WKU student awarded scholarship to fund his third year in Japan

Jayden Thomas was award to the $25,000 Boren Scholarship to fund another trip abroad. Photo provided by a press release by WKU.


Jayden Thomas was award to the $25,000 Boren Scholarship to fund another trip abroad. Photo provided by a press release by WKU.

Debra Murray, Digital News Editor

Jayden Thomas loves Dance Dance Revolution. The well-known arcade game, which was originally introduced in Japan, inspired Thomas to learn more about the culture at a young age. That influence ran so deep that when the opportunity came to study abroad at WKU, Thomas will have spent almost two years of his college career in Japan

A senior studying political science and international affairs, Thomas was recently  awarded the David L. Boren Scholarship to fund his attentive language study for the upcoming year. He plans to return to Japan this fall.

The Institute of International Education, on behalf of the National Security Education Program, awards undergraduate Boren Scholarships to add important international and language components to students’ education via overseas study in world regions critical to U.S. interests. Since 1994, over 7,000 students have received Boren Awards and contributed their vital skills to careers in support of the critical missions of agencies throughout the federal government.

The flexible study abroad program was one of the reasons Thomas chose to get his Bachelor’s Degree at WKU.

“A lot of Japanese games intrigued me,” Thomas said. “As I grew older I was learning more and more about Japan, I was really intrigued by the culture and things like that. I always tell myself like that’s the place that I wanted to go.”

When Thomas came to college, he began learning Japanese. In 2018, he was chosen for a critical language scholarship and went to Japan for the first time.

“I was only gonna stay for one semester and applied for just one semester, but I loved it so much,” Thomas said. “I wasn’t ready to go back because I think when I went originally I was afraid of being away for that long. The idea of having to be away from my family during Christmas was upsetting but I was having a great time so I decided to extend my stay an extra semester.”

The experience Thomas has had in Japan has helped him figure out that he wanted to change his career path.

“I wanted to be a Foreign Service officer within the State Department,” Thomas said. “The reason I decided against that is because they move around a lot. So though they had an assignment for about two years they’d rather put you somewhere else speaking a new language.”

As he’s grown his knowledge about the culture and history of Japan, Thomas says he discovered an odd interest that has now turned into the career path he would like to pursue. Thomas plans to work for the federal government in some capacity exploring complexities surrounding the nuclear weapon industry.

“Japan offers a very unique perspective on nuclear weapons and nuclear energy because being the only country to ever experience their effects,” Thomas said. “They have some positions within the Department of Energy, and the National Nuclear Security Administration. Now they have a liaison that deals with issues related to nuclear weapons so that’s my main interest.”

Thomas had been sent home early from his last trip to Japan due to COVID-19, so this will be his first time visiting Japan since the pandemic.

“I’m absolutely thrilled because honestly like when I got back from Japan,” Thomas said. “I was heartbroken. I knew that but that was like my ticket back to Japan, and that’s something that I really wanted to do.”

Digital News Editor Debra Murray can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @debramurrayy