Yutaka Matsuda is from Osaka, Japan and was a student at the American Language Institute at San Diego State University before he got accepted to graduate school on SDSU’s main campus.
When asked why he chose the American Language Institute he said, “The weather, of course. I chose ALI because I wanted somewhere that I could also practice my Spanish. This is the right place to learn English and also to communicate with Spanish speakers. That’s why I came to San Diego and chose the American Language Institute.”
Yutaka took English for Academic Purposes (EAP) because he needed to prepare to go to graduate school. Yutaka explains, “I needed to focus on writing, and reading, and speaking. I took the TOEFL exam and my TOEFL score was not that good, so I needed to prepare and ALI had classes that I could prepare for the exam. Also I prepped for the GRE, since that is a requisite for graduate school.”
Yutaka was a Latin American studies major prior to graduate school. Yutaka revealed, “I love the atmosphere. There are many spaces to study and the library is great. I did research, I had to write long essays at the end so the library came in handy.”
Yutaka’s favorite part about studying at the American Language Institute was the ESL classes. He elaborates on this stating, “I had great teachers that gave me advice to prepare for graduate school. I really didn’t know how to prepare – I couldn’t speak English when I came here. My Spanish is much better than English and after my English study I got into graduate school. And, I made many international friends.”
While living with a host family for seven years, it was difficult for Yutaka to communicate with them because he couldn’t speak English. Yutaka explains, “My host mother says to this day to other international students, ‘Yutaka couldn’t speak English, so you can do it. You can speak English like him. Wait a couple of months or a couple more years.’ He goes on to say that he had a great connection with his host family and they taught him how to live, shop, and other basic daily things in San Diego.
Today, Yutaka has a job with a Japanese mushroom company located in San Marcos. They hired him as a translator and interpreter in Japanese, English, and Spanish. “I run a department, so I have 25 employees and I work between our manager who came from Japan and 25 employees who speak Spanish or English,” Yutaka explains. Yutaka decided to stay in San Diego because he loves the weather, has been here for ten years so he has many friends in the area, and has a great job.
Yutaka goes on to talk about how ALI helped him with the job he has now. He states, “The ALI helped me with my English of course, and applying for graduate school at San Diego State University. Yutaka wanted to explore English-speaking people and then also Spanish-speaking people and the Latin American Studies at SDSU allowed him to do that. He explains, “Latin American Studies has a great connection with Mexico. I have had so many opportunities to communicate with Mexican people here in San Diego. Also, the Latin American Studies program required its students to take or speak Spanish or Portuguese. I could speak Spanish, but I was interested in Portuguese too. Then I started to focus on my essay, to graduate from San Diego State University, and my topic was Japanese migrants in South America, especially Brazil.”
At the beginning, Yutaka didn’t plan to stay here for ten years. He states, “I just wanted to take classes and then wanted to have a master’s degree in the U.S. I planned to study only then planned to return to Japan after graduate school. My parents want me back home, but I have a great opportunity to work in San Diego.” Yutaka’s graduation was the first time his parents came to San Diego. Yutaka reveals, “My dad had never left Japan and it was a huge experience for him. It was his first experience on a plane for many hours. He was unable to fall asleep in his economy seat for his 10-hour plane ride, so he slept on the floor. The flight attendants were not too happy.” When Yutaka’s parents came to San Diego they were amazed at the campus. Yutaka explains, “Japan is four islands and also so many people, so there’s no land. At the end of the graduation ceremony, I made a speech. Before I started, I cried – it was an emotional moment for me because my parents were here.”
Some valuable advice Yutaka had to offer was, “It’s ok that you are an international student that can’t speak English at the beginning because the ALI teachers and staff help students to improve their English. I made it. Focus on what you need to do – speaking, reading, listening, and writing – these elements are very important to study and to explore more.”