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The “crouching tiger” of NSYSU: Assistant Professor Kayo Ito

(Report by student journalist) National Sun Yat-sen University has its hidden dragons and crouching tigers (Chinese idiom meaning ‘a person with special hidden talents’)! Assistant Professor Kayo Ito from Japan joined the faculty of the Si-Wan College in the academic year 2019/2020 and started teaching two courses on cross-cultural communication to over 120 participating students in the first semester. However, most students don’t know that Assistant Professor Ito, before stepping into the classroom, shone on stage as a vocal artist. She released more than 80 pieces of music until now and even made it to the finals of Golden Melody Awards (one of the most important honors conferred by the Ministry of Culture for achievements in the music industry in Taiwan) for Best Religious Music Album. She applies her interdisciplinary experience to her academic research and courses to benefit the students.

Assistant Professor Ito said that before coming to Taiwan, she never thought of becoming a singer. From childhood, she was fascinated by Chinese culture, including Hongkongese dramas, Kunqu Opera and this motivated her to take up Chinese Studies. After her classes, she would enthusiastically dedicate herself to arts and work for a Japanese theater troupe. However, just before graduating, she started feeling anxious about her future career path and realized that she cannot turn her passions into profits and make a living. Ito took the advice of a professor who had been to Taiwan for an exchange program and came to Taiwan to study a master program. Then, she earned her PhD in Taiwanese literature. During her studies, she was discovered by a music publisher in Taiwan and became a singer. The album she released the following year arrived to the finals of the 11th Golden Melody Awards for Best Religious Music Album.

Assistant Professor Ito dreamed of dedicating herself to arts and it was an opportunity to start the career of a singer. However, her career was anything but a smooth road. After having completed her studies, Ito returned to Japan and was doing more than 20 different jobs, including shooting commercials, teaching Japanese, and even working at a gas station. Recalling those memories, she laughed and said that it was not a waste of time as every experience is valuable. Assistant Professor Ito mentioned that meeting all sorts of people in the process made her understand different value systems and cultures and develop cross-disciplinary thinking, which she later applied to her academic research, including connecting her singing experience with curriculum design, song lyrics recitation with Japanese language teaching. Assistant Professor Ito delivered her research results in these topics during academic conferences.

Assistant Professor Kayo Ito thinks Taiwan is 'iine' (great)! She is deeply impressed by the open-minded and friendly culture. She emphasized that in the view of the trend of globalization, cross-culture communication, as well as interdisciplinarity, is very important. Only by exploring different cultures, one can look at one’s own culture from a more objective point of view. Before coming to Taiwan, Assistant Professor Ito was frustrated with the excessive social norms of Japanese society. The experience of living abroad country made her appreciate the characteristics and beauty of every culture. To convey these experiences to the students, she started a general education course on cross-cultural communication; she invited an artist from Korea for the students to learn about new cultures.

Assistant Professor Kayo Ito, a singer and faculty member, combines her interdisciplinary and cross-cultural experience with education philosophy. Because the students may not have rich social experience, she believes that by general education courses she can assist them in their diversified personal growth, thinking outside the box, and developing creativity. Students often restrict themselves in their personal growth as they lack interests and abilities, but these are acquired in the process of trying different things. Assistant Professor Ito encouraged the students to try new things and to keep an open mind. She mentioned her own experience as an example. From childhood, she used to be interested in music and sang in a choir, and it is thanks to this experience that she was discovered by a music publishing company. If back then she had rejected religion and turned down the invitation to perform in a Buddhist music concert, if she had refused to leave her comfort zone and decided to not come to Taiwan, she wouldn’t have all the experiences that followed. Interests will turn into abilities with time; if one has the abilities, opportunities will arise. Take chances and you will never be afraid of trying, she advised.

(Edited by Public Affairs Division)
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