From Japanese Anime to International Education!


Contributor: Thomas Lavenir


This summer, the International Student and Scholar Services staff had the privilege to know and work with Kasia Tomaszynska, a first generation US citizen, born and raised in Illinois by Polish parents, as she conducted her summer internship in our office.

If you had known or met Kasia when she was in high school, you would have quickly found out that Japan Anime was her number one passion. Which Japanese Anime, did she enjoy? you ask: “Death Note” and world detective “L”  was her favorite character. Ever since, she has been curious about Japan and its culture.

Kasia’s interest for Japanese Anime definitely transpired in her choice of major and class selection in college. Anthropology seemed like a natural choice for her major and classes such as “Japan: Modern Society” were a given. Her curiosity and infatuation for Japan grew stronger as the started working as a student assistant at the Illinois Wesleyan University’s international office. One of the responsibilities that she enjoyed the most was helping out during the international student orientation. At that time, she met many students from around the world including two Japanese exchange students who would become driving forces in her decision to go to Japan.


Instead of going straight to grad school after graduating from college, she decided to apply for the JET program to teach English in Japan. After all, as Kasia said half-jokingly, the “JET program paid for my trip there.” That trip was a three-year commitment in Tokyo teaching high school students. Having no teaching experience and working in an educational system that does not support interaction between students and professors. Kasia faced a hard adjustment. She was quick to point out how “Japanese students in the classroom are really quiet.” However, her own participation in their after-school programs made it easier for her to connect to students. After she realized that group pairing activities were an effective way to promote in-class participation, her adjustment period wore off. 

Back in the US, she is not only committed to her long-distance relationship but also to the field of international education. She will graduate in May 2020 with her master’s degree in College Student Personnel Administration. Her graduate program at Illinois State University, required her to do a summer internship. Since one of her friends lives in Harrisonburg and attended JMU, she reached out to our office to inquire if our office would have a summer internship to offer her.

Interning at JMU has exposed Kasia to a bigger college and was pleasantly surprised that the ISSS office emphasizes the student as a whole not just a focus on immigration. Moreover, she added how “everyone is friendly” which creates a very collaborative environment. “There is a lot more synergy in this office and there is a constant need to assess and improve how staff go about providing services and programs.”

 summer events poster

What did her internship consist of? you ask, check out her video as she summarizes her experience. One of the ways that Kasia contributed to our office has been to participate in the events that we offer over the summer, as we know how quiet this campus can be. Even though she is not a big fan of roller coasters she went on the trip to Kings Dominion; she also demonstrated her culinary skills during our “Make your own sushi competition” event and has explored the Luray Caverns. A lot of her time was spent conducting research on housing trends for international students, and the different methods that international offices can engage international alumni.  Overall, she observed that many universities, not just JMU, are also trying to navigate these topics.

In hindsight, who would have thought that one’s interest in cartoons could have such an impact in one’s life decision? Kasia’s choice to join the field of international education all started with her passion for Japanese Anime.

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Published: Sunday, June 30, 2019

Last Updated: Wednesday, July 10, 2019

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