Graduate Learns More About Ancestral Home While Earning Japanese Degree

Growing up in the United States, Rika Wakai enjoyed learning about Japan, her ancestral home and the country from which her parents migrated to the United States before she was born. This made her want to learn more about the country and its culture, so much so that she decided to major in Japanese and pursue it as a career.

This month, Wakai graduated from Michigan State University with a B.A. in Japanese and a Linguistics minor. She now would like to find a translating job.

“I want to be a translator as I want to help bridge the gap between the two languages and countries, to help people better understand one another,” Wakai said.

When she decided she wanted to become a translator, Wakai added a Linguistics minor to her studies in the hope of using both her major and minor in her career.

I want to be a translator as I want to help bridge the gap between the two languages and countries, to help people better understand one another.

“I benefited from majoring in Japanese and minoring in Linguistics by being able to learn more about the Japanese language and helping me to understand it better,” she said. “And, being a bilingual English/Japanese speaker helped me to keep an open mind while I was at MSU and will continue to help me in the future as well.”

Transferring to MSU from Oakland Community College during her junior year, Wakai was drawn to MSU by its Japanese program.

“It was a great choice for me to transfer, as I wanted to learn more about Japanese and I knew that MSU has a good Japanese program,” Wakai said. “I learned more about the language, and I believe MSU helped me to not be shy and to have a little more confidence in myself.”

I learned more about the language, and I believe MSU helped me to not be shy and to have a little more confidence in myself.

During her time at MSU, Wakai worked a lot in order to pay for college and was unable to join many activities. She worked in the dining hall in Landon, Heritage Commons, and Brody Hall.

“I was able to accomplish almost everything I wanted to do as a student at MSU,” Wakai said. “I do wish though that I had a little more time to visit some clubs or extracurricular activities a little more often.

“The whole experience [as an MSU student] feels like it has been short and long at the same time. Long when I was going through it, struggling through classwork and working, doing homework, and maybe taking a break in between with my friends. But when I look back, it feels really short, and I will definitely miss these days, even if I struggled through them. I think this experience of struggling will help me in the future. If work or any other hardships comes through, I'll be able to work through it and will be able to look back to those times and say I did make progress.”