Student earns scholarships to make documentary in Japan

Ashley RathThanks to winning three very competitive scholarships, SUNY Oswego senior Ashley Rath is studying in Japan and filming a documentary.

Her funding came from a Bridging Scholarship for Japan, the Freeman-Asia Scholars Program and a Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship. Rath is the first SUNY Oswego student to win all three awards.

A graphic design major and international business minor, Rath studies at the University of Tsukuba near Tokyo. She said that when she learned about Oswego’s program there two years ago, she started taking classes in Japanese to prepare.

“At Tsukuba you can take classes both in Japanese and English, so that was appealing,” Rath said in an e-mail interview. She considered an English-speaking country, but “decided to challenge myself and go to Japan. Along with the language barrier, the program is one year, which is longer than most study-abroad programs.”

Her interest in video and time-based media was another factor, as “Japan has one of the densest technological nodes of our networked world” and offers innovation in design and multimedia that will “stimulate and inspire me to create better artwork,” the Presidential Scholar from Hamlin said.

For her documentary, Rath hopes to portray both the similarities and differences between the two cultures. She plans to videotape most of her experience, including holidays and other big events as well as “the small things” that make up everyday life and the intersection of things like music, politics, media, family relationships and social habits, she said.

By her third trimester, she hopes to take a graphics course in Japanese. Since arriving in Japan, Rath reported that she is adjusting well and finds her Japanese campus feels similar to Oswego.

The Gilman and Freeman-Asia programs required a follow-on project, which dovetailed with her interest in creating the video. Her applications to those programs sought funds to defray some of the production expenses.

Between the three programs, she earned $11,000 in scholarships.

In the application process, Rath worked with Ryan Lemon in SUNY Oswego’s International Education and Programs and Beth Flanigan in Financial Aid. Both speak highly of her.

“Ashley is an exceptional student, and the fact that she received not one but multiple scholarships to study in Japan is really a testament to her character,” Lemon said. “She will be a great student ambassador for SUNY Oswego and the United States.”

When she returns, Rath wants to show the finished project to campus audiences and perhaps enter it in film competitions. “I believe this video will educate students on Asia, interest students in studying abroad and perhaps inspire them to do the same,” Rath noted.

Rath encouraged students to pursue these scholarships—which, while the process is intense, can pay great dividends. “So many people could get these scholarships if they tried,” she said. “As you can see, it was worth it!”

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(Posted: Sep 20, 2006)