Robin Berrington ’62

I was a sophomore in 1959 when Wesleyan called for volunteer Japanese language students for Professor David Abosch who was offering a first experimental Japanese language course then. Four of us signed up and thus began my adventure with Japan.

In succeeding years he offered Japanese history and other courses. We became quite close and eventually he told me of a year-long Wesleyan scholarship to Japan in 1961. I signed up for that too and after a few months three of us found ourselves on a Pan Am jet to Tokyo to live with a Japanese family and to study at the Kokusai Gakuyukai Japanese language school. It was my first time overseas and was for me a path breaking experience. I climbed volcanoes, explored coal mines, frequented the bars of Shinjuku, jostled daily with the rush hour crowds of Tokyo, observed labor union demos, went to the public bath every night, and lived the life of a Japanese student. I even learned a little Japanese!

A year later when I returned to Wesleyan I was told that the other part of the deal--working as a proctor for expanded Japanese language courses to pay back the scholarship--had been canceled. I was disappointed, but instead I worked on my honors thesis and left Wesleyan in January. The important point, though, is that I had found a career ambition, Japan, and knew that I wanted to concentrate on that.

After two years in the Peace Corps and an MA in Japanese studies from Harvard, I joined the U.S. foreign service and embarked on my long and momentous foreign service career--18 years in Japan, with time also in Ireland, the United Kingdom and Thailand. None of this would have been possible without the assistance of Professor Abosch and the financial support from Wesleyan. This is why I am grateful to the university and will continue to thank them for putting me on that career path.