留学生インタビュー

My Education in Japan

I was born in Ecuador and later studied in the United States. In the States, it was an American orientated world but I wanted to learn about another culture. It was because of that yearning and also after consulting with my father, who was born and bred in Japan that I finally decided to study in Japan. According to him, it will be a great idea as I will be able to gain another cultural perspective and at the same time experience what was like for him when he lived there. Therefore, during my sophomore year in college, I started taking Japanese lessons.

I have studied in Japan twice. The first was as an exchange student during my junior year in Cornell University. In Japan, under the Associated Kyoto Program, I did a junior year at Doshisha University. When I arrived in Kyoto and with the Japanese lessons that I have learned, I found out that I could ask "Where is the station?" in Japanese but I did not understand any of the replies. I had a wonderful year in Kyoto and by the end of that year, my language skills was actually quite good. At the end of the program, I went back and continued to take Japanese lessons during my senior year in college and later on returned to Ecuador.

In Ecuador, the feeling of frustration crept into me. I knew that my Japanese was good but certainly not good enough. I felt like I did not accomplish anything, because I have not mastered my Japanese language completely. Unable to control that feeling of helplessness, I went to the Japanese Embassy and managed to obtain information on the Mombusho scholarship. I applied for it and was accepted. I thought to myself that going to Japan this time was going to be more business oriented compared to my previous culture oriented stay. I decided to look for a university in Tokyo and I found Keio University, which is very famous for its business training and focuses. I was later accepted as a research student in the School of Commerce. During that one and a half year in Keio University, I continued studying Japanese and at the same time became very familiar with the life in Tokyo. The program was a six months language study and then one year of language and going for courses. After that program, I could have applied to go into more formal programs to obtain a title but I decided that was better to do my master's degree in the United States. I found Wharton School of Pennsylvania University, which had a joint degree program and in two years, I obtained a MBA and a MA. While studying in the business school program, I continued studying about Japan and the language. After graduating, I really have not much encounter with Japan until my current position.

Now as a Minister of Ecuador, I find with great enthusiasm that I have the opportunity to use my Japanese language and also to deepen my liking towards Japan and its people. I finally found my worth which is to help create a linkage or be a bridge between my country and Japan. This year, we are starting to write a new chapter in our relationship with Japan. It all started in March when the President of Ecuador visited Japan and then when Japan participated in the World Cup. After the visit of our President Noboa to Japan, I was invited back by the Japanese government and I find that we are continuing to enhance dialogues and opportunities for trade between our countries.

Everyone I know that have studied in Japan have very strong positive feelings towards their experiences. I think that this is partly because we are from the West and it is a great challenge to be able to adapt to a different culture, whereby the language and the alphabets are totally different. At the same time, we have the opportunity to interact and see the Japanese society from an intimate point of view. This is because as a foreigner, I always received extreme kindness from many friends that I have made in Japan.

Perhaps the greatest lesson that I have learned was that once you learn to understand and accept differences, you will start to value them. When you value differences, you learn to appreciate that we are all human and we share the same fate. In fact, we have more common values compared to differences. I feel that it is my goal to take this experience that I was so fortunate to have and facilitate that more people from Ecuador can learn about it. At the same time, to teach the Japanese people more about my people, culture and country.

Uploaded on 22nd November 2002