By Pinn Duong
Let me start off by bragging a little about the off-campus house I’m renting and living in. It is a newly renovated and furnished house near downtown, close to conveniences and grocery stores and near Batavia’s bus line with affordable rent. The house was bought and renovated by a GCC alumna, Yuki Sasao. After graduating from GCC in 2014 with an Associate Degree in General Studies and Business Administration, Yuki, who was then an international student from Fukuoka, Japan, went on to obtain her Bachelor in Accounting from SUNY Oswego and is currently working as a CPA at Deloitte in Portland, Oregon.
So what’s the big deal about an alumna buying a house and leasing it to the younger students, you ask? Yuki doesn’t treat her student renters just as tenants, but also as her mentees. Yuki aims to provide support and counseling in academic, career development and cultural differences. This past November, Yuki strongly advised us to attend the Boston Career Forum and offered to pay for our two-night hotel stay so we can confidently dip our foot in the job hunting and professional networking event. Boston Career Forum is the world’s largest job fair for Japanese-English Bilinguals. Even though I didn’t join, two of my housemates who are Japanese international students learned some business dress-up, networking etiquette and even scored a few interviews with recruiters during the event. During finals’ week, Yuki sent us care packages overflowing with warmth (candles, socks) and sweetness (sugar canes, chocolates, gummy bears, …) to aid us through the stressful time. Yuki often holds International Student Workshops during school breaks (Spring Break, Winter Break) to discuss her experiences navigating the US job market and the struggles uniquely encountered by international students that she admittedly learned the hard ways.
Specifically with her newly bought house in Batavia, Yuki intends to create a homey living environment for her student tenants, instead of just a house to stay in. “I’d be really sad if you guys just sit in your own room all day and not hang out together in the common space,” Yuki shared as she was putting up floral wall stickers in the living room. As a handy and crafty person, Yuki loves home decor and possesses a wide range of household repair and maintenance skills which she learned through volunteering for Habitat for Humanity during undergraduate years. During this Christmas break, Yuki visited Batavia to further renovate the house with wall stickers, decorative lightings and repaint several rooms in the house. I picked up a little knowledge in painting and drilling while helping her out, too.
At first, I thought Yuki bought a house in Batavia because she will be retiring here or will have some personal future plans with it. But I slowly realized the house and its affordable rent was set up solely as part of the support network that she hopes to provide for the younger international students at GCC, in addition to her mini career workshops and guidance. The house is also her way of helping us, foreign students, to connect and immerse in the local Batavia community. She refers to the house as Excel House Project, with hopes that her students will excel in their academic or career paths with her support. Excel House Project is her way of giving back to the Batavians and GCC community for helping her when she first set foot in America.