Rikiya's headshot is laid over a collage of pictures with a colorful gradient background overlay.

Finding Global Community at UC Davis and Beyond

Attending college for the first time can be an overwhelming experience for anyone. Attending college for the first time in a new country where you don’t speak the language adds an entirely new level of challenges. Fourth-year international student Rikiya Hatano is no stranger to this feat.

Born and raised in Japan, Hatano moved to the United States to attend college at age nineteen. 
Despite barely speaking English when he moved to the U.S., Hatano obtained an Associate’s Degree in Agricultural Business from Merced City College in 2020. With a deep interest in nature and animals, Hatano transferred to UC Davis to continue his education. After spending his first quarter online in Davis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hatano decided to take two gap years and move back home to Japan.

Rikiya poses in his cap and gown alongside two friends for his graduation from Merced City College.
Hatano graduating from Merced City College in 2020.

While at home, Hatano took a hands-on approach to his learning and worked with Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms, a network of national organizations that facilitate sustainable farming as a lifestyle. Residing on farm stays throughout Japan, his enriching experiences allowed him to transfer applicable skills from his education to life on the farm.

“I liked nature and animals when I was a high school student, so I was curious to learn more. When I was thinking about what major I should choose, I was happy to see that Merced had an agricultural business program.”

Getting Involved on Campus

Now attending one of the world's most prestigious agricultural and veterinary universities, Hatano returned to Davis in January 2023 to continue working towards a Bachelor of Science in International Agricultural Development. Getting involved with campus programs, Hatano took up the role of a Global Ambassador Mentor Fellow in Spring 2023. Previously a mentee when he first entered UC Davis, Hatano found community through the program and later applied to be a mentor himself.

GAMP Fellows gather for a meeting.
Global Ambassador Mentor Fellows come together for a meeting.

Assisting two international students’ transition to UC Davis, Hatano helped them adjust to life on campus and introduced them to U.S. culture. One mentee was from Taiwan, and the other was from Moldova. Hatano stated, “I get to support incoming international students and become a friend to them. For me, it was an interesting opportunity to learn about their culture along with our differences.”

Acknowledging the plethora of resources that UC Davis provides for its international community, Hatano shared how he also works for the student farm on campus. Applying his interest in agriculture to a method of income, he is grateful that the university extends these opportunities to international students. Always eager to try new things, Hatano feels that the more he has gotten involved on campus, the easier his transition into life in the U.S. has been.

Hatano and another member of the UCD student farm program table at the MU.
Hatano tabling for the UCD Student Farm program on campus. 

Community Development in Nepal

Hatano recently returned from a study abroad program in Nepal. Co-led by Global Affairs’ associate vice provost of global education, Nancy Erbstein, Hatano was drawn to the community development aspect of the Nepal program. Remarking that it was the second foreign country he had visited besides the United States, Hatano built a deep connection with the other program members and the Nepalese community they worked with.

“We stayed in a rural mountain area called Machhapuchhre Village for one week with three project teams. My team focused on the marketing for an agriculture co-op. Assisting with a campaign on dairy products, Nepalese students helped us translate as we met with the locals.”

Hatano poses alongside his Agriculture Co-Op project team in Nepal.
Hatano poses alongside his Agriculture Co-Op project team in Nepal.

Further developing his intercultural communication skills, something Hatano was already familiar with, the Nepal program allowed him to dive into his major’s area specialization, rural communities.

Plans After Graduation

Looking toward the future, Hatano has his eyes set on graduate school but hopes to work in the U.S. for a year upon graduation through Optional Practical Training. Potentially expanding his education to Europe, specifically the Netherlands, Hatano views the world as his oyster and is simply excited to travel and learn. Additionally, he hopes to work for the Japan International Cooperation Agency, a volunteer program based out of Japan that is similar to the Peace Corps.

Hatano smiles next to his host family and Nepali friend in Machhapuchhre Village.
Hatano smiles next to his host family and Nepali friend in Machhapuchhre Village.

When asked what advice he would give incoming international Aggies, Hatano was adamant, stating, “Don’t underestimate yourself! Just do it and try! Davis is a big campus and has so many opportunities. Find information, utilize resources, pull up social media.” A clear follower of his own advice, Hatano is a role model for his fellow international students. Facing every challenge head-on, Hatano has a bright future ahead as he creates meaningful change both on and off campus. Whether assisting international students through the Global Ambassador Mentorship Program, working on the student farm, or trekking through the mountains of Nepal, Rikiya Hatano has captured the essence of what it means to be a Global Aggie. 

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