How a study-abroad experience charted the course for Alumna Kristine Tuazon
For University of Guam alumna Kristine Tuazon, one semester stands out in her memory above the rest. It not only impacted her intellectually – it changed her perspective and the way she lives her life, and it has guided her direction ever since.
As an undergraduate student at the University of Guam with a knack for language and an interest in Japanese culture, it was a natural choice for Tuazon to double major in English and Japanese.
Her Japanese studies professor, Poong-Ja Toyoko Kang, had informed the students that taking time to study at one of the University of Guam’s six partner universities in Japan would greatly advance their command of the language and further deepen their appreciation for and understanding of the culture.
So Tuazon seized the opportunity and enrolled for a semester abroad at Okayama University.
“Being a student is really a window of opportunity to learn and experience,” Tuazon said. “It challenges your preconceived notions and really forces you to reflect upon yourself, your relationship with other people, your surroundings, and the world at large.”
Tuazon experienced the Japanese language and way of life firsthand and was able to put her Japanese language skills into practice on a daily basis.
“It gives you time to actually grapple with the language and culture in a very personal way,” she said.
Throughout the semester, she was able to connect her concrete knowledge of the culture to a broader appreciation and application, and a vision for her future began to take shape
Following her graduation from the University of Guam in 2015, Tuazon knew she wanted to continue her studies in Japanese language and culture. Professor Kang informed her of a Japanese government scholarship available to students who are highly proficient in the Japanese language.
Backed by a semester in Japan at Okayama University, Tuazon submitted a competitive application for the scholarship. She remembers almost backing out of the application at one point, she said, but recalls Kang pushing her to pursue her dream. Tuazon completed her application and was awarded the prestigious two-year scholarship to be a research student at Sophia University in Tokyo.
In addition to the initial two-year scholarship award, Tuazon later received a two-year extension and was able to complete her graduate degree under a full four-year scholarship.
Tuazon’s studies focused on Japanese narratives and literature.
“Japan is an amazing country with rich history, culture, and language that is a treasure trove to study and research,” she said.
In 2019, she graduated from Sophia University with a master’s degree in global studies focusing on Japanese literature.
She said the incredible discoveries and experiences she has had along the way have been well worth the work and have paved the way for an exciting future.
Since completing her master’s degree, Tuazon returned to Guam to continue working in the vein of Japanese culture. Her mission now is to share her knowledge and love of Japanese culture with the business world and help companies to connect with potential Japanese clients through relatable social media and digital marketing.
Tuazon recently launched a digital marketing startup, Tsunagari Media, that works with businesses on graphic design, branding, social media management, website development, and local SEO optimization. She also hosts a Japanese podcast.
“My language ability and understanding the nuances of Japanese culture and business culture have been very key. The time I spent in Japan is a great asset,” she said. She also said she believes that by telling stories the Japanese population relates to, more Guam-based businesses can connect to and forge a bond between their services and Japanese clients.
In her long-term plans for the future, she hopes to return to and live full time in Japan.
She said she strongly encourages any student considering UOG’s student exchange program to join because, as for her, it just might chart the course of the rest of your life.
If you have already chosen a university in Japan, Korea, China, or the Philippines, please contact Dr. Chris Rasmussen at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Toyoko Kang at email@example.com for the application/nomination procedure.
The best time to get information about the application procedure is at the beginning of a semester, one semester prior to the semester you want to be exchanged.