What inspired you to work in this field? I was born and raised in Japan and came to the U.S. as an international student in 1992 (returned to Japan in 1993) and again in 1999. I went through my own set of struggles as a foreign student — learning English as a second language, feeling homesick, trying to be more “Americanized” to fit in, trying hard to prove myself, and having an identity crisis.
The reason why I am in the field of international education and doing what I am doing is because of my background and experience as an international student in the U.S. Every day I feel proud of the work I do as the Director of International Student Programs and Services at Mission College. For me, there is nothing more rewarding than being able to help and connect with international students.
What are the challenges you've faced? I wrote about some of my struggles as an international student earlier, but as my career has progressed and my personal life has evolved, I have faced new challenges. The biggest challenge has been finding the balance with all facets of my life — career, family, and personal care and fulfillment. I have been happily married to the love of my life, who I met in an Irish pub in Tokyo in 1997 (he is from Dublin, Ireland), and we have a 14-year-old daughter with special needs. My husband has a demanding career in Silicon Valley, and because neither of us is from here, we do not have our family to fall back on when life throws us curveballs.
I am a typical Type A personality and tend to over-function under stress. A year before the pandemic, I hit a breaking point and became ill due to severe stress. That was a wake-up call for me. Since then I have been on a journey of self-discovery and refocusing on my values to live a wholesome life. Now I focus on having joy in my life and giving joy to others.
There is so much more to say about this, but the key steps I took were to learn to ask for help and be okay with not being okay.
What do you hope to achieve in the future? I hope to continue to build bridges between countries and help connect people with others from different cultures and backgrounds. One way to do that is to promote study abroad. My dream is to be able to create an opportunity for everybody to visit/live in another country. This is a lofty dream, but I keep working towards that dream every day.
If you can give 1 or 2 pieces of advice to our prospective international students, what would it be? Take the courage to advocate for your education and your future. Studying abroad will be a life-changing opportunity for you.
Ask for help. Living in another country can be exciting but stressful. People want to help you.