Study Abroad Sparked Love

On a blue-sky August morning, Flora Chung Takoshima and Akiyuki Takoshima ’05 maneuvered two little girls and a paraphernalia-laden stroller along Campus Walk.

Yua, 11 months old, gurgled and grinned in her parents’ arms. Four-year-old Yuki romped on the green grass and took in every sight – especially the Palmieri Plaza fountain.

The Takoshimas had traveled from their home in Kariya, Aichi, Japan, to visit friends and see the campus where Flora and Akiyuki met a decade earlier. Back home, Flora is a full-time mom and Aki a software engineer for an automotive company.

Flora and Akiyuki Takoshima were studying abroad at UMW when they met. They returned to campus last summer with their daughters, baby Yua and Yuki.

Flora and Akiyuki Takoshima were studying abroad at UMW when they met. They returned to campus last summer with their daughters, baby Yua and Yuki.

On campus, the family posed for portraits by Heather Spring Sieck ’96 and J.P. Sieck ’95, who own Sieck Photography in Fredericksburg. The Takoshimas’ friend Steve Mauro ’04, who roomed with Aki a decade ago, shot video.

Aki, a native of Sapporo, Japan, earned a degree from the Chitose Institute of Science and Technology but decided to pursue a second bachelor’s degree in the United States. He chose Mary Washington for its low student-teacher ratio and beautiful campus. Many of his credits transferred, so he could complete a bachelor’s degree in computer science at Mary Washington in just two years.

Aki’s studies coincided with Flora’s study-abroad experience at Mary Washington. She was a senior at Hong Kong’s Lingnan University.

New to campus just before the semester began, she got lost trying to find an acquaintance’s place at what is now the UMW Apartments, where Aki and Steve roomed together. Aki and some friends were walking by, and he helped Flora find her way.

The semester began, and she found herself sitting right in front of him in an English literature class. They became friends while working on a class project, but it wasn’t until the semester’s end that attraction fluttered.

On a class trip to Washington, Flora tripped while taking a picture. Aki caught her before she could fall. It was then, Flora said, that she felt “doki doki” – a Japanese expression for a pounding heart.

Back home in Hong Kong and Sapporo, Flora and Aki kept in touch by email and video chats in their common language of English. Flora’s father wasn’t happy about the budding romance. “He just didn’t want me to date a Japanese guy,” she recalled.

Over her father’s objections, she visited Aki in Japan. And that, Aki recalled, was when he realized he had found the right person. “I was comfortable with her, and I could be myself,” he said. “I wanted to be with her all the time.”

The courtship spanned several years, during which Flora learned Japanese and Aki picked up a working knowledge of Cantonese. And in 2009 they married, with ceremonies in Sapporo and Hong Kong. Flora’s father attended her Chinese wedding.

The day on campus made an impression on little Yuki, Flora said. “I want to study here too,” Yuki told her mom. “I can come back by myself!”