Japanese Exchange Student Finds a Welcoming Home Away From Home at Westminster College

In August 2022, junior Yusaku Murata arrived at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, from Hirakata, Japan, to spend one year improving his spoken English in an intimate setting.

Today, Murata’s career focus is as clear and precise as his English because of time spent on Westminster’s small campus.

The International Studies major says he has decided he would like to teach English to Japanese students after graduating from college. And he would like to return to the United States as a result of his experience at the College.

Murata will first complete his senior year where he attended college prior to arriving at Westminster as an exchange student, at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata, which shares a cooperative agreement with Westminster College.

Kansai Gaidai’s strong study abroad focus leads approximately 1,500 of its 15,000 students to colleges like Westminster each year.

Similarly, students from Westminster are offered the opportunity to study at the bustling, urban university through the College’s Office of Global Educational Services.

Jessey Reed, Program Coordinator and Instructor in Global Educational Services, serves as the international students’ point person while managing all details of overseas life for Westminster students who choose to study abroad.

Reed began his position at Westminster during a difficult time, in 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic began to reach its peak and all international travel came to a halt.

Now that COVID-related travel restrictions throughout the world have finally lifted, Reed’s enthusiasm for global travel and his students is stronger than ever.

“It has been extremely satisfying watching Yusaku acclimate to the American way of life and become more outgoing and talkative,” Reed says. “His English is really incredible now.”

As Murata packs for his upcoming flight home, where he will spend three more years studying before becoming certified to teach, Murata pauses to bid farewell to Reed and many others on campus.

Murata says getting to know so many individuals personally ― made possible by Westminster’s small size and individualized focus ― was the best part of his study abroad experience.

Smiling broadly, he says his experience was so positive, he would like to return to the United States someday. Murata adds that he made more than 50 friends at Westminster and cherishes the time spent with his professors, particularly Drs. Mark Bolton, Joshua Holzer, Heather and James McRae, Sonia Manzoor, and Kali Wright-Smith.

“They were all really, really kind,” Murata says. “I went to their office hours a lot and really enjoyed talking one on one with them about all sorts of things, including current events … everything.”

For more information on international travel through Westminster College’s Office of Global Educational Services, please contact Jessey Reed at Jessey.Reed@WCMO.edu or 573-592-5565.

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Sarah Rummel Backer

Sarah Rummel Backer is the Director of Media Relations and Senior Writer at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. A proud Westminster graduate, Sarah has more than 20 years of experience in marketing and strategic communications in the areas of higher education, medicine, agriculture, and the private business sector.