Innovative Partnership Sends Students for Life-Changing Summer in Japan

Rosen College Students Live, Work and Play in Japan's Hospitality Industry

Innovative Partnership Sends Students for Life-Changing Summer in Japan

Photo courtesy of Rafael Ortega

Four Rosen College students traveled to Japan this summer for an internship that took them across the world to Kafuu Resort Fuchaku Condo – Hotel Okinawa. From May to August, students rotated through positions in various departments, including guest relations, food and beverage, and sales and marketing, for an immersive view of hospitality management in a different country. As part of the program, they received housing and meals, in addition to training and an hourly wage.

“We designed this experience to align with UCF’s focus on internationalization while providing experiential learning opportunities in a unique cultural and business setting,” said J.T. Ghim, experiential learning coordinator for UCF’s Rosen College. “Rosen College students are studying to be leaders of a diverse and global industry, so having multicultural experiences is critical in preparing them for successful careers.”

The partnership between UCF’s Rosen College and Kato Pleasure Group (KPG), which owns and manages the Kafuu Resort Fuchaku Condo – Hotel, is the first international agreement of its kind between the university and an employer for experiential learning purposes. It’s also UCF’s first such program for hospitality management students. The opportunity sprung from an existing relationship between Dr. Tadayuki Hara, Associate Dean of Rosen College, and Mr. Masao Tanaka, general manager of the Kafuu Resort Fuchaku Condo – Hotel.

Many others played vital roles in facilitating this unique student experience, including Mr. Carl Bastian of the Kafuu Resort Fuchaku Condo – Hotel, UCF’s Office of Experiential Learning, UCF’s Office of International Studies, the Consulate-General of Japan in Miami, the Immigration Bureau of Japan at the Ministry of Justice and Mr. Taka Hirose in the Office of Mr. Kozo Yamamoto, a member of the House of Representatives and Chair of the Tourism Committee of the Liberal Democratic Party, the ruling party in Japan.

About two dozen students applied for the opportunity, but only four were selected. For senior hospitality management major Rafael Ortega, the chance to go to Japan meant much more than a trip abroad.

“First, I was looking for something that would really stand out on my resume to set me apart from other students; an internship in Asia where I would be able to work in several departments was exactly that,” said Ortega. “Second, the chance to go to Japan to live and work would [be] a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I knew I would not forget.”

Once the students arrived in Japan, they discovered that work wouldn’t be their only learning experience. Adjusting to a new country and culture would challenge them to look at the world differently.

“I learned a huge lesson in humility,” said recent business management graduate Rebecca Shaver, who also minored in hospitality management. “I was very limited in what I was able to do at work because of the language barrier and outside of work, I needed help with everything from getting a ride to the grocery store to reading the labels on every item there. Thus, I had to learn to be ok with messing up, asking for help and trying my best at each task no matter how small.”

Breaking out of their comfort zone and thriving in another part of the world was not only professionally satisfying; students also had time to socialize and connect with their peers, whose diverse backgrounds made the experience even more meaningful.

“My favorite moment from my summer internship in Japan is every time all of us, the American interns, and our co-workers, whether Japanese, Chinese, Australian or French, would go out together,” said Ortega. “In those moments, I saw the simplicity of all of us being just a group of human beings having fun and I totally forgot about language barriers, nationalities and physical traits.”

Due to the success of this year’s internship program, it will be offered again in 2015. For more information about this and other experiential learning opportunities at Rosen College, please contact Mr. J.T. Ghim at Ji.Ghim@ucf.edu or visit http://hospitality.ucf.edu/experiential-learning.

Click here to view more photos from the students’ summer internship in Japan.