, volunteered in the disaster-struck Tohoku region, and made connections with alumni currently living and working in Japan.

I never imagined my experience at Washington College would include two courses on the politics of East Asia and travel to Japan. But being introduced to different things is a trademark of a Washington College education, and oftentimes leads students to expand their worlds in ways they never thought were possible.

My experience came full circle April 11, 2012 when I traveled to the nation’s capital to talk about our group’s volunteer efforts in the Tohoku region, the tsunami-struck area that lies north of Tokyo. Three of my classmates and I gave a presentation to Japanese policy makers and specialists from the DC area at the Stimson Center, a foreign policy institute focused on international peace and security.

I cannot fully express my appreciation for the political science department at Washington College. The professors are personally invested in the growth and development of each student, both in and out of the classroom. The faculty consistently drives you to expand your learning and seize upon unique opportunities.