Alumni Spotlight: Ryan Hata (Tottori, 2014-2017)

Please introduce yourself and where you’re from!

Hi everyone! My name is Ryan Hata. I was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. I’ve also lived in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Tottori. I currently live and work in New York City. Additionally, I loved my time on JET, so I volunteer as an alumni when I can. I currently help Steven Horowitz manage JETwit, am the JET Alumni Association New York Membership and Career Development Chair, and am also on the Board of Advisors for JETAA International.

Where and what did you study?

I received my BA in Communications from Loyola Marymount University (LMU) where I was involved in Asian Pacific Student Services (APSS) Isang Bansa (the premier Filipino Organization), Nā Kōlea (Hawaiʻi Club), and Magis (service organization). 

In 2014, I graduated from San Francisco State University (SFSU) with an MA in Asian American Studies. During my time at SFSU, I was the editor of the Yellow Journal, which showcases works from Asian American Studies and Ethnic Studies.

After three years on JET, I went back for more schooling and just obtained my MA in Higher and Postsecondary Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. During my two years at Teachers College, I served on the student senate as the Alumni Senator and the Communications Officer.

Where were you placed on JET and for how long?

I was in Tottori-shi, Tottori-ken from 2014-2017. I was actually quite shocked when I received the placement and had to look it up. We are famous for the Sand Dunes, 20th Century pear, crab, Detective Conan, Mt. Daisen, and GeGeGe no Kitarō. 

What is your current career?

I am currently the Events Program Manager for the Chazen Institute, which focuses on global activity with Columbia’s Business School. I am specifically in charge of the Visiting Scholars Program along with the China Business Initiative and the India Business Initiative.

What were some memorable experiences you had on JET and/or how did the JET experience as a whole shape you to who you are today?

I’ve made many life-long friends with JETs from Tottori. Fortunately or unfortunately, I lived in a building with 19 other ALTs. While living in Copo Hestia, I was able to learn about cultures and different parts of the United States. The bad news is that my Japanese didn’t improve as much as it could have if I lived in my school’s location of Aoya. Since leaving JET, I was able to visit my friends from the program in many parts of the world including: England, Scotland, Ireland, Singapore and Canada. However, I’m looking forward to visiting New Zealand, Germany, and Australia in the near future.

Living and working in Japan also allowed me to meet local people in Tottori, but also show my family and friends around Japan when they came to visit. Of course, I continually promote Japan and more specifically Tottori as I view it as my second hometown.  

Additionally, I left from Honolulu and the people who I left with kept in touch for the three years I lived in Tottori. Our first year, we met up for Yuki Matsuri and decided to each bring omiyage (kit kat was preferable if it was unique to your prefecture) to share with the rest of the group. The next year we met up for a trip to Taiwan and Hong Kong. My last year, we met up at Tokyo Disneyland and hiked Mt. Fuji.  

Ultimately, my time on JET made me realize how much I love traveling, learning about new cultures, and working with individuals from around the world. That inspired me to move to New York City to pick up my second masters along with working for an employer that would allow me to work with international scholars and students. Despite moving and living in New York, I still practice many Japanese customs I’ve picked up in Japan like making sure peoples’ glasses are filled with their beverage, always bowing, saying sumimasen, and just the constant ehhhhhh when I’m shocked or surprised.

How did JET help you in achieving your current career pathway or any professional endeavors? 

JET definitely inspired me to choose a career where I can work with international individuals. I was also able to get my current job thanks to a JET alumna. Additionally, working with National AJET as the inaugural Director of Alumni Resources and then as the Director of Alumni Relations, helped connect me with a bunch of JET alumni even before I left JET. It also inspired me to continue to help JET alumni through posting job opportunities, resources, and host events relating to career panels and networking events. 

Do you have any advice for JETs who might be looking into a similar pathway after their time on the program?

My advice is to connect with as many JET alumni even while you’re still on the program. They are the best people that have done what you’re seeking to do. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/ryanhata/) and setup a time to chat. Also, I would suggest joining your local JET Alumni Association (https://www.jetaainternational.org/chapters) and getting involved in your community. You never really know what type of jobs or opportunities are out there unless you are well connected and hear about them.