Navigating the world in search of meaning and understanding of cultures beyond her native Tokyo, Hiromi Narita traveled across the globe to unexpected places – a journey she said has been pivotal in becoming the best version of herself.
Not only has the decision to travel abroad presented opportunities to study new languages, meet new people and discover beauty in unfamiliar places, it has been the impetus in shaping her current career in international education – initially fostered in a desire she held during her formative years to one day live among cultures other than her own, she said.
“[International Education] offers the opportunity to expand oneself academically and professionally. It really gives you the tools to navigate this globalizing society … [I]t allows you to talk to people of different backgrounds and really get to flourish as a person,” Narita said.
Now as Kirkwood’s new Study Abroad Advisor, Narita said one of her goals is to make study abroad more accessible to students regardless of their backgrounds.
In doing so, she plans to continue developing the already highly ranked study abroad program which stands as one of the top 10 among community colleges, while strategically continuing to add additional international experiences, both in person and virtually.
Narita also collaborates directly with administrators and students at the Iowa City campus through classroom visits, which introduces first-year students to international education in a course called College 101, while also preparing information tables for the annual study abroad fair.
“Everyone has infinite potential, and education is the tool,” Narita said. “Where you are born does not have to determine your future.”
As part of the college’s vision for promoting engaging in global learning, the hope is that Kirkwood students, faculty and staff will participate in some form of global leaning as part of their Kirkwood experience.
Dean of Global Learning Dawn Wood said, “Making study abroad inclusive for all students has always been our goal at Global Learning. Our study abroad motto has always been ‘You Can study abroad.’ Access and equity are very important.”
Bringing a wealth of knowledge and extensive background in global learning prior to arriving at Kirkwood, Narita served as an exchange program advisor for both incoming and outgoing students at the University of Guanajuato in Mexico, where she monitored and supported various stages of study abroad programs.
These programs included the interview process and visa preparation, managing academic credit transfers and providing post program reviews of students’ international experiences.
Moreover, she spent several months studying abroad in Costa Rica honing her Spanish language skills as part of her matriculation at Soka University of America in Orange County, Calif. Narita said this experience, along with coming to the U.S., represents her early exposure to international education. From there, she obtained both her undergraduate degree in International Studies, as well as a masters in Educational Leadership and Societal Change.
Wood said, “Hiromi has lived abroad in various countries, speaks multiple languages and understands the benefits of study abroad.”
Wood added that Narita’s passion for global learning and making opportunities available for everyone is what makes her the best fit for the position, after replacing former study abroad advisor Ken Nesbitt who served the college 11 years and was instrumental in “sharing key information about the Kirkwood Study Abroad Program that Narita now leads.”
Wood said, “And now Hiromi is taking the reins.”