By Natalie Bruckner. Photo credit: Submitted.
Studying abroad in Canada can be a daunting prospect, but for Katsuno Nagamura, a third year BCom student at Gustavson, it has been life-changing—proving that opportunities are endless…as long as you can muster up the courage to go looking for them.
Nagamura, originally from Japan, admits that as a teen she had absolutely no interest in studying abroad. “I was extremely shy and nervous as a child. The only words I knew in English were ‘yes’ and ‘my name is.’ The idea of travelling frightened me!”
So how did Nagamura end up in Victoria, speaking impeccable English and studying for her BCom? She explains that her attitude changed when her sister, who is three years her senior, returned from studying at a high school in Canada. “She had only been gone for six months and I saw such a dramatic improvement in her English. For the first time in my life, I realized how fortunate I was to be given the opportunity to study abroad; something my parents or peers were never afforded. I grasped the concept that you only live once,” says Nagamura.
Admittedly, her first few experiences abroad were far from ideal. “I attended a summer language school in Vancouver. That first year was scary. The instructor would talk to me and I had no idea what she was saying. I cried a lot.” Rather than let it beat her, Nagamura persevered.
After returning to Japan, she attended flight attendant school with the goal of becoming airline cabin crew. While she had many great years in the aviation industry, life took a different path during the pandemic. “After 11 years as cabin crew I had plans to become a pilot. I went to Australia to study for my pilot exam when COVID hit. I managed to catch the last flight out of Perth and head back to Hong Kong, where I was living.”
With cadet training on hold for the foreseeable future, Nagamura didn’t want to hang around and decided it was the perfect time to pursue further education. She enrolled in an online course with Camosun College before eventually moving to Victoria in 2021 to study business admin. “That’s when I learned that in my third year I could transfer to Gustavson, which was always a dream. My friends told me I should have a back-up plan as it was hard to get in, but that’s what I wanted. I knew if I didn’t at least try I would regret it,” explains Nagamura.
To ensure she would be considered, Nagamura took every course imaginable (and more) that would count towards her GPA, and it paid off. “I was so happy when I found out I got in! I was on the way to fulfilling my dream of working in HR.”
While she says the Leading People & Organizations course perfectly aligns with her passion for HR, Nagamura says she is really benefitting from the Operations Management and Financial Accounting courses, “as they involve paying attention to detail and problem solving, which is very important in HR,” she says.
To help with finances, Nagamura applied for, and was awarded, the BCom entrance scholarship. She also works a part-time job and is in the process of setting up a sourdough business, which will allow her to put her studies into practice.
“Time management is crucial to making everything work. For my sourdough business I will need at least 10 to 15 hours a week to prepare and bake the bread and with classes and my part-time jobs, meeting all the deadlines for team projects, assignments and quizzes, I will have to learn to juggle my time. Learning about pricing strategy in the marketing course has helped me to determine the price point and because of my learnings from managerial accounting I now understand how much I need to generate to run the business. Running a business takes time but creating something from scratch and seeing it grow is my happy place,” Nagamura says.
However, the one area of growth where Nagamura has exceled the most is with her confidence. She has learned to navigate and adapt to a new culture and improve her cross-cultural communication skills. “I have to admit, I was concerned about being treated differently, but I was surprised to find that everyone was very welcoming and supportive and that there are groups out there with mentors to help with your transition,” she says.
Studying abroad has not only provided Nagamura with a great educational experience, but she says it has also opened her eyes to new ways of thinking, while developing important life skills such as independence and adaptability.
As for future goals, Nagamura intends to eventually return to the aviation industry, only this time in the HR realm. “I look forward to being able to utilize my skills and gain experience in HR in an industry I love. Whether that is in Hong Kong, in Europe where my partner is originally from, or in Canada, I don’t know yet. If my life has taught me anything, it’s that possibilities are endless,” she says.