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Central Washington University
Office of International Studies and Programs
Hebeler Hall 102
400 E. University Way
Ellensburg, WA 98926-7408

Katsushi Aoyama

KATSUSHI AOYAMA  青山勝士 (Cycle 2, 2013; Hitchcock Hall resident; International Relations major)




“I had absolutely no confidence in English, and at first I had nothing but anxiety,” Katsushi Aoyama says. “From departure day, through the airplane ride and even after we had arrived at CWU, I was in a negative mood and immediately wanted to go home. However, Americans started talking to me, and as I could communicate with the help of other Japanese students, it started to become fun."


Katsushi now works for the Hiroshima Carp as a baseball data analyst and actively uses English with the foreign baseball players and interpreters he sees at the stadium.  “I had met foreigners in Japan before AUAP, but I had never spoken to any of them. Now, when I see foreigners in Japan who look troubled, I start conversations with them,” he says.  He hopes current AUAP students take a similar path: “Don’t think about whether or not you can or cannot speak English, but challenge yourself to do a variety of things. Japanese people are shy and readily tend to gather with other Japanese people.  Since I was not good at English either, I was only with my Japanese friends at first. However, I gained confidence through a class activity we did one-on-one with American classroom volunteers. Please actively communicate with local Americans, go out and have fun together, and have many different experiences.  There are so many kind and friendly people at CWU, so I hope you treasure every day there.”


When asked how he improved his English skills, he said, “Continue to participate in classes. I think it is important to actively answer questions in class—answer a lot of questions, make a lot of mistakes, and gain a lot of confidence! In your private life, try to be with Americans as much as possible. I think communicating with the locals is the biggest shortcut to improving your English.”


“My favorite memory of AUAP was the dodgeball tournament,” he continues.  “I personally like baseball, but they didn’t have an Intramural Sports baseball league at that time, so I immediately gathered friends and made a team for dodgeball. Even though we had a lot of homework, we all practiced together in our free time and got a surprising second place in the tournament! I was deeply impressed that fellow AUAP students, American friends, and even teachers came to cheer us on, and with that incredible support we were able to get second place. Even now, I cannot forget that scene.”


There is another scene Katsushi can’t get out of his head, and that is from his experience during Winter Break.  “I went to New York City for New Year’s Eve with a friend, but on the day we were supposed to return to CWU there was a huge snowstorm, so we couldn’t fly. We were re-scheduled for the next day, but there ended up being only one open seat on that plane, so my friend went home and I spent one more night by myself in the airport. Since I was alone that night, I was uneasy and very scared. However, CWU teachers and friends kept in contact with me and I was able to get home the next day. I was so relieved to get back to Ellensburg. Incidentally, on the same day AUAP ended and I returned to Japan, I had to spend a night in the Narita Airport because of a snowstorm…”   


Once he got home, his friends said that he had changed. “I was told by my friends that I had become more cheerful and more talkative,” he said.  “I had become a positive thinker.”


Now, when thinking about what AUAP means to him, Katsushi says Ellensburg is his second hometown, and hopes that others can use what he learned for their job hunting and life. “I’ve said it many times, but you should positively take action, challenge yourself, and have confidence.  Everything completely changes just from doing this.”


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