By Frances Clause
When Rumi Minato received a list of universities to study abroad at from her college in Japan, she chose Youngstown State University.
At Meiji University, Minato studied foreign and Japanese cultures, and her many years of learning English fueled her decision to continue her studies in the U.S. She began her first semester at YSU in August 2019 and is in her last semester as a Japanese international student.
“I found that YSU had a religious studies major, so I thought if I came here, I could take some classes related to religions,” she said. “Mainly, I am interested in the culture here, so I took sociology classes, religious studies classes, and history classes and stuff like that.”
But Minato’s interest in other cultures stems from her love of traveling. So far, she has visited 14 countries, including the U.S., Australia, Canada, India, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, Cuba and Morocco.
Her first experience traveling brought her to Hawaii with her family.
“At that time, I realized the differences in cultures. I came to be interested in those people and the cultures of other countries,” she said, describing Hawaii as her turning point in life.
With her goal set to become a world traveler, Minato began a part-time job in Japan to earn money to support her endeavors. Since then, she has planned trips with family, friends or to explore countries solo.
“I always find something interesting when I go to different countries, which motivates me to learn more about it,” she said. “What I do is compare the differences of those cultures.”
Although she endured some culture shock during her travels, Minato said she always tries to experience local life in each country. One of her favorite experiences was in Cuba, where she stayed in an Airbnb rental.
“It was the week before Christmas, so I asked the Airbnb owner if there were churches I could go to with my friend to experience a service,” she said. “We went to one near the Airbnb, and it was amazing. We met a family there who even invited us to dinner at their house.”
McCain Adams, a junior forensic psychology major, said he enjoys listening to Minato’s stories about her experiences in different countries.
“My absolute favorite [story] to hear is how in Cuba and Mexico, everyone always turns around to wave at her when they see her taking a picture,” he said. “She captures their culture one smile at a time.”
Adams befriended Minato at an International Student Organization meeting and believes her culture and travels are important to share with domestic students at YSU.
“An ocean away is a land we cannot see. By her sharing her culture with us, we are able to paint a picture of the world and open our minds to diversity,” he said. “It’s like building a bridge across the ocean, structured by details and stories to share.”
Although Minato enjoys sharing her stories, she offered advice to YSU students who want to begin their own.
“The first thing you need to do [to travel] is book a flight early because it’s cheaper that way,” she said.
Minato recommends using Skyscanner, an online travel company, to find the best prices. She also recommends staying in hostels to talk to other travelers and share information about places to visit in a country.
“When you go to other countries, you see just how unique you really are,” she said.