Erika Ikeda: An International Student Who Made the Most of her St. Andrews Experience

Written by Wendy A Varisco

Erika Ikeda chose St. Andrews University for her study abroad experience, and we are so honored she made the journey from Tokyo, Japan, to Laurinburg, NC. St. Andrews offered Erika a scholarship through a study abroad agency, and the known one-on-one experience between professors and students here was a major draw for her choice in college.

A member of the class of 2021, Erika just completed her undergraduate studies, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a BA in Business Administration. Erika said, “I decided to study abroad as the first step to change my life because I have a physical disability, and I wanted people to look at what I achieve rather than how I try to overcome my disability.” And Erika’s time at St. Andrews was nothing short of an outstanding achievement!

We had the fantastic opportunity to get to know Erika and work with her personally here in the Office of Institutional Advancement. In her last semester, Erika served as our student intern, producing excellent work and setting a high bar for hard work and exceeding expectations as a working student in any office.

But being an international student so far away from home definitely came with its challenges. Taking classes in a second language can be scary and intimidating, and Erika struggled at first with her listening and speaking skills. However, with the help of her roommate, who tutored international students and provided advice and encouragement, Erika became more confident in her English. She said, “I realized that most of my struggles resulted from lack of confidence and self-consciousness. I spent winter vacations traveling solo, during which I met amazing people and built up my confidence through brand new adventures. Those experiences were great inspirations to my academic life as well.”

Erika’s decision to major in Business Administration came from a personal goal to contribute to better workplace environments for minorities in Japan who want to reach their highest potential. “I felt that I needed to have administrative perspectives and knowledge to suggest realistic changes for organizations; otherwise, I doubted that leaders would be interested in what I had to say.” Her studies provided the opportunity to analyze such management-related issues and constraints in the workplace, and she hopes to apply this knowledge in her future career. “I have done substantial case analysis projects in my business courses. The knowledge and research skills I gained through those projects will help me better understand clients’ demands or figure out marketing strategies that emphasize the trend of organizational issues.”

In fact, Erika solidified a position at a Tokyo-headquartered IT company upon her graduation. The company is famous for providing software and web platforms that enhance office productivity and communication flows. Although her official assignment will not be determined until the end of the onboarding period, she hopes to join one of its marketing or customer success teams. “I have planned a long-term career path within the company, from marketing to human resources and consulting, so that is what I want to dedicate everything I can to. I do not have any other concrete plans for my future, but I love solo traveling more than anything else. I hope to visit as many places in the world as possible.”








Pictures from Left to Right: 1) Erika with friends at the graduation fair 2021 2)Erika on one of her solo trips

Of course, like so many other St. Andrews students, Erika’s educational experience wasn’t limited to her major or business courses. “I loved art classes with Professor Stephanie McDavid. I took introductory art history courses, a modern art seminar, and one studio art class. Those classes gave me new ways to view the world with creativity that I never had before. Some might think it has nothing to do with my major, but studying art can be a great asset to business persons. I was able to apply design techniques like color scheme and composition that I learned in the studio art class when I made promotional graphics for work. Also, I believe cultivating creativity and learning different sets of values through exploration of artworks can help develop flexible thinking and open-mindedness.”

A particular professor also played a significant role in paving Erika’s pathway in the professional realm. “Professor Corrine Nicholson, chair of the Business Department, is the one who taught me everything important for success from professionalism to academic excellence. I took four classes with her, and she was my faculty sponsor for my internship as well. Her encouragement and feedback taught me that I can open the door to more learning opportunities by always trying harder and remaining humble.”

With professor Nicholson’s guidance, Erika chose to intern with Institutional Advancement to gain practical and professional experience relevant to her post-graduation job offer. Erika said, “One of the greatest takeaways was written communication skills. I wrote blog pieces that featured some alumni who shared inspiring stories based on interviews via emails. I read a lot of interview articles to learn what kind of questions would be likely to reveal fascinating stories of interviewees.” You may have seen her work in the last few By the Lake Updates featuring her blog posts; she also created over forty graphics for the Alumni Office’s social media accounts and gained hands-on experience with design and marketing. “We couldn’t have done Virtual Alumni Week without Erika’s help,” said Stanton Cadow, Vice-President of Institutional Advancement. “She was an excellent intern, and you could tell from the quality of her work that she went above and beyond in every assignment. We will miss her greatly!”

Erika hopes her story of perseverance will encourage other international students to take that scary leap and study abroad. “Studying abroad can be harder than expected, and I made many mistakes. But learning those mistakes and failures, and trying not to repeat them, made me grow stronger. Even if you are afraid of facing challenges like I was when I first came to the United States, you will adjust to your environment step by step, and don’t hesitate to ask for help.”

It’s evident that Erika made the most of her St. Andrews experience. “St. Andrews made me discover new aspects of myself. My liberal arts education expanded my potential. I could not have studied business while at the same time learning visual art and writing poems if I had not chosen this school. Having access to anything I had an interest in was what made my time at St. Andrews precious, and I will miss it.”

We are so proud to welcome you into the St. Andrews Alumni Association, Erika, and we wish you the best of luck in this next step of your journey.