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spacer spacer spacer spacer spacer spacer May 18, 2007
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A free spirit reflects on the RIT experience

by Mai Hosoe

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Mai Hosoe is a graduating travel and tourism management major from Yokohama, Japan.

I grew up in an orthodox Japanese society and within the Japanese educational system. Good students in Japan are expected to listen quietly and accept what teachers say. Therefore, I grew up without ever having the opportunity to express my own opinions or ideas.

While I was in middle school, I began to question the Japanese education system, which is a vat of knowledge that spills away at eager students around it. Little does such a system do to foster creativity in a young mind. Hence, I have always wanted to free my mind and spirit.

Upon being accepted to RIT, I was given the opportunity to interact with educators who were interested in the opinion of the individual. I found a culture where I could grow and prosper with my own ideas and dreams and to expand my horizon through the knowledge and practicality of my education. I understood the contrast between traditional Japanese culture and the rest of the world. A personal responsibility to close the gap between such cultures arose within me. It was a burgeoning aspiration to create bridges and crossroads where I could serve as the catalyst for other cultures to interact with Japan.

In my personal pursuit, I was given the opportunity of serving as a Japanese guest relationship officer at the Colombo Hilton in Sri Lanka. This was part of my co-op experience that is required for my graduation from RIT. My summer position took me to a unique destination, which posed several challenges to visitors as well as to those in the service industry. Sri Lanka is a beautiful tropical island, however a turbulent political arena and bouts of terrorism create a challenging atmosphere for hospitality professionals. As a guest relationship officer, it was my responsibility to establish relationships with the Japanese tourists and business travelers. The hotel looked to the officer to make the Japanese clientele feel at home. It was my responsibility to relate the true beauty and splendor of their destination and to create a joyous experience despite the challenges and turbulent nature of the state.

It also served as a unique experience where I was able to educate many locals in the ways of the Japanese people. I was able to do away with certain stereotypical assumptions about the Japanese. It also enabled me to share my culture with people from a different background. I grew sensitive to the methods and mechanics of bringing cultures together. In the end, I realized that this is what truly defines hospitality—bringing people closer together. It is challenging to make a stranger feel welcome, and it is even harder to establish a long-term relationship across cultures that yields positive outcomes in business.

The beauty of this experience correlates to the education I received at RIT. The wealth of knowledge, as well as the practical application of the art of hospitality, enabled me to leverage my experience in Sri Lanka to new heights. I am grateful to RIT for giving me the opportunity to grow in confidence and purpose. A traditional Japanese education would have delivered a different fate.

I value my experiences and know they will shape and form the foundation of who I will become in the future. I also know that many years from today, as I face a challenging and evolving hospitality industry, I will draw from the strength that RIT has provided me.

This column presents opinions and ideas on issues relevant to higher education. To suggest an idea for the column, e-mail news&events@mail.rit.edu.

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