Dual-degree international student achieves goals


By Rebekah Frank


Senior Atsuka Wakasugi (far right) felt at home in Cheney during her two years at Eastern. Photo courtesy of Atsuka Wakasugi
Senior Atsuka Wakasugi (far right) felt at home in Cheney during her two years at Eastern. Photo courtesy of Atsuka Wakasugi

Finishing one degree at the International University of Japan and one at Eastern, EWU senior Atsuka Wakasugi is excited to be graduating in fall 2014 with a dual degree.

She is attending EWU for a degree in communications, but is also enrolled at the International University of Japan for a degree in English literature and culture.

She is considering going to graduate school and then going to teach at the University in Japan. She says if she did teach, she would encourage her students to try the international student program because it was during her time in school that Wakasugi decided to come to the U.S. for school.

“My teacher pushed me. I was thinking to do just exchange program. At first I wanted to do study abroad for a long time, so I thought it’s good chance but I didn’t want to be away from home for a long time, but my teachers pushed me to do it,” Wakasugi said.

Wakasugi said she got tired of school life in Japan and was part of the reason she moved to the U.S. because it would be a good change for her. Although she was still scared to leave home, especially to another country, she feels like she has made the right decision. She also said it was a little easier to adjust because she knew some English.

“When I was in Japan, I was taking classes in English. I’ve already done two years in Japan and this is my second year at Eastern,” Wakasugi said.

Growing up in the countryside of Japan with her sister and parents, Wakasugi said they were a very close family. Although her parents do not speak English, they enjoyed traveling with Wakasugi and her sister to places such as Guam, the U.S., Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Italy and France. Wakasugi has also traveled other places by herself.

“They have taken me and my sister many places when we were small. That was big impact for me and my sister and maybe that’s why I am here. I liked living in countryside, and maybe because of that experience it wasn’t hard to get used to living in Cheney,” Wakasugi said.

The Cheney area felt natural to her after growing up in the countryside. Wakasugi said she likes the summer in Cheney better than in Japan because it is not as humid. However, not all of her transitions were so easy.

“It is sometimes hard but not that hard, I miss my family. … We often talk on Skype, my family is really close together so at first it was really hard to stay away for me. But thanks to technology, I am good,” Wakasugi said.

Wakasugi’s host father Kevin Gnos-Kuban believes that she is capable of doing anything she sets her mind to and does so with grace and elegance.

“We’ve never seen this girl stumble over any obstacle she is faced with. She has been the liaison, alpha female, yet humble and gracious person to all people and situations,” said Gnos-Kuban.

Wakasugi said she also likes the classes at EWU. The school system is different in Japan, because, for the most part, the classes are all lecture-based.

“Most of the classes in Japan are lecture, so only teachers speak and students just listen to them, but here we sometimes have time to discussion or get involved.

So it’s different and I think it’s good. But at first it was difficult for me ‘cause I am not used to it so I was too shy to talk in front of people,” Wakasugi said.

She said it was difficult to make new friends every quarter when she changes classrooms and classes. In Japan the classes are in home rooms, so most of the students stay in the same room all year and do not switch around very much.

However Wakasugi takes it as a challenge to grow as a person, meet new people and try new things.

“She takes that very personally and challenges herself to grow and continues to grow in her study of our culture and her comprehension thereof. We are very proud to know her and look forward to great things from her. Our daughter Atsuka is also a very beautiful young woman,” said Gnos-Kuban.