When Chinita L. Anderson ’94 walks down the street in Toyama, Japan, people stare. A self-described “full-figured African-American woman with short hair,” she’s something of an oddity here. “When people look at me, I meet their gaze, smile and wave.”
As an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) with the Japanese Exchange and Teaching program, Anderson serves as one of numerous “agents of internationalization” in communities throughout Japan. Working in two junior high schools, she teaches English and “internationalizes” students, through person-to-person intercultural exchange.
Even during her off hours, she continues to act as cultural bridge, attending international festivals, speech contests and civic events. Anderson sees every person she meets as an opportunity to spread a positive, realistic view of American diversity. “Being able to share my culture as an American and an African-American with Japanese people in my city” is important, she explains. “I think my presence in Japan says that there are lots of different types of people in America; when people have good interactions with me, it helps build a positive view of Americans and African-Americans.”
In July of 2005, after her two-year stint in Toyama, Anderson plans to spend 10 months exploring the world and then write a book of travel memoirs geared toward African-Americans. A former participant in SLC’s Florence program, which she describes as “a fantastic experience that introduced me to the world,” Anderson says she is following her dream. “One of my most passionate goals was to travel and see as much of the world as possible.”