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Student Spotlight
Thomas Cantrell, First Honors-Sponsored Research Abroad Student

Thomas Cantrell is an ETSU undergraduate working on his thesis research with Dr. Mark Holland, Department of English. Thomas and his mentor Dr. Holland received a student-faculty collaborative grant from the Honors College to fund his research project, entitled The Translation and History of Ozaki Hosai. The chance to work on his research in Japan was definitely a change of plans. During his freshman year, Thomas wanted to study in Canada or Alaska, because, as he tells us, “the scenery was really interesting and I just wanted to take a trip”. While talking with Maria Costa (Director of International Programs & Services, Honors College), he mentioned taking classes in Japanese. It was Ms. Costa who first suggested that he consider a future study abroad experience in Japan.


Thomas considered the possibility. “At first I hesitated, but the more I studied Japanese the more I really enjoyed the language. It’s just such a fun, fluid language.” However, what enticed Thomas into seriously considering going to Japan was receiving an Honors-in-Discipline scholarship from the English Department, and subsequent award of a student-faculty collaborative grant from the Honors College. With this financial support, Thomas finalized his plans to participate in an international study exchange program (ISEP) that would allow him to both study abroad and pursue his research interests in Japan. ETSU’s bilateral exchange agreement with Kansai Gaidai University also helped by allowing Thomas to pay his tuition and fees at ETSU, thus avoiding the high cost of tuition oversees.

Thomas was already planning to write his honors thesis on Ozaki Hosai, a Japanese poet he had discovered “by accident” while browsing through the Japanese section at the library. As he began to investigate sources of funding to help finance his research in Japan, he again sought help from Ms. Costa. His timing was perfect! The offices of Undergraduate Research & Creative Activities and International Programs & Services, both in the Honors College, had just finalized plans to begin helping students to “RESEARCH Abroad.” The Research Abroad program enables students to combine grant and scholarship funds to support a formal research thesis.

Now that Thomas is back from Japan, he has a great deal of valuable experience to share with others about his research in Japan. Most of his time in Japan was spent at Kansai Gaidai University, in the city of Hirakatashi, central Japan, a” town the size of Knoxville”, as Thomas recalls. His first semester was spent in a home-stay program with a Japanese family, but he lived in a campus dormitory for international students during his second semester. Kansai Gaidai University is particularly focused on international education and half of the international students at the university are from the U.S.

Thomas considers the highlight of his experience in Japan to be his research trip to Shodoshima, a very small island in the inland sea between the islands of Honshu and Kyushu, and a two-hour ferry from the Honshu coast. There he discovered a lot more information about Ozaki Hosai, the Japanese poet, who spent the last years of his life in a Buddhist temple. Hosai is considered an important figure in Japanese literary history because of his work to modernize the content and structure of traditional Japanese haiku poetry. Thomas’ research also includes an assessment of the impact of Buddhism on Hosai’s pre-World War II works. Thomas is currently translating Ozaki Hosai’s works into English. The two-line poem below is representative of the author’s poetry and is one of Thomas’ favorite haikus. Thomas requested that we include the Japanese script and transliteration for authenticity:

In the darkness of a well
my face appears
ido no kurasa ni waga kao wo midasu

When Thomas was asked to give advice to other undergraduate students who might be apprehensive about taking part in a study abroad course or research, he replied:

“I wasn't ever scared that I can recall. I remember being excited, though. It was in my opinion the most influential experience in my life. I had more fun and met more diverse and interesting people than at any other point in my life. I had never been homesick in my life, which is why it was so easy for me to go to Japan. While I was there, the only time I ever really felt homesick was during Christmas vacation, because most of my friends had gone back to their home countries or in the case of the Japanese, back to their hometowns. I regret not traveling more during that time. So really, the most important thing is to make friends while you are abroad. They will make sure you aren't lonely, and even now I still talk with many of them. Talking with my Japanese friends is still the best practice for my study of the Japanese language.”


Student Spotlight


2014 Abstracts     2014 Program
USPS Mailing Address:
  Undergraduate Research & Creative Activities
The Honors College at
East Tennessee State University
PO Box 70589
Johnson City, TN 37614-1708

Phone: 423.439.6926 or 423.439.6076
Fax: 423.439.6080
email:  Foster Levy

Street Addresses of The Honors College offices:
  Administration: Yoakley Hall, Room 129
161 S. Dossett Drive
University & Midway Scholars: Ada Earnest House
310 S. Dossett Drive
Honors-in-Discipline Programs: Yoakley Hall, Room 206
161 S. Dossett Drive
Fine & Performing Art Scholars: Yoakley Hall, Room 206
161 S. Dossett Drive
Undergraduate Research: Yoakley Hall, Room 129
161 S. Dossett Drive
International Programs & Services: Yoakley Hall, Room 122
161 S. Dossett Drive

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