Picture of Jennifer

Jennifer Butler

Jennifer graduated from The University of Sheffield in 2009 with an MA in Japanese Studies

I'm working at the Consulate-General of Japan in Nashville, Tennessee. I'm a Program Coordinator in the Cultural Affairs Division and I absolutely love my job. In the Culture Division we do things such as outreach to communities and schools through conducting programs on Japan and Japanese culture at library visits and school visits. We also coordinate festivals and other cultural events in conjunction with other Japanese governmental & non-governmental organizations. There are also programs that we coordinate for sending people to Japan to study, work and/or do research. Everyday is interesting and it can get rather hectic especially when we have a big event coming up but I'm happy to say I'm never bored!

Since I am working for the Consulate-General of Japan, I am technically employed by the Japanese government. However, I feel lucky that I am able to say that even though I have moved back to the USA. I feel certain that my degree (MA in Japanese Studies) from Sheffield helped me to get this job and it's helping me to do my job. I'm using things that I've learned in my studies to various degrees everyday and regularly think how lucky I am to be doing something that I enjoy and that directly relates to my educational background in Japanese.

I was a postgraduate student here at the University of Sheffield in the School of East Asian Studies pursuing a MA in Japanese Studies. I'm often asked why I chose to come to the UK to study Japanese and the answer consists of many factors some of which I'd like to share with you. Let's start with a little background:

I'm originally from Jackson, Mississippi way down South in the United States. I spent my undergraduate years at the University of Alabama (ROLL TIDE!) in my neighboring state and, later, worked for three years in Atlanta, Georgia. Though I call 'The South' my home and am proud to be from this part of the US, I also consider myself an international person and enjoy a good adventure in new places. During my junior year at the University of Alabama, I did a one year study abroad program in Osaka, Japan at Kansai Gaidai University. (This wasn't that random since my major was international studies and I was minoring in Japanese!) After returning to Alabama and graduating, I spent three years working in Japan in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka as a participant on the JET Programme.

It was during this time in Japan that I first heard about the Japanese Studies postgraduate courses offered at the University of Sheffield. At the time, I wasn't interested in attending graduate school but there was a special something about the Sheffield information that I always kept in the back of my mind for possible future reference.

After I finished my time on the JET Programme in Japan I was ready to go back home to America. After working for a few years at a wonderful little Japanese international school in Atlanta, I decided that I was ready to pursue a masters degree somehow related to Japanese or Japanese studies. I began to seriously look for postgraduate courses.

I had been searching off and on for a graduate school that would 'suit' me and my interests for a while. Since I enjoy the idea of experiencing foreign countries and living in new places, I didn't limit myself to looking at schools just in the United States. When I remembered the information I had stored away about the University of Sheffield and began to seriously look into the various aspects of postgraduate education here, I soon became convinced that this was the place I would like to earn my Masters degree from. I applied for admission to the School of East Asian Studies at Sheffield and began my studies in September 2008.

As for the factors that ultimately lead to my decision to study at Sheffield, I'd have to start with the reputation of my department and the quality of the Japanese Studies course as the initial factor. I was pleased to find out that Sheffield's School of East Asian Studies is highly regarded in my field. Also, the initial contact I received after making enquiries was very warm and welcoming (and prompt!). In addition, a friend of mine in Atlanta was taking the Distance Learning course offered through the School of East Asian Studies for Japanese Studies and was very pleased with her courses and her professors.

The fact that most Masters courses can be completed in one year in the UK as opposed to the two years normally required in the US was also a compelling factor. Since I did not come here directly from undergraduate studies but had worked for several years, I knew I wanted to quickly get my qualifications and return to employment. Therefore, one year vs. two years was important to me.

As for the all important "How am I going to pay for this?" question, here at Sheffield US students are allowed to use US Federal Loans (like the Stafford Loans & PLUS Loans) to finance their studies. Since the cost of living in the city of Sheffield is quite affordable and the city and surrounding areas seemed lovely all the pieces seemed to fit.

The teaching and study methods here are different from what I was accustomed to as an undergraduate in the US but not drastically so. There are some things I have had to adjust to such as the amount of independent study and preparation expected of all of the students, the formality of the exams and the slightly altered academic dates (for instance the fall semester began in late September and the spring semester began in February). The structure of the classes and some administrative procedures can initially seem a bit mysterious as well but everyone is willing to explain things to me when I have questions.

The most enjoyable thing about studying here at Sheffield is the feeling that I'm studying and learning with others who are seriously enthusiastic about the subject. Our course in the School of East Asian Studies is challenging but I've always felt as if support from my professors, classmates and the SEAS staff is always available.

Since my accommodations are near the main part of campus I spend a lot of my free time at the Student Union. If I want to go shopping or catch a movie or something it's just a quick walk to the City Centre. Sheffield is a big city but most things I need as a student are easily accessible by walking or perhaps a tram ride out to Meadowhall shopping mall. I must admit that I do miss my car and the freedom that comes with driving but there are really well organized events available like day-trips, clubs & sports activities, and social stuff through the Student Union.

I guess, basically, I'd like to say that over the years I feel that I've always ended up living in some of the best places in the world. I'm happy I can now add Sheffield and the University to that list.


Read more about my time in Sheffield