Mel Pardock ’25Japanese Studies Major
Posted on March 15th, 2023 by

“The department works hard to ensure that students are learning in a way that leaves a lasting impact and the community is full of kind, intelligent, encouraging  people that want to ensure that you are experiencing the language and culture you are studying fully.”

Mel was initially drawn to Gustavus with intentions of pursuing a Japanese major. As a Des Moines, Iowa native, they explain, “I was struggling to find schools in Iowa where I could major in Japanese.”

After visiting the campus, Mel came to love Gustavus not just for the Japanese major but for the community. However, Japanese Studies has been something Mel has been interested in since childhood, saying, “I have been intrigued by different cultures ever since I was in elementary school, and Japanese culture intrigued me the most.” Having already taken multiple Japanese language courses in high school, Mel has been able to focus on other aspects of Japanese culture at Gustavus.

A class that they particularly enjoyed was History of Modern East Asia, in which students were able to learn about both the good and bad parts of Japanese history. Mel says “I feel it is important to not idealize or glorify a culture or place as some sort of dreamscape, especially if you’re building your academic career around it.”

Mel is currently taking a Japanese language course in Japan, which is a required part of the major. They are currently studying abroad at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata, Osaka, Japan. Mel has been enjoying the opportunity to do experiential learning and improve their Japanese language skills by interacting with native Japanese speakers.

A professor within the Japanese Studies Major that has inspired and encouraged Mel’s endeavors in learning about Japanese culture is Professor David Obermiller. Mel remembers one of their first conversations with him and talking about Japanese and Korean culture, saying, “I knew immediately after our conversation began that this department was full of people who cared deeply about languages and cultures and ensuring other people cared about them as well.” Mel has also appreciated the faculty within the department as a whole, saying they “have helped prepare me for for a career by teaching me the care and precision that goes into studying a culture and language.”

In addition to Mel’s interests in Japanese studies, they are also involved in the Women’s Action Coalition, Korean Culture Club, Gustavian Weekly, and Model United Nations on campus.


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