ASU double major plans to use Japanese studies in her business career

Racine Merritt graduates with bachelor’s degrees in Japanese, marketing

Racine Merritt poses among the blossoming branches of a cherry blossom tree

Racine Merritt is graduating with two bachelor’s degrees this spring 2024 semester: Japanese and marketing. Courtesy photo


Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2024 graduates.

Racine Merritt is a business-minded, ambitious go-getter through and through, beginning with earning two bachelor’s degrees upon graduating this spring 2024 semester: Japanese and marketing.

During her time at Arizona State University, she rose to vice president of the SILC Attaches, a student organization of the School of International Letters and Cultures, held a student job and off-campus job simultaneously, embarked on an exchange program to Nanzan University in Japan and received several scholarships, including the New American University President's Award, Sun Devil State Award, State Farm Pathways for the Future Scholarship and the Arizona Hazelwood Scholarship.

When asked why she decided to study Japanese, the Arizona native reports that she was looking for an extra challenge on top of her marketing courses and wanted to add a second degree.

Merritt looked at this as a business decision — she didn’t want to just add any second major, she wanted to add something that would boost her resume. Since she loves languages and cultures, Merritt knew that she would want to pursue business and marketing on an international scale, so she narrowed down her choices to a language degree. 

The next choice was which language to learn, which she again saw as a business decision. Her two criteria: a language that would benefit her career, and that would be a challenge. From research, she found that many companies from Japan are expanding in Arizona and the United States, including Japanese affiliates of the Taiwanese semiconductor factory in the Valley.

In the below Q&A, Merritt expands on her goals for the future, her advice for career success when you're still in college, and what she's doing this summer.

Question: What are your plans after graduation?

Answer: In terms of the near future, I am traveling for a lot of the summer. I am going to China, Portugal, Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Since I want to work on an international scale, I know these experiences will broaden my global perspective and provide me with a greater sense of international awareness in preparation for that path.

Once I return to Arizona, I will start looking for jobs that have an international focus to them. Looking ahead, I plan to get a master’s degree from a university in Japan in a global business-related area so I can pursue a career in international business.

Q: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study Japanese? 

A: When I first started at ASU as a freshman, it was in the middle of the pandemic when everything was online. I was taking courses for my marketing major, but I wanted to add a second degree to enhance my academic experience, challenge myself and expand my horizons.

After researching which countries I would want to work with, I chose to study Japanese and I have since fallen in love with the culture and the food, especially during my time as an exchange student. 

Q: What was your favorite part of studying abroad as an exchange student in Japan?

A: It’s so hard to choose a favorite part because I had so much fun experiencing life in a different way. I joined the table tennis club at Nanzan University, which helped me to make friends and practice Japanese. I also traveled around the country and practiced with other native speakers along the way.

There were definitely some moments of culture shock, especially since it was my first time out of the country. There were also some moments that really challenged me, like when I first arrived in Japan and missed my connecting flight, so I had to figure out how to get from Tokyo to Nagoya using public transportation. 

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: Don't be afraid to take every opportunity you can get. When professors email you about special events that relate to your area of study, take advantage of that to prepare for your future career. 

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Professor Kumiko Hirano Gahan is the professor who taught me the most. She helped me develop Japanese language skills and she provides her students with numerous opportunities to learn and thrive. She also does a lot for the Japanese community and has so many great connections. Hirano sensei is a great person and a great businesswoman. I look up to her, and in the future I hope to achieve what she has done.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Find a way to focus what you're doing in life around your future goals. I wanted to become more involved in the ASU community, so I found opportunities related to being in an international environment and speaking different languages, from my student job at Global Launch to being a SILC Attache and later the vice president.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: Durham Hall. It is easy to go there before or after class to study. Because the School of International Letters and Cultures is such a tight-knit community, there is a good chance I will run into someone I know and we’ll end up either chatting and doing homework together. Learning Support Services in Durham Hall is also a great study space with lots of places to sit and enjoy the view.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: If I had $40 million dollars, I would want to invest in education for aspiring students all over the world who are unable to reach their educational goals because of finances or other circumstances. I truly believe that education is one of the most valuable things someone can receive in life, and that a good education is the key to achieving your ambitions and making a difference in society. I was fortunate enough to attend ASU thanks to the generous amount of scholarships I was awarded, but I understand that not everyone is able to have that same opportunity. If I had the financial means, I would want to empower those in need so they can receive a quality education.

Q: Any parting thoughts?

A: From my own perspective, it is important to study foreign languages and cultures. Everyone should include it as part of their education or extracurricular activities, especially with the advancement of technology and globalization. It’s something that I advocate for a lot and why I love the School of International Letters and Cultures so much. I’ve made friends with so many people around the world, and it was truly a valuable experience that I will carry with me into my future career.

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