Current Student Spotlight

Emma Toh
Emma Toh '20, Joint Concentrator in EAS and Statistics

Emma Toh

Class of 2020 | Adams House

My experience with East Asian Studies has been incredibly enriching because of the personal relationships I have established with professors and classmates. I looked forward to seeing my teachers and peers in Korean every morning. Our class was a closely knit community, and it was so exciting to see each other’s progress and to grow together. This inspired me to take courses on traditional Korean history, postwar Korean history and film, and social change in modern Korea. It has been very meaningful for me to learn about my heritage through readings, archival research, debates, discussions, and experience abroad.


The summer after my freshman year, I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to attend Harvard Summer School in Seoul for eight weeks. In addition to a Korean language course, I took a class on Postwar Korean History Through the Lens of Film. This was my first time visiting Korea and traveling on my own. I loved exploring (and getting lost), trying unfamiliar and delicious foods, and engaging in conversations with so many different, interesting people. Since I had taken a Korean history course during the spring semester, it was especially exciting to visit the palaces, city walls, and other sites that I had read about. I hope to have the opportunity to travel and study abroad again in the future.


As a joint concentrator in Statistics and East Asian Studies, I look forward to exploring ways to connect my different interests. Quantitative analysis opens up a wide variety of possibilities and I hope to find a relevant way to use math and statistics to study an aspect of Korea’s society, economy, or history.

Richard Yarrow at Tsinghua

Jia Jia Zhang

Class of 2020 | Quincy House

In Sophomore year, Jia Jia chose to concentrate in Human Evolutionary Biology—not quite fully knowing what the concentration entailed. However, after taking the sophomore tutorial for it, she realized that HEB didn’t best suit her interests—so she went back to the drawing board. After looking through her advising report, she found that she had taken quite a few East Asian Studies-related classes simply out of interest—in fact, enough to fulfill the secondary requirements at the time. Having grown up in Guam, she had always been exposed to Japanese culture and took Japanese language classes throughout high school, but the thought never occurred to her that she could or would want to concentrate in East Asian Studies. She was stronger in the hard sciences than the humanities throughout her high school career, and she was not a fan of history. Furthermore, being on the pre-medical track, she thought it was more practical to concentrate in the sciences.

But Harvard’s EAS classes have continuously surprised and engaged her intellectually. And rather than a science-heavy track, she has really come to enjoy the balance and variety of humanities and science classes. The professors and teaching fellows are extremely passionate and understanding. Furthermore, she got more personalized attention from EAS professors in comparison to the huge science lecture classes. So, she thought, why not make EAS her concentration instead? She has not regretted her decision. 

She wants to impart this message to other students. If you think it’s too late to switch to East Asian Studies as a junior—it’s not. And if you think it’s impossible to pursue the pre-med track while simultaneously concentrating in the humanities—it’s not.

Jia Jia is a first-generation high school and college student, so she understands that choosing a concentration may be a daunting process. But she highly recommends the EAS field, as she believes it is truly one of the gems of Harvard.