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Going Places

Yoshita travels the world and inspires others to do the same

Mariana Yoshita

From The Ichabod - Spring 2020

Mariana Yoshita, bba ’16, was drawn to Washburn University in 2013 because of its small class sizes, tight-knit campus community and the outstanding reputation of the School of Business. Today, at age 25, Yoshita is a world traveler by heart, a Brazilian citizen by passport, a proud Washburn alumna, and has already visited 34 countries and counting.

“My experience at Washburn University was exceptional,” Yoshita said. “It was just the start of my international business career.”

Upon graduating, Yoshita had the opportunity to move to Germany to work for a multinational corporation. Driven by her passion, she left that job after three years to travel the world to volunteer and inspire others.

“It was truly hard to quit my dream job to travel the world, especially because I loved my profession, my work environment and the country itself,” Yoshita said. “But it was surely the best decision I could have ever made. It changed my life.”

Yoshita, who is originally from Brazil, embarked on a nine-month trip across Southeast Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and South America starting in 2019. She spent much of her time volunteering in the communities she visited, teaching English as a second language and caring for children in orphanages.

“Volunteering gave me the best experiences I have had throughout my world trip,” Yoshita said. “Additionally, it allowed me to travel on a tight budget because in exchange for my volunteer work, I was often given accommodation and food for free.”

Yoshita says traveling has taught her to love and respect others unconditionally, to work hard to achieve her dreams, and to live life to the fullest.

Throughout her time at Washburn, Yoshita developed lasting bonds with faculty and staff. Heidi Staerkel, coordinator of student international activities, International Programs, was one of those mentors.

“Heidi Staerkel was the first person I met at Washburn University. I was young, lost and could not even speak proper English. She was always there to help me get through the hard times,” Yoshita said. “She was not only a mentor but also a friend.”

Staerkel has fond memories of Yoshita’s time on campus, and they had the opportunity to reconnect in Germany in 2018.

“To me, Mariana is a student who embodies Washburn’s motto, ‘non nobis solum,’ because she wasn’t at Washburn only for herself – she was a servant leader who genuinely cared about and challenged those around her,” Staerkel said. “She was intentional about investing in her relationships and taking the time to truly get to know and encourage others along their way.”

David Sollars, dean, School of Business, connected with Yoshita via social media after she graduated and was intrigued by her travels.

While Sollars never had Yoshita in class, he got to know her because she took the International Business and Entrepreneurial Experience course taught by Michael Stoica, Distinguished Professor of Marketing Business, and went on the subsequent trip to China.

“I was simply amazed at the places she was going and what she was doing,” Sollars said.

Sollars and Stoica traveled to Brazil in the fall of 2019 and met with Yoshita. She shared details of her world journey and what she hoped would come next.

“One of the best parts of being dean is meeting with alumni,” Sollars said. “I like to think we played a small part in helping prepare them for their success. Mariana is an innovative thinker, has a big heart, and is fearless.”

Yoshita continues to travel the globe and manages a startup business in the tourism industry, intertwining her passion and her degree. She launched an online course on how to travel the world on a budget in March of 2019. Unfortunately, this coincided with the global COVID-19 outbreak. As the global tourism industry suffered, she struggled with admission to her course. Yoshita didn’t despair. She shifted her efforts to launch a new social media project helping Brazilians spending their time in isolation learning English.

“Most mid to upper-level jobs require English in Brazil,” Yoshita said, citing unemployment numbers in her home country. “I hope to help society long term through this project.”

Her goal is to share her experiences and teach others how to travel as she did as soon as it’s deemed safe by the World Health Organization. She also hopes to return to Washburn one day and inspire students to work toward their dreams.

“I always dreamed of changing the world,” Yoshita said. “Once I realized traveling changed my world, I decided to invest in changing other people’s worlds as well.”

Yoshita chronicles her travels on her Instagram account (@MarianaYoshita). She says her greatest adventure has been the people she’s met along the way.

“I am always surprised by their generosity and love,” Yoshita said. “The world is a beautiful and lovely place.”

Mariana Yoshita with students in Cambodia


The Ichabod Winter 2021 issue

The Ichabod tells our story with features on alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends, along with the latest campus news. Read the 2021 winter edition online and look for it in mailboxes in January.

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