BY MARY WICOFF
— When Garisha Goodman sets her sights on a goal, nothing can stop her — not even the thousands of miles between here and Asia.
Since she was a child, Goodman has been interested in Japanese and Chinese culture. Now, as a college student, she has a chance to spend 10 weeks studying and traveling in Japan and China.
Goodman, a 2011 graduate of Danville High School and a sophomore at Augustana College in Rock Island, has a double major in communications and Asian studies, with minors in Japanese and Chinese. She has applied to the college’s East Asia Term Fall 2013, which is offered every four years.
The 10-week trip begins Aug. 23 and takes students throughout Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China. Courses include geology, literature, economics, political science and community language.
Although this is a dream come true, there’s one hurdle: the price. The trip costs about $18,000, roughly $3,500 over standard Augustana tuition, room and board. Goodman has received a $2,000 scholarship from Augustana to apply to the trip.
Otherwise, she plans on getting a job, holding fundraisers and soliciting donations.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “I just want to broaden my horizons and make all the connections I can.”
Her mother, Lisa Williams of Danville, has no doubt her daughter will reach her goal.
“I’m excited for her,” she said. “I trust God will make a way.”
The two will have fundraisers later, Williams said, adding, “We’re going to get her there. We have willing people willing to do the fundraising.”
Her daughter deserves to go, Williams said, explaining, “She’s been doing this all of her life.”
When Goodman was 5 years old, she developed an interest in the Japanese cartoon “Dragon Ball Z,” which she watched on Saturday morning television. At 8, she found out that all the cartoons she enjoyed were actually anime (animation originating in Japan).
That got her interested in Japanese culture, and she started teaching herself Japanese when she was 13. She didn’t learn the alphabet until she started college.
At Danville High, she took two years of Chinese, and that piqued her interest in Asian studies.
At a college fair, Goodman learned Augustana was the only college that offered the double major in Chinese and Japanese that she wanted.
Williams likes to point out that her daughter’s Chinese language skills are so advanced that she got bumped from an entry level class to a higher one at Augustana. Goodman had enrolled in the 102 class in Chinese; however, the teacher thought Goodman was too advanced and suggested she enroll in the 200 class.
“I was the only freshman in my class,” she said, adding the others were sophomores or juniors.
Goodman said she knows the language well, saying, “I can hold a decent conversation.” But she wants to test her skills in the field — among native speakers.
“This is the chance of a lifetime,” she said. It’s been her dream to visit Asia, and she’s hoping community members will feel it in their hearts to help her out.
She described herself as an average college student — but one who is trying to do something above-average with her life. Her mother said, “I believe Garisha is going to touch some people.”
Williams supports her daughter’s interest in Asia, and they attended a Chinese Festival in Indianapolis a couple of years ago, where they picked up Chinese artwork, clothing and food. Goodman immerses herself in books and documentaries on China and Japan. She owns several kimonos, and has given presentations to groups on Asian customs and culture.
In 2011, she received a “Making the Grade Award” from WICD News Channel 15. She also received the Provena Foundation’s Young Women Aware scholarship, the AVID Award, and the Cultural Diversity scholarship from Augustana.
Goodman hopes to teach English in Japan or Hong Kong, and her career goal is to be an interpreter at the United Nations someday.
The Garisha Goodman Scholarship Fund been set up at First Midwest Bank, 100 N. Gilbert St., Danville, IL 61832. Contributions are tax-deductible.