Kansas State University’s newest Gilman scholar is using a first-time opportunity to further her plans to one day teach English in Japan.
Khiana Harris, senior in anthropology and psychology, Kansas City, is spending eight weeks at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Beppu, Japan, as a recipient of summer 2014 scholarship from the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship Program.
Congressionally funded and established by the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000, the scholarship, which provides up to $5,000, lets U.S. undergraduate students at a two-year or four-year college or university participate in study abroad programs worldwide.
“I chose this Japanese program in particular because it was one of the more language-intensive ones,” Harris said. “It also had the longest duration.
“My primary goal is to learn Japanese and become acquainted with everyday life here, because after I graduate from K-State, I will teach English here or go on to graduate school for anthropology in East Asia studies.”
With her double majors, Harris didn’t have time to take classes in Japanese, so she studied the language on her own for a year before arriving in Japan.
“The Gilman Scholarship has not only allowed me to be here in the first place, but also to be here and devote my full attention to my studies and connecting with other people,” she said.
It’s Harris’ first time studying abroad and her first time away from home for such an extended period, but she says the opportunity is not one to be missed.
“It is eye-opening. I know that everyone says that, but there is so much people can take for granted if they never go somewhere else where the norms and expectations are completely different,” Harris said. “I have learned so much in my short four weeks here already — not just about the language, but about Japanese culture in general.”
Harris will return to Kansas State University in the fall. She is a member of the university’s Anime and Manga Society and a library help student specialist at Hale Library.
She also has served as a psychology research assistant and physical anthropology teaching assistant, experiences she hopes will help land her a teaching job with the Japanese Exchange & Teaching Program, or JET Program, when she graduates in May 2015.
Even though it is her first time studying abroad, Harris already has advice for students contemplating the experience: Never take the weather for granted — especially in a country like Japan with a rainy season.
“Always check and prepare for the type of weather that you are getting yourself into,” she said. “There’s nothing worse than going somewhere rainy and forgetting your umbrella.”
A graduate of Sumner Academy of Arts and Sciences in Kansas City, Harris is the daughter of Janie Harris, Kansas City, and Darren Harris, Kansas City, Mo.