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Villanueva isn’t lost in translation

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Juan Villanueva

Juan Villanueva

This fall, Juan Villanueva is going back to Japan.

Thanks to PCC’s Exchange program, the 25-year-old will study Japanese, writing, reading, art, Ikebana and kanji classes at Nagasaki Wesleyan University. It will be a return voyage for Villanueva. From 1999-2003 he served in the U.S. Navy and was stationed at the coastal city of Yokosuka, Japan.

"I have always had an interest in living in Japan," said Villanueva, a native of Woodburn, Oregon. "I was working in community relations during my time with the Navy. I worked with orphanages and coached soccer at the U.S. base that played against Japan youth teams. Traveling in Japan was a great experience. I soaked up everything in Japan."

His study abroad opportunity materialized when he returned to Oregon after his stint in the Navy. He enrolled at PCC in the fall of 2004 thinking he wanted to be a pharmacist, but a ROOTS Sylvania career development class changed his mind. It showed him the wide range of possibilities for his education, including capitalizing on his interest and experience in Japan. It also showed him how to set his course schedule and made sure he stayed on target to get the classes he needed for his major. ROOTS also helped Villanueva with his essays and job interviews.

The Sylvania Roots program, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, helps first-generation students with critical student support services. Services include developing tailored academic plans; intensive advising and monitoring; financial aid assistance; student success courses; peer mentoring; visiting four-year colleges and universities; and organizing cultural enrichment activities.

"It makes a big difference for students to have the ROOTS program support," said Villanueva. "They are a tremendous help and are critical to student success. They helped me reach my dream. Plus, I totally loved PCC. The classes are small so you can get one-on-one interaction with the teacher. The staff is very friendly and the tutors are helpful."

Once he knew that he wanted to study Japanese culture, Villanueva stumbled upon flyers about study abroad opportunities, especially one where students can study in Japan thanks to a partnership between the college and the university in Nagasaki. On top of the partnership, Villanueva was awarded a $4,000 scholarship from the University of Colorado to study abroad. He was one of 60 students nationwide that were selected from 400 applicants.

Once he returns he plans to transfer to Portland State University to major in Japanese and eventually earn a master’s degree in international management with a focus on Asian countries. Preferably, he says he’d like to work in upper management for a company in Japan or on the West Coast where he can still be connected to Japan.

"Once you get there it is an eye opening experience," Villanueva said of his time in Japan. "I had never lived abroad before for a long stretch of time. I remembered how friendly the people were. I didn’t really know Japanese and I was able to get around. The friendly people made it easy and they wanted to help me."

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »