Alumni stories

Nicole Sorochan and Chandler Vandergrift with Muslim School children in Thailand
Nicole Sorochan and Chandler Vandergrift with Muslim School children in Thailand. Nicole and Chandler raised funds to shoot a documentary film in Southern Thailand.
"The years have flown by and nothing expected has occurred.  But what has remained constant has been the lessons I learned at UVic and the constant support the staff has given me."

Nicole Sorochan, BA 2007

Read about some of our undergraduate and graduate students

Nyomi Ross, BA 2012

I am currently sitting at my desk in a small staff office in Japan. Teachers are discussing the day's plans while the sound of kids practicing songs from "Sound of music" on their key harmonicas plays in the background. Three years ago I came to Japan as a participant of the Japan Exchange Teaching Programme (JET) and I am now preparing to return home.

After completing a major in applied linguistics and minor in Japanese studies I saw JET as a great opportunity to explore my personal connection to Japanese culture as well as gain work experience. I just so happened to get placed in Saga. If you have no idea where that is, it is the prefecture beside Fukuoka which just happens to be where my grandmother was born almost 95 years ago. (She will be turning 96 soon!) Saga is a small and humble prefecture that even Japanese people will look confused when you tell them where you live. Porcelain pottery and farming are the main industries and frequently gets overshadowed by Oita and Nagasaki in Kyushu travel blogs. Despite the low profile it keeps, I can't deny that it has provided the basis for the special connection I have developed for Kyushu. Teaching has been a huge learning curve and I have had so much hands on experience of what I had learned in my studies at UVic. Being a human dictionary and expert on everything outside of Japan is definitely not for the faint of heart! Over the last 3 years I have traveled all over Japan, Korea, Cambodia, Thailand and even had a summer trip to Europe. I have also had the chance to meet with extended family members in Japan which is something I will cherish. I have always had a complicated relationship with my own identity as being a Japanese Canadian who never started learning Japanese until university so being able to explore and connect with my ethnicity has meant the world to me and will help me continue to grow long after leaving Japan. The first time you casually meet another person at the grocery store that shares your uncommon Kyushu based Japanese family name can only be described as priceless.

Despite having an overall incredible time, living in rural Japan has not always been easy. Much of what we see in the media and study about Japanese culture is vastly different from the realities of countryside small town life. Skyscrapers and robots are replaced with rice paddies and old fax machines and the local dialect makes your head spin. It is hard to believe that 3 years have already passed and despite sometimes having moments of being unsure about how to sort out my garbage I have settled into Japanese life quite well. Communication can be complicated and adapting to Japanese work culture and bureaucracy has been particularly trying but at the end of the day I can only feel lucky to have had such a truly authentic and unique experience.

Nyomi Ross

Buck Duclos, BA 2011

One of my early experiences in Shanghai was through a one year full scholarship opportunity to study at East China Normal University, offered by the Pacific and Asian Studies program at the University of Victoria.

Throughout the one year study period I spent in Shanghai I not only learnt a tremendous amount of Mandarin Chinese, but I experienced many life lessons about daily life in China both for foreigners and local Chinese. Living and studying abroad allowed me to gain a global perspective on the world economy, intercultural exchange dynamics, and the complexity of international relations.

After graduating from the University of Victoria with a degree in Pacific and Asian Studies I continued my education to pursue a Master’s degree.

I am certain that through a combination of my Chinese language abilities and first hand experiences previously living in Shanghai, I was able to earn an internship opportunity with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade at the Canadian Consulate General in Shanghai. Through this internship I actively assist Trade Commissioners meet the mandate of the Canadian Government to facilitate healthy trade and investment partnerships between Canadian and Chinese firms.
My previous years studying in Shanghai have proved to be an invaluable assist when completing market research and due diligence reports on a variety of topics about China.

As I finish this internship I look to my past and current experiences in Shanghai to help me attain a career in the future.

Scott Aaalgaard, BA 2001, MA 2011

I am no fan of nostalgia, but, I find that I must risk a nostalgic and loving glance back over my years at UVic, for the training that I received there in the Department of Pacific & Asian Studies at different stages of my scholarly development has been absolutely pivotal in propelling my life into exciting, and often unforeseen, new directions.

I joined the Department as a BA student in 1996, and upon graduating from the Department's undergraduate program in 2001, I traveled to Japan and spent a number of years there, mostly in Fukushima, where I was engaged in human rights and international exchange initiatives with the local government.

Long fascinated by the manner in which music intersects with the social, and fresh from a brief stint in Japan's music industry in Tokyo that capped off my post-BA years, I returned to the Department in 2009 to undertake a graduate project on a genre of Japanese popular music known as enka, which I pursued under the patient guidance and supervision of Katsuhiko Endo. This project, which involved extensive fieldwork in Tokyo and Fukushima, sought to push past the simplistic and misleading narratives of 'Japaneseness' that are often tacked on to discussions of this genre, and reveal the manner in which enka can fuel complex and ambiguous desires among individuals.

After earning my MA in 2011, I came to the University of Chicago to pursue a doctoral degree, where I aim to investigate the diverse social roles played by music and radio in the contexts of post-3.11 Fukushima. The rigour and quality of Chicago's doctoral program are virtually unmatched anywhere in the world, and I am convinced that it is the quality of the training that I received at UVic that has opened a path for me to attend such a world-class institution.

I am grateful to my friends and mentors at UVic for molding me into the sort of scholar that can take on the challenges presented by such a high-calibre, rigorous program - and prevail.

Joanna Wong, BA 2009

I want to thank Pacific and Asian Studies for all your encouragement over the years! The opportunities that I was offered through the department, the Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives, and the China-ECNU scholarship truly changed the course of my life.

I’ve been living and working in China since 2006. As a Principal of FlowCS, an award-winning creative studio dedicated to sustainability in China, I am passionate about Canadian leadership in the international green economy. Canada’s people-to-people links with China have a vital role to play in building a healthier planet. Dynamic new opportunities are emerging in a global “creative economy” that includes green technology, cultural industries, and eco-tourism. Recently, a FlowCS infographic video project on China's 12th Five Year Plan was fortunate to be featured on CCTV, Chinese national television.

As a Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada 2011-2012 Media Fellow, this year I will produce a HD video portrait series on Canada’s greatest and most resilient resource – people. From clean tech entrepreneurs to activist musicians, the series will capture a new era of human innovation shaping Canada’s economic and cultural ties with China. The video portraits will be published on the "National Conversation on Asia" platform, a three-year project which seeks to energize civic engagement on Canada’s future with Asia. The idea was initially inspired by my 2010 video short "Canadian Resources 2.0," which was the winner of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada 25@25 video contest.

Starting this month, I've been asked to be a regular columnist for the Asia-Pacific Foundation's new "National Conversation on Asia" web portal project, which is very exciting.

I feel I've been very, very lucky to be in China at the right time and to have received the training in Pacific and Asian Studies that made this career possible.