An Interview with Jack Gisondi, Our Wonderful First Oka Tadoku Room Intern

Last August, graduating senior Jack Gisondi was selected as the inaugural Oka Tadoku Room Intern, in which capacity he served brilliantly for the academic year 2022-2023. The goal of the internship is to promote campus and community interest in the Oka Tadoku Room by developing creative uses of the space. We are excited that our second intern, Kerra Hinrichs, will begin work soon, and we look forward to seeing how she will build upon Jack’s legacy. 

Asia Library: We’d like to start by asking you about your background. What year are you in school and what is your major?

Jack: I am a senior majoring in International Studies in the International Security, Norms, and Cooperation sub-plan, with a minor in Business Administration. I chose this specific academic track so that I could study a multitude of disciplines (philosophy, history, politics, language, etc.) and apply the critical thinking skills I developed in those classes to the world of business, which is where I see my career going in the future. It’s been such a fulfilling experience!

Asia Library: When (and why) did you start studying Japanese? What level of Japanese have you reached now?

Jack: I took my first Japanese course when I enrolled at the University of Michigan as a freshman, but technically I began studying the summer before that using Duolingo. What drew me to the language originally was the way it sounded; through listening to Japanese music and anime, I developed a strong desire to learn to mimic what I was hearing, simply because it was really pleasant sounding to me. But beyond this, I’ve found that studying Japanese has grounded me, kept me curious, and motivated me to constantly make connections with new people. I want to keep on learning and building connections for the rest of my life, and Japanese has been the perfect avenue for me to do that. Even now as I study 4th year Japanese, I still feel like there is so much room to learn and grow, and that prospect remains very exciting to me.

Asia Library: How did you find out about the Oka Tadoku Internship and what made you want to apply?

Jack: The Oka Tadoku Internship was first brought to my attention through an announcement in my Japanese class last year. We had visited the Tadoku room as a class prior to its opening, and I was really excited to see a new space for people to read and enjoy Japanese books together. The internship seemed like a great opportunity to not only be around the room and its collection of books, but also to support the Japanese language community at Michigan in a really meaningful way. My upperclassmen in the Japanese language program did so much to nurture my growth when I first started out, so I wanted to use the internship as a way to provide the same support to current first, second, and third year learners. 

Asia Library: What kind of things have you done in your capacity as Oka Tadoku Intern?

Jack: The bulk of my work has been promoting the new Oka Tadoku Room by organizing and holding events in the room for students and faculty connected to the Japanese Language program. Through group activities we conducted during these events, I strived to show students how to use the room’s collection to best complement their classroom studies, no matter their language level. I also had the honor of helping to organize two events for the larger Japanese community in Ann Arbor, those being the Tadoku Room Reception and New Year’s Celebration. Additionally, I worked with the Asia library staff to maintain the room’s collection of books and organize them by genre and reading level for easier use by students. 

Asia Library: What are your plans for the future?

Jack: Right now I am scheduled to work as an Assistant Language Teacher on the JET Program starting this summer, and I’m very excited because this will be my first time living and working in Japan. I really want to use the opportunity to further improve my Japanese language skills, as well as my ability as a leader, communicator, and cultural ambassador. My long-term goal is to reach a point in my career where I can build strong connections between American and Japanese businesses using my knowledge and experience, so I think this will be a great first step!

Asia Library: Thank you, Jack! Welcome, Kerra!