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Lakeland University Japan News

Five Questions with Yuko Takamatsu, Head of LUJ Student Affairs

Five Questions with Yuko Takamatsu, Head of LUJ Student Affairs


Five Questions with Yuko Takamatsu, Head of LUJ Student Affairs

When it comes to LUJ, Yuko Takamatsu is at the intersection of all activity. Whether you are a new student hoping to gain a better understanding of what LUJ offers, such as clubs and committees, or a current student hoping to launch a new club or event, or a student dealing with issues, unsure of who to go to, OR even a faculty member looking to gain a sharper understanding of the student experience, Yuko will guide you to solid ground. Her mantra could very well be that of the ancient philosopher Philo: "Be kind, for everyone you know is fighting a great battle." 

We at LUJ are fortunate to have Yuko on our team, and she was kind enough to answer the five questions below... 

1) At LUJ, you've dealt with the issues and concerns of thousands of college students. Can you tell us a bit about your own college years? Where did you go, and what was the experience like? Were there struggles, or some highlights?

Okay, sure. I went to a community college after 2 years at an English Language school in San Francisco, trying to finish all transferable credits there because tuition fees were a lot cheaper than other universities, even for international students. Being a starving student, I did not have a computer at home, so I needed to use the PC at the computer lab in the college to finish all assignments and was tough. Every 30 minutes I had to move computers and sign up for another session...I don't remember how many times I had to move from one computer to another. 

After 2 and half years at the community college, I transferred to the University of California, Davis, and earned a BA in Social Science. I majored in Asian American Studies and minored in Social Ethics Relations. I really enjoyed learning about different cultures, histories, and social issues in the US. My classmates were much younger than I was, so at first, it was difficult to make friends, but I made some friends from Thailand, South Korea, and San Francisco. 

UC-Davis is a lot different from San Francisco, nothing going on, seriously, but it was a perfect environment for me to just focus on my studies. Unlike living in the city, however, my Japanese accent was much more noticeable, and most of the time I was the only international student in class, so it took me a while to get over the "Where are you from?" question. I hated that question...maybe I was too sensitive about it. But overall, my college experience in the US is a big part of who I am today. 

2) Wow. We'd love to know even more about your time abroad. How did your it shape the way you see Japanese culture, and American culture as well?

I lived in San Francisco for about 10 years and a couple of years in Davis. I did not visit any other states. Many of my friends told me that I needed to go to other states to see the 'real US,' but unfortunately, I did not have time and money, so that couldn't happen. Because of the diverse environment in San Francisco, I was very comfortable living there. Many different cultures blended well there and made San Francisco unique. Now many of my friends in the city have moved to Oakland or other states, but looking back, I've always felt that San Francisco is my second home.

Coming back to Japan and living in Japan, I sometimes feel that I can be just me, rather than simply being a unique individual in American culture. That said, I still feel I need to explain who I am and what I do even when I am in Japan. I am not saying which is better or worse, but that is how I feel about two cultures.

3) That's great. Thank you. So what advice do you often find yourself giving to incoming university students? Are there any common problems that occur during the term, or for new students?

I always tell students to find what they want in their life. They'll be lucky if they can find it while they are in college. It seems more and more students are feeling a bit lost and stuck where they are, but I hope LUJ could be a start to think of their lives and themselves while they are here.

4) Did you find LUJ, or did LUJ find you? What was it about LUJ that made you think, "Yes, I'd like to work here."

I found LUJ. Because of my experience as an international student in the US, I wanted to get a job in the educational field helping students who are away from their home countries. When I returned to Japan, I specifically looked for jobs that allowed me to interact with college students. 

I love what I am doing here at LUJ. I love talking to students and seeing them grow. Every day I feel I am learning something from them as well. Life is not easy and I know that very well. I hope LUJ can provide students with many opportunities and motivation for what they can do.

5) Each term, we have students either earning their Associate of Arts or Bachelor of Arts degree. Some of them have been here for 2 years, while others even 5 years. What do you notice most in a student you've seen change over the years?

I have seen students whose native language is not English improve their English a lot over the years, especially in speaking. I've also seen many EAP students who started in HB [High Beginner level] and could not say much in English eventually speak almost perfect English when they graduated. Many students also seem more confident after a couple of years at LUJ. extra question, if you don't mind. Many of us know you love cats. Who is your troublemaker at home and why do cats (and not, say, dogs) give you so much contentment?

I can talk about cats for hours. You might want to give me another page. 

I have two cats at home: Nyaako and Shimao. Nyaako is a female cat whom I met almost 10 years ago in the park and took her home 7 years ago. She was diagnosed with diabetes last year, so I need to give her an insulin shot every morning and evening. She is very expressive and me.

Shimao is also a rescued and I took him home about 4 years ago. He is very quiet and loves Nyaako unconditionally. He also loves food. He is overweight for his size. When he was living outdoors, he was so slim and always hungry, but now he is a picky eater...

Both of them give me love and peace of mind. I love all animals, and, actually, we did have a dog named Ponta (LUJ Professor Luis Poza has a Shiba whose name is also Ponta) when I was young. She was also found by my sister in the park alone and we took her home. But there is something special about cats that made me crazy about them.


If you're an aspiring student and would love to know more about student life at LUJ, contact Yuko at Yuko is fluent in both in English and Japanese, so feel free to contact her in either language. 

Also, to stay up to date on LUJ life, follow us on Instagram.