An Outstanding Overseas Opportunity

By Logan Jackson

Published on April 8, 2024

Noah Lively
Through the Princeton in Asia Fellowship, Noah Lively will teach English to preschool and kindergarten students in Yakage, Japan. Photo by Logan Jackson.

A year ago, Noah Lively spent a semester at Doshisha University, located in Kyoto, Japan, through a study abroad experience. That program offers University of Missouri students an opportunity to improve their Japanese skills, attend lectures on Japanese and international studies, and take part in interdisciplinary courses designed to foster a better understanding of Japan in a global context.

A senior international studies (east Asian studies) and physics double major at MU, Lively said the experience was an incredible one, and he has been hoping to return to Japan since stepping back on American soil.

Through the Princeton in Asia Fellowship, Lively will be able to do just that. The Princeton in Asia Fellowship places recent graduates in work fellowships in one of 10 countries and regions across Asia.

“I was in disbelief but absolutely thrilled when I read the email that I’d been nominated,” said Lively, who is also pursuing the Honors Certificate at Mizzou. “After my first interview, I received an email telling me I’d been waitlisted, which I took to mean as a soft rejection. I was feeling pretty bummed out that this opportunity wasn’t going to work out. But when I was invited off the waitlist a week and a half later, it felt like that closed door had been reopened, so I was really excited to hear that I won’t have to put off my plans to return and work in Japan.”

Lively said he is excited to explore another part of Japan through the fellowship. He will be teaching English to preschool and kindergarten students in Yakage, which is about 150 miles southeast from Kyoto, where Lively spent his 2023 spring semester.

“It’s entirely thanks to that experience in Kyoto that my conversational Japanese ability has improved so much,” Lively said. “Being involved in clubs and getting to practice every single day for five months forced me to get better. I haven’t had nearly as much experience using more formal language though, so I’m excited for the opportunity to improve in that regard.”

Lively is a Japanese studies minor at Mizzou, too. He said he has had a passion for exploring Japanese culture for years. The opportunity to return to Japan through the Princeton in Asia Fellowship is one that Lively said he won’t take for granted.

“I found Japanese cultural aspects like religion and fine arts fascinating,” Lively said. “I loved learning about everything from traditional theatre, like Noh and Kabuki, to the importance of tea ceremony, as both an art form and a political tool. And after I started learning Japanese, I was drawn in more and more by things I didn’t even realize I had an interest in. The huge variety of Japanese dialects, for example, and the connotations that come with speaking each of them is a familiar concept, similar to regional accents for English speakers, but it’s on another level, with certain dialects being unintelligible even to other native Japanese people.”

Lively worked with the MU Office of Global and National Fellowships throughout the Princeton in Asia application process. They helped guide him in a variety of ways, including helping him make sure he had the proper paperwork for the application.

“When I met Noah at the Study Abroad Fair in September, there wasn’t a lot of time to put his materials together,” said Nina Wilson-Keenan, a fellowships coordinator who advised Lively during his application. “But it was fun to help him find the perfect program, and he’s just a great example of a student who, when he sees an opportunity, has the courage to go after it.”

“The application process for Princeton in Asia helped me realize that I’m very lucky and grateful to have such wonderful mentors at Mizzou, because without them I wouldn’t be in nearly the same position that I’m in right now,” Lively added. “It also helped me realize that I have more marketable qualities than I normally give myself credit for. My experiences, educational background and plans for the future don’t follow a ‘standard’ career or life path, but there’s no such thing as a standard path anyway. For example, I wasn’t able to do an internship during my undergraduate studies, but having experience abroad highlights a unique set of skills that’s equally as important. So, it was really eye opening when I sat down to write up my application and resume and realized the parts of my life that I want to emphasize might be completely different from another candidate, and that’s OK.”