Taka Minowa, MBA ’12, talks about life in Austin, McCombs, and how his daughter Saori is adapting to a new culture. This is the second and last part of a two-part story. Special thanks to Anwesha Chatterjee for reaching out to the Minowa family.
Pre McCombs career and decision to join McCombs
I worked for Mizuho Financial Group, one of the largest Japanese banking groups, for 13 years. In the last seven years, I was working in an investment banking arm of Mizuho Group as a merger and acquisition advisor. At that time, I had much experience as a project manager but didn’t have management experience. Therefore, I wanted to learn general management to be senior management in Mizuho. In addition, I had been involved mainly in domestic deals and so had little international experience. I also wanted to experience different culture overseas and broaden my horizons for my goal. Luckily, I got opportunity of learning MBA outside Japan with financial support by Mizuho.
Though I applied for several MBA schools in U.S., I finally decided to enroll at UT because (1) the size of McCombs is relatively small, which allows me to build close relationships with classmates and know everyone. Network is one of the most precious assets I can obtain through MBA. (2) McCombs focus more on practical problems rather than theories, and so has a lot of field-study type program, like MBA+ Projects and practicum. I wanted to learn through practice with teammates. (3) Austin is a very safe place and has great nature, which are very fit for my family with two young kids. Austin gives us great experience and opportunity to enjoy nature that has a good impact on their growth and that would be difficult to experience in Japan.
As we were totally new to living outside Japan, we had to learn almost everything about how to live a daily life because U.S. system is different from Japan in many ways. However, Japanese MBA student network is helpful when we start setting up our life. Especially second year MBA students help us a lot. In addition, as there are nine first year MBA students from Japan that year, we can help each other and share useful information about daily life.
My wife has made friends leveraging several connections. First, as there are many Japanese MBA students that have family. So, she first made friends with other MBA students’ wives, and then her network started expanding through these connections. In addition, we sometimes have home party with Japanese foods and invite many people, including MBA classmates, and so my wife has many opportunities to know MBA students.
She also goes to ESL program provided by Lutheran Church because it provides daycare service for our son during ESL, which is very useful because daycare service is generally pretty expensive. She made a lot of friend from different countries through this program.
On top of that, Austin has several Japanese communities. Through ESL and other friends, she made a lot of friends in other Japanese communities, resulting in her broad range of network mainly due to her personality and good communication skills.
On challenges in bringing up kids in a foreign country
My daughter, Saori, is now in the 1st grade and goes to a public school near our home. But when we arrived here, she had little experience of speaking English and therefore difficulty communicating with classmates in English. The challenge was that Saori had to deal with new environment for herself during school because this is not international school. We were worried about if she could be adapted to English environment and make a friend because she is very shy. Actually, during few weeks after school started, she looked very nervous. In order to help Saori make a friend, my wife has made a lot of effort to give her opportunities to have play date with classmates and more time to share with them. For example, she invites some Saori’s friends to our home and makes cookies together, and she takes Saori to a park to play with classmates. As a result, Saori made best friends, and then she started to change quickly and got more positive.
The other challenge is we don’t know much about U.S. culture and common events partly due to limited information. But, as we live here in U.S., we want our kids to experience a lot of different culture here, from Halloween to Thanksgiving and to Christmas to Easter. Actually, we together have learned a lot of things with kids joining events by getting information from my wife’s network.
Future plans – going back to Japan
As I am sponsored by Mizuho, we will probably go back to Japan. Then, my daughter will experience a little bit of culture shock again. The attitude of students and class style in Japan are quite different from that in U.S. In Japan, students are told to focus more on listening to teachers rather than asking questions and speaking up. And, “outstanding” or “differentiate” is not so appreciated, rather “patient” and “fit in situation” are more valuable. She might be embarrassed during school. The other challenge is that it is quite difficult for her to keep English ability. In fact, younger kids, including my daughter, are quick to learn a language if they live in a place where it is spoken. However, they are also quick to forget it when they move to other place. We will put her in a situation where she communicate with people speaking English to keep her ability, like joining clubs with foreign children that come to Japan from abroad. In addition, for her, leaving best friends here is really tough. But what she experienced here will definitely be priceless. We want our kids to have a broad horizon, succeed in the global field, and meet their old friends somewhere in the world again.
The McCombs MBA Program
I like the MBA program at UT Austin because everybody is friendly and easygoing but enthusiastic about events, like football, and projects as well as studies, and the MBA program offers many group work opportunities and is designed to induce great team work. Through teamwork, I have learned a lot from classmates about different perspective and insight. In addition, our faculty likes teaching to students and is very helpful. I think McCombs is one of the best places to learn business and more.
One year ago, MBA program allowed me to take my daughter to international orientation. In fact, she was only child who joined in MBA program orientation in summer 2010, though she remembered just Amy’s Ice Cream. I was very happy because my daughter was given opportunity to know something about MBA. I dare to say that it is better that the MBA program hosts more events that family can participate and children can also enjoy. It is important for children to know and get interested in university.