Chris’s Story: It Began with Big Bird

November 13, 2015 

Big Bird in Japan

Chris (University of California–Santa Barbara, electrical engineering) studied at Tohoku University 2006-2007

It began with Big Bird.  I can trace my deep interest to Japan beginning with a simple child’s movie, Big Bird Goes to Japan.  I continued my interest through high school, where I began to study the language, and into college where I became more intrigued by Japan’s mix of traditional values with a modern society.  My junior year in college, I was fortunate enough to study abroad at Tohoku University in Sendai for a full year.

I started my study abroad in Tokyo, where I participated in a 6 week intensive language course before I continued my engineering studies in Sendai.   I got to meet people from not just Japan but all over the world during that time and learn about many different cultures.  While I was coming back home one night, I decided to stop by an Oden stall on the side of the road.  While I was eating Oden, I got to meet an entrepreneur there who owned a Karaoke bar.  We quickly became friends and I worked out a special deal for the other students to have a special Gaijin party at the bar.  I had 40 people sign up for the special deal and it was a huge success.  This was the first time I realized that I had a talent for striking deals and getting people organized around an event.  Since everyone was trying to save money while having a good time, I quickly became the go-to person for organizing events and getting people together around an event.  I was just having fun and had no idea I was negotiating, cutting deals, and leading people around a cause at the time but these skills, along with a boost in confidence, helped lead me to start TrackR right out of school.

When I signed up to study abroad, I expected to learn more Japanese, learn more about the culture, and continue my engineering studies.  I didn’t expect that the most valuable things from studying abroad wouldn’t be any of these but the lifelong friendships that I have with people from every continent, a deeper understanding of who I am, and realizing what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.   It all started with Big Bird and having the opportunity to learn.