Asian Studies Student Profiles

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Jandro Alcantara '23
Economics major, Asian Studies minor

Having grown up in the Philippines, I found it incredibly rewarding to deepen my knowledge of Asian Studies by pursuing a minor through the Liu Institute. My desire to expand my understanding of the region I call home led me to this academic pursuit. My time at Notre Dame has been nothing short of remarkable, allowing me the opportunity to learn from distinguished scholars in the field of Asian Studies and to meet exceptional individuals like Filipino activist, Maria Ressa. The culmination of my studies — including my capstone project “Martial Arts Cinema: A Reflection of Chinese Ideology”— has provided me with a rich and nuanced appreciation of the complex history that underpins the Philippines. Looking back, I feel immensely grateful for the experiences I have had at Notre Dame and the invaluable insights I have gained, including those through my Asian Studies minor.

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Nayun Hong ’22
Architecture major and Asian Studies minor 

As a sophomore, I was looking for ways to explore Asian culture and history. I grew up in Hawai’i where there is a significant Asian American population, and I have always been interested in learning more about Asia. I was directed to the Asian Studies minor and am so glad. I was able to take a variety of classes out of pure interest and curiosity, such as a history course on contemporary Pakistan and India, an introductory anthropology course, and a Chinese language class. 

One of my favorite classes was Professor Jennifer Hyunh’s course The Asian American experience. It completely reshaped my understanding of Asians and race relations in the United States. From this class and my own experiences, I realized that the Asian American experience in Hawai’i is unique. I became interested in exploring this for my Asian Studies capstone project, which allowed me to formally compare the Asian American experience in Hawai’i versus “the mainland.”

My experience in the Asian Studies minor and Professor Huynh’s course inspired the topic of my architecture senior thesis—a building for the Asian American Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley—that explores what it means to be Asian American through architectural design and language. The tensions of one’s ethnic heritage and place of residence is addressed, demonstrating how a building can simultaneously recall the past and be of its contemporary place. The project was awarded the Noel Blank Design Award, considered the highest student honor in the School of Architecture.

When I came to Notre Dame as a freshman, I didn’t intend to pursue Asian Studies, but my Notre Dame experience and education have been so much richer thanks to the Asian Studies minor and its flexibility in encouraging the exploration of my interests.

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Jiyun "Jena" Yang '20
Marketing major, Asian Studies minor

My life experiences unexpectedly set me on a path to pursue the Asian Studies minor. I was born in Seoul, but moved to the US at age 6. My Korean identity was in the background as I assimilated to American culture. Since my teenage years, I spent most summers in Korea, which allowed me to stay connected with that aspect of my identity. But it became increasingly difficult to accept the binary nature of my identity, especially attending a predominantly white high school and university at Notre Dame. 

I pursued the Asian Studies minor to learn more about Asia in an academic setting and gain a greater international perspective. I enjoyed the ability to learn about Asia from disciplines such as anthropology, literature, and culture.

The minor and being involved with the Liu Institute have provided me a sense of belonging and pride as a bicultural individual. 

In summer 2017, I received a grant to study at Seoul National University, taking intensive Korean classes. In summer 2019, I interned at a law firm in Seoul and learned about international trade law and corporate finance law. I saw real-world connections between my business education and international interests, and I envision a career that bridges the East and the West through business, trade, economics, and culture. 

Most recently, with Liu Institute funding, I conducted research in Seoul for my capstone project that examines the meaning of ethnicity and identity of North Korean defectors living in South Korea. This project not only allowed me to contribute to academic discourse, but has enlightened me personally. The interviews I conducted helped me realize that amplifying voices that are often unheard is possible on any level. This has motivated me to continue to seek future opportunities for Asia-related research and education even after I leave Notre Dame. 

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Alex Yom '20
Political Science major, Asian Studies minor

As the son of Korean immigrants, I’ve always had an interest in political and economic issues related to Asia. After enrolling at Notre Dame, I knew I wanted to find a way to supplement my political science major with a particular focus on Asia. Although I initially expected to simply build on my interest in politics through Asia-related political science courses, the Liu Institute’s Asian Studies minor has introduced me to new fields of study and challenged me to view Asia from different perspectives. Because of the minor, I was able to broaden my understanding of the continent through a diverse set of Asia-related courses in cultural anthropology, history, and language as well as a capstone research project comparing political and economic decentralization in Beijing and Seoul. 

Coupled with my experience studying abroad in China and interning at the US Embassy in Beijing, the Asian Studies minor has better equipped me to interact with Asia in a variety of situations.

In the classroom, I have the opportunity to share the perspectives of Asian thinkers during philosophy and reference Asia’s fast-growing economies in my finance course. In the workforce, my experience with Asia was valued during my internship with the U.S. Senate Finance Committee and its work regarding international trade. 

As the world becomes increasingly globalized, knowledge about Asia is valuable now more than ever. The Liu Institute and its Asian Studies minor have better prepared me to interact with Asia as I start my career and have ultimately made me a more responsible global citizen.  

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Trebor Goodall '19
Marketing major, Asian Studies minor

Trebor Goodall first became interested in Asia as a kid practicing martial arts, internalizing philosophies from Bruce Lee movies, and playing Capcom video games from Japan.

At Notre Dame, Trebor made a point to find opportunities that connected him to Asia. He ended up customizing a unique palette of courses, travel, and research that ultimately led him to earn a minor in Asian Studies.

In the summer of his freshman year, Goodall joined the China Summer Business and Culture Program, a six-week business management course that led students to Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Taipei. Junior year, he joined the former Japan Summer Business and Culture Program that allowed students to explore Japan’s cultural and business traditions within economic, social, and political contexts. 

The Asian Studies minor allowed a young boy who was fascinated with Asian culture to become truly educated and immersed in Asian culture.

He was thrilled with both experiences. “Visiting China led me to think about, for the first time, the connections between East and West, business and family dynamics, and the different ways business is conducted, whether it’s through a contract in the West or a handshake in the East,” he said. 

Visiting Japan was a life’s dream come true, he said, listing highlights of baseball, fashion, and food—including an opportunity to learn about sushi-making from a world-renowned master.

Goodall’s Asian studies capstone examined how to expand celebrity branding in sports merchandising in Asia. His interactive presentation not only explains the promise for business opportunities in Japan and China, but also addresses how sports can serve as a diplomatic tool, a form of soft power, and a promoter of global culture.

“The Asian Studies minor allowed a young boy who was fascinated with Asian culture to become truly educated and immersed in Asian culture,” he said. “The Liu Institute has supported my interests, regardless of how untraditional they might be."