Keishiro Ota, a 22-year-old senior communication major, has made two significant decisions in the past few years that have shaped him: the first was to move to the United States, and then soon after, to transfer to UMass Boston.
Four years ago, Ota traveled more than 6,000 miles from Japan to Massachusetts to study abroad. While he made the trip by himself, he did not make the decision alone. His parents sparked the idea. Ota’s father is a doctor and regrets that he never studied abroad when he was young. His mom traveled as a flight attendant, studying English by listening to the radio and visiting other countries.
“My parents have encouraged all their children to travel,” said Ota, who has three siblings. Ota’s older brother studied in the United Kingdom, and his younger sister plans to study in Vancouver. “My parents think travel is important, and so do we,” he said.
Ota began studying at a suburban four-year college in Massachusetts, far away from the city life he knew in Tokyo. He found himself searching for something more—more classes he was interested in, more activities in the area. He learned that several of his friends transferred to UMass Boston. Ota asked what their experience was like, and he was excited about what he learned.
“My friends told me there are smaller class sizes and that it is easy to communicate with classmates and professors at UMass Boston,” he said. “It is a supportive environment for transfer students.”
He decided to transfer to UMass Boston and hasn’t looked back. When he arrived on campus, Ota created a community for other Japanese students. He is one of the founding members of the Japanese Student Association (JSA) at UMass Boston. More than 100 people attended their first event. So far, they have held about six events, and they welcome anyone interested in Japanese culture.
“I wanted to create a place where Japanese students could make connections with others in the Boston area,” Ota said.
Ota has immersed himself in Boston, joining an intramural Japanese soccer team in the city.
“I’m a city person, so I love the location of UMass Boston,” Ota said. “Coming from Tokyo, being close to a city is important to me. There are always fun things to do.”
If the location is what drew Ota to the campus, it has been the diverse classroom discussions that have kept him engaged.
“In my classes, I get to hear opinions from so many different people,” Ota said. “We can share our cultures here. In Japan, there aren’t opportunities to speak in front of your class. I like public speaking now because I can share my opinions.”
Since taking communication courses at UMass Boston, Ota’s goal is to work for a Japanese television network.
When the weather is warm, Ota takes walks on campus along the HarborWalk. The changing seasons in Boston remind him of Japan—the blooming cherry blossom trees in the spring and the rich color of the leaves in the fall. “Tokyo is very busy and crowded though,” he said. “Boston has more nature, more green.”
He plans to move back to Tokyo after he graduates, with new goals and experiences to share, all because of a decision he made four years ago. “I’m glad that my family encouraged me to study in another country and supported me,” Ota said. “I’m really grateful to my parents for this experience.”