An International Student’s Unique Yet Relatable Journey at UCSB

Image Courtesy of Takuya Yoshizaki

Linus Li
Marketing Director

“I was crying on the airplane. I knew I was not going to see my friends and family for a while,” said fourth year economics and accounting major Takuya Yoshizaki as he remembered the day he flew across the Pacific Ocean to begin his college journey in Northern California.

Yoshizaki was one of 1,180 international students enrolled at the University of California, Santa Barbara for the 2016-17 school year, according to the Office of Budget and Planning.

Yoshizaki began his UCSB journey in the 2016-17 school year as a pre-economics major transfer student.

However, his idea and aspiration of studying in the United States began long before he received his admission letter over a year ago.

Originally from Niigata, a city on Japan’s northwestern coast, Yoshizaki started learning English grammar at age seven during his first year as a middle school student.

“Middle school was more grammars and readings, and then going into high school we did more grammars,” Yoshizaki said.

Yoshizaki thinks much of his success in learning English came from watching movies and listening to music, particularly Marvel and DC Comics movies. “I wanted to get the American culture and the American way of speaking English,” Yoshizaki said.

Yoshizaki described his childhood and the learning environment in Japan as “peaceful.” Unlike the U.S., students in Japan are required to maintain the campus’ cleanliness.

“We did not have janitors, we clean up the school after classes,” Yoshizaki said. “As a result, we are more responsible to clean up after ourselves.”

Transitioning from the Japanese education system to American college education gave Yoshizaki a sense of excitement and fear of not knowing what exactly to expect in college.

After going through the Japanese education system, Yoshizaki knew he was free from taking university entrance examinations; he remains glad he did not pick the path of pursuing higher education in Japan.

“Back home, once you pass the exam, you don’t study very much. You just go and have fun with friends for four years,” Yoshizaki said.

In America’s higher education, Yoshizaki thinks students study much harder and much more. “It just makes more sense. Studying a lot should be better than not studying, considering students most likely will work full time after universities,” Yoshizaki said. 

Yoshizaki’s path to study in the U.S. began when he was in 11th grade due to his father’s frequent travels between Northern California and Japan.

“My dad knew a lot of people in the area and then he would ask around how college in the U.S. is like and he would tell me,” Yoshizaki said. “I was already comfortable speaking in English and my dad took me through some applications and then we went to U.C. Berkeley, Sac State, and other community colleges around California.”

Later, Yoshizaki made up his mind. “That was it,” Yoshizaki said after touring California college campuses.

Yoshizaki chose UCSB due to the location, similar to other students. However, coming in as a transfer student, Yoshizaki has not always had a smooth journey.

Without spending his freshman and sophomore years at UCSB, Yoshizaki sometimes feels as if he lacks a connection with students who did.

“I feel like I haven’t met a lot of people who were here as freshmen, I get along with transfer students more,” Yoshizaki said. “I still met a lot of people, I just don’t feel like I have so much in common with them, so talking to them could be a bit hard.”

Speaking of his most inspiring and beautiful moments as a student here, Yoshizaki referred to his jogs toward Campus Point.

“I don’t think you can run with that view at other campuses. I think that is our privilege,” Yoshizaki said. 

Like most international students, Yoshizaki’s family is thousands of miles away. When emergencies arise, there is a challenge for him to stay composed while he balances schoolwork, social life, and good health.

Yoshizaki does not have a particular solution to these problems.

“I just get upset because there is a time difference; I can’t just go back driving a car or taking the train. I have to take the plane to go back, it’s very expensive. I have to plan ahead and stuff,” Yoshizaki said. 

To Yoshizaki, coming to study in the U.S. will help him find out what he wants to do and understand his place in an ever-changing society.

Yoshizaki’s American dream is to find out what he truly likes and to look for his real self, the side of him that is purposeful.

Yoshizaki describes his journey to becoming a senior at one of the world’s most respected, public higher education systems as “weird.”

From the time Yoshizaki cried on the plane leaving Japan, switched fields of study, and got a job at a Bay Area accounting firm, Yoshizaki has a story with which many international students identify.

Yet, Yoshizaki’s story and journey to find lasting, lifelong memories remain unique to himself.