Rosa Aldridge ’13 read every book about Japan in her local library as a youngster. She also convinced her high school world history teacher to teach a segment on Japan after learning that it wasn’t part of the curriculum. Are we starting to see a pattern here?
Eventually her interest in Japan would cross paths with her heart for helping, a combination that would point her toward a career. During high school, her family began hosting Japanese students in their home as part of LABO International Exchange. When they learned of an extremely homesick Japanese exchange student living with another host family, they tried to help, but the student was inconsolable.
From this experience, Aldridge decided that she wanted to study Japanese language so she could help those studying abroad to have positive experiences.
Now in her fifth year in Japan, Aldridge works at Tokyo International University’s Career Center, where she is the only English-speaking adviser.
“I work with students from all over the world, and I try to impart a little bit of Earlham wisdom when I can and help to mold them into the leaders I know they can become,” she says. “I hope they look back at their experience here at TIU the same way I do when I think of Earlham.
“One of the biggest things I took away from Earlham and try to impart on students here is that everyone has a voice and that voice should be heard. Earlham has a large international student body and because of this I was exposed to so many different people, ideas and ways of thinking. I want my students to have the same experience, so I try to help foster cultural understanding between students by teaching that everyone has a different perspective, different values and the way people act or react will be based upon those things.”
Aldridge designed business sessions that explain the types of negotiations used around the world including reference to culture and exercises on how to be more understanding of other people’s ideas and ways of thinking.
“My experience at Earlham College is one that I will never forget,” she says. “I truly feel that I was given the best opportunity to not only study the Japanese language in a class setting, but I was also able to learn about social constructs, cultures and different ways of thinking from first-hand experiences through Earlham’s many study abroad programs and opportunities found on campus. I immersed myself in Earlham through working in the Japan study office for four years, living in Japan house, helping on the international welcoming committee, serving as a TA, joining Dance Alloy, leading Harumatsuri the Japanese Spring Festival and much more.
Perhaps the biggest impact, however, was participating in Earlham’s Studies in Cross Cultural Education program in Iwate, Japan, in 2011 after the Tohoku Earthquake. She developed and maintains close relationships with her host family.
In 2012, she received the title of Ohio Cherry Blossom Princess, which allowed her to compete and participate in the National Cherry Blossom Festival in D.C., a two-week-long event that began in 1912 that honors the friendship between the U.S. and Japan.
Aldridge says she misses the student-lead clubs like Dance Alloy and Japanese Culture Club and the communities they create.
“While I miss those things, I’m extremely lucky because so many of my best friends from Earlham are here in Japan with me,” she says. “We meet up once or more every month when we can. So even though Earlham is on the other side of the world, I feel like Earlham is here too.
“I think even if you’re not on campus, once you become an Earlhamite, you embody what Earlham is, and wherever you go, Earlham will always be there because it is a part of who you are.”