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January 31, 2024

What’s it like being a grad student here in DAMES, you ask? I had that same question, so I sat down with one of our second-year grad students, Ivy Janson, to get the scoop.

1) First, for those who might not know yet about your magnificence, would you mind introducing yourself and telling us your areas of study?

My name is Ivy Janson, and I am a trans woman currently in my second year of the DAMES Master’s program! I am originally from Colorado, and I graduated from the University of Northern Colorado (yes, the other UNC) in 2022. When I originally began attending college, I wanted to study European classical history, however I quickly developed an interest in East Asian history and as a result switched my major to Asian Studies alongside history. While the majority of my education is focused on early modern Chinese history, I currently study Sinophone communities in Southeast Asia in the late 19th and early 20th century. In addition to my studies, I enjoy the Triangle’s many nature hikes as well as reading a good book to the sound of a thunderstorm outside.

2) I know you traveled abroad to Taiwan this past summer! Can you tell me more about that? (Also, was it as swelteringly hot there as it was here?)

Over the summer, I traveled to Taiwan to participate in an intensive Mandarin course in Taipei. The program was very rigorous, and there were numerous occasions where I felt doubt in my ability as a scholar. However, with the help of a strong support network I was able to persevere and as a result my Mandarin skills improved dramatically. I was also able to explore Taiwan and in my opinion it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Despite being an Asian studies major I had never been to Asia previously, and I did not know what to expect when landing at Taoyuan International Airport. Taiwan had beautiful mountains, serene beaches, vibrant forests, and some of the best street food I have ever tasted in my life. The only downside was the heat, if you can believe it the humidity and sweltering temperatures exceeded North Carolina’s dreaded summers by orders of magnitude.

(Note from the interviewer: I paused my questions here for much commiserating and groaning.)

3) You’re digging into your second year of graduate school with us. How has your experience been so far, and what are you most looking forward to this year? Do you have any big projects on the horizon?

I won’t lie, graduate school has been a difficult process, but ultimately I have found it very academically rewarding. For the first two months, I struggled to accommodate the increased workload from my classes, however you do eventually learn how to manage. Since then I have enjoyed the opportunity to explore academic interests with a level previously impossible in my undergraduate courses, and while I have been significantly more busy I at least enjoy the things I am working on. Speaking of which, seeing as it is my second year in the DAMES program, I am currently working on my master’s thesis, which is incredibly daunting to put into writing but the research has been fascinating so far. My current research surrounds a Chinese Methodist community in Sarawak, and I am currently examining this community through a settler-colonial lens to demonstrate the ways in which multiple power structures interact in colonial setting

4) Having been here for a while, what are some of your favorite spots on campus and in Chapel Hill?

If you want a good place on campus to study, the DAMES space on the fourth floor of the GEC has plenty of outlets and good light for research! One of my favorite places in Chapel Hill itself is the Epilogue cafe and bookstore. The environment is very relaxed and it is a queer-friendly space to drink coffee, listen to music, and read some very interesting books! If you’re more in the mood to spend time outdoors, the North Carolina Botanical Garden maintains an easy trail just behind the main building, perfect for a leisurely hike in the woods.

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