“Her initiative to create an expansive, transnational context exemplifies her ability to engage with many different types of social groups and academic contexts as well as the complexities of intercultural communication and intersectional social analysis,” said Jill Gillespie, assistant professor and one of Maruyama’s advisors on her research project. “It also demonstrates Karen’s passion for creating increased connections between intercultural understanding, global education, social justice and East Asian Studies.”
While Maruyama continued to study Japanese culture in interdisciplinary ways in Ohio, she longed to return to Japan.
“I absolutely fell in love with the culture. I wanted to come back after graduation. When I was still a senior, I applied for teaching positions in Japan. I first came over as a teacher in a children’s English school for two years then moved to a traditional Japanese kindergarten,” Maruyama explained.
“I can’t stress enough my respect for her as a person in addition to her intelligence, work ethic, and academic commitment,” Gillespie added. “I would trust her with my own family and would want a person such as herself to teach my children.”
Her interest in international education continued to grow, and Maruyama, who graduated from Denison summa cum laude, decided to pursue her master’s in global studies at Sophia University in Tokyo.
“It is becoming a global world. It’s so easy to connect with other countries, look beyond what you’re familiar with, and see how the world operates beyond what you’re used to,” said Maruyama. “It’s really important to challenge yourself and challenge your own views and get a different perspective on life. Everyone lives so differently than you do and I think it is important to realize there is no single right way.”
She encourages students to study abroad during their time at Denison, where more than half of students participate in off-campus study.
“Studying abroad pushes you out of your comfort zone. You are interacting with people who have different worldviews. Not only challenging yourself to think differently, but realizing that you are part of a much larger world.”