PROFILE: Business Student Takes a Bow While in Japan for Historic Co-op

University of Cincinnati accounting student Matt Lashway, 21, isn’t counting himself out when contemplating the challenges to be faced while living and working in Himeji, Japan.  He’s ready to take on whatever comes – even so far as taking off his shoes at the drop of a hat. 

It seems that Japanese footwear customs often require shoe removal when entering certain buildings and rooms.  Matt explains, “A Japanese colleague that I work with told me, ‘When in doubt, always remove your shoes.’  I’ve also been told that when you leave an eating area to go into a bathroom, you have to put on special bathroom slippers, and you should never wear the bathroom slippers back to the eating area.  You get to make that mistake only once.”

Likewise, Matt’s chewing over how to manage chopsticks.  He admits, “I can’t really seem to get a handle on chopsticks, and I’ve never eaten seafood in my life.  Basically, I just spear the food with one end of the stick, and it looks like I’m literally going to be taking a stab at shark, turtle and horse, given what I’ve learned about Japanese cuisine.”

Other than that, Matt, a fourth-year student, feels well prepared to live and work in Japan for the next six months as the first UC student that Mitsubishi Electric Automotive, Inc., has ever hired to work in Himeji, which is about three hours south of Tokyo.  Other UC co-ops have worked with Mitsubishi in California and a growing number of UC students are being hired for co-op work assignments in Japan, but Matt is the first to actually work for Mitsubishi in Japan. 

Within UC's International Co-op Program, which first began sending students abroad in 1994, about 150 students have opted to work in Germany while more than 60 have chosen to work in Japan, with a handful of others going to Mexico or Chile in the past decade.  This year, Matt is one of nine UC students choosing to live and work in Japan as compared to eight last year.  

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Matt left for Japan on March 19 and will return to Cincinnati in mid-September 2005.  To get ready, he began studying Japanese last summer.  In UC’s intensive preparation regimen required of all students in the International Co-op Program, Matt studied Japanese language and culture all day, every day last summer.  Throughout the school year since, he’s continued with language classes.

This won’t be the first time Matt’s gone abroad.  As part of a UC College of Business study tour to Europe, he’s been to Austria, the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands.  However, Matt’s time in Japan will be his first extended stay overseas. 

“I come from a small town near Dayton.  At one time, Cincinnati seemed pretty big to me.  I think I had shell shock during my freshman year just because the atmosphere is so different here.  And now I’m off to Japan,” Matt says.

On the job, he's soaking up all he can of Mitsubishi’s programs for paying vendors and suppliers, conducting inventory, analyzing data and budget planning.  It’s knowledge he’ll bring back and share in part-time work he’ll have at Mitsubishi facilities here. 

Beyond that, Matt plans to continue working for Mitsubishi after graduation in June 2006.  He’s promised to work for the company for at least five years after graduation, but he isn’t sure where that might be.  It could be in Cincinnati, elsewhere in the United States, somewhere in the Pacific Rim or back to Japan once again.

“I’ve found that I like to travel,” states Matt.  “I like finding my way in a new place and culture.  I want to be a little surprised.  So, the thought of this as a first step to a longer career abroad is very appealing.” 

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