Student and Academic Life

UK Grad Selected for Japan Exchange and Teaching Program

headshot photo of Abigail Edwards
Abigail Edwards

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 26, 2021) — Recent University of Kentucky graduate Abigail Edwards will travel to Japan this fall to serve as an assistant language teacher through the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program.

JET, the only teaching exchange program managed by the Japanese government, has placed more than 35,800 American young professionals in schools, boards of education and government offices throughout Japan. Like Edwards, most participants serve as assistant language teachers in public and private schools. The program typically receives up to 5,000 applications each year from U.S. applicants, and only around 1,000 are selected.

The daughter of Jerry Edwards, of Hardyville, Kentucky, and Cressy Sturgeon, of Cave City, Kentucky, Edwards received a degree earlier this month in modern and classical languages, literatures and cultures/Japan studies. However, her love for Japan began many years before she entered college. When she was 6 years old, her father brought home a book titled “Japan” for her to read.

“This was the beginning of my love for Japanese culture,” she said. “Since then, I have strived to engage with Japanese culture as much as I possibly can.”

During her time at UK, Edwards served as an assistant language teacher for Japanese at Scott County High School in Georgetown, an intern for the Japan-America Society of Kentucky, a Japanese language tutor, and attended weekly Japanese conversation sessions. She was also a member of the Lewis Honors College, received the Japan Studies Rising Star award in 2020 and was named Outstanding Senior in Japan Studies this year. For her senior capstone project, she researched media representations of isolationist youth culture in contemporary Japan. Last summer, she was awarded an internship to serve as an assistant language teacher in Japan through the Lexington Sister Cities Program but was unable to travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Edwards plans to apply for graduate school while participating in the JET Program. She credits Masamichi Inoue, Doug Slaymaker, Akiko Takenaka, Andrew Maske and the rest of the faculty in the Japan Studies program for serving as mentors during her time at UK.

“They have all impacted me academically, professionally and personally,” she said. “I am honored to have worked with them over the past few years.”

The Office of Nationally Competitive Awards assists current UK undergraduate and graduate students and recent alumni in applying for external scholarships and fellowships funded by sources (such as a nongovernment foundation or government agency) outside the university. These awards honor exceptional students across the nation. Students who are interested in these opportunities are encouraged to begin work with the office, housed in the Chellgren Center for Undergraduate Excellence, well in advance of the scholarship deadline. Staff is available for appointments to discuss opportunities for the 2021-2022 academic year and beyond.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.