He wears a black baseball cap embossed with white Kanji symbols. With his calm demeanor and shyness to eye contact, he exemplifies the patience and politeness inherent in the Japanese culture.
As a native Idahoan with an interest in Asian medicine and the Japanese language, sophomore Michael Colby is a Western man whose mind is deeply entrenched in the Eastern world.
Colby said he found his life’s passion during his junior year of high school when he attended an informative medical workshop. There, he said he learned the differences between Western and Eastern medicine.
“It’s really handy knowing what I want to do,” Colby said with a smile.
Colby explained that Eastern medicine, which uses natural herbs, is less invasive and he therefore prefers it to the pills Western cultures depend on.
“Almost all of Western pills come from herbs – they are just more condensed,“ Colby said. “A lot of times they are not necessarily as potent.”
In addition to the benefits of using natural herbs, Colby said he also prefers the philosophical view of illness in acupuncture compared with the Western viewpoint.
Whereas Western medicine perceives an illness as being caused by a pathogen, a disease-producing agent, Eastern medicine views a pathogen as evidence of an imbalance within the body, Colby explained. As a result, Western medicine is designed to treat the pathogen specifically, but Eastern medicine traditionally treats the entire body to restore its natural balance.
“In acupuncture, once you make the body balanced again, the pathogen goes away,” Colby said.
Although Colby does not have the opportunity to study acupuncture at Linfield, he does have the chance to cultivate the language skills necessary for his field of interest. Colby explained he first intended to major in Chinese but decided to pursue a major in Japanese because Linfield does not provide a major or minor in Chinese.
The nuances of Japanese, particularly in grammar, and the politeness built into the structure of Japanese language are Colby’s main interests in the language.
“Japanese, grammatically, is the complete opposite of any Romance language,” he said.
In addition to the language’s complex grammar, he must also learn the different verb conjugations used, as one is expected to speak a certain way with a person of the same gender and a different way with a person of the opposite gender.
Without any previous high school training in Japanese, Colby has two years of experience and has encountered many challenges.
“My brain has been taught to learn a language in a certain pattern, and Japanese is almost backward,” Colby said.
However, in Colby’s brief study of Japanese, he has excelled, finishing second in the annual Toyama Cup Speech Contest in Portland for two consecutive years.
Toyama is a prefecture in Japan, which is essentially the equivalent of a state in America. Each year, the Japan-America Society of Oregon and the Toyama Prefectural Government come togther to encourage students to showcase their talent in Japanese and form international friendships.
Colby said he competed in division one, which is for students who have studied Japanese for fewer than two years and who have not studied abroad in Japan for more than three months.
“I felt a lot more confident than I did last year, even though I placed the same,” Colby said.
Freshman Leah Sedy also competed in the competition and said she can sense Colby’s passion for Japanese. Sedy explained that Colby is learning the complex symbols of Kanji, a written form of Japanese, in his spare time — a daunting task for any student.
“Most students don’t like learning the Kanji,” Sedy said. “It’s rare for people to enjoy it and pursue it.”
After earning a degree in Japanese, Colby said he plans to apply to the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine in Portland, where he will merge his two passions: Japanese and medicine.
“I have a goal in mind that I’m working to reach,” he said.