Alumna puts Japanese skills to work upon return from Tokyo

by | May 13, 2015

Rosella Ledermann speaks Japanese as a Harley-Davidson sales representative for international customers.

(Photo by August Jennewein)

Within days of her arrival home from Japan in fall 2014 and unsure of her next move, Rosella Ledermann found an unexpected opportunity waiting for her.

“The job sort of just came to me,” says Ledermann, a graduating senior at the University of Missouri–St. Louis at the time. “They were asking, through UMSL, for someone who knew Japanese.”

Global Products Inc., a Missouri-based provider of Harley-Davidson accessories to more than 1,000 dealerships worldwide, wanted a sales representative who could communicate with international customers.

“There are over 100 Harley dealers just in Japan,” Ledermann explains. “It’s a lot.”

She accepted the offer, eager to enter the working world and put her Japanese major to use.

“I really enjoy the chance to use those skills in the workplace,” says the Dupo, Ill., native, who didn’t speak Japanese before enrolling at UMSL in the fall of 2010. “It’s not every single day – it depends on who wants to communicate, who wants to place an order – but sometimes it’s really busy and I wonder, ‘Can I get all this done?’ It’s definitely challenging, but also rewarding.”

Now more than six months into the job and with a newly minted UMSL diploma in hand, Ledermann is still processing her yearlong experience at Waseda University in Tokyo – as well as her time at UMSL.

“The experience here and the study abroad really have changed my life,” she says, recalling faculty members and loved ones who encouraged her along the way. “If I hadn’t come here, I wouldn’t be where I am now, and I definitely wouldn’t be the person I am now. I really discovered that I do have the potential they were telling me I did.”

Ledermann, who served as the Student Government Association representative for the Japan America Student Association and as a flutist in the University Symphonic Band at UMSL, experienced homesickness a few weeks into her time in Tokyo. Although she felt adequately prepared by her three years of intensive study at UMSL, it was her first time traveling internationally, and there was some culture shock.

Soon enough she connected with classmates and grew in her confidence with the language. She hopes to return to Japan, perhaps in pursuit of a graduate degree.

Ledermann laughs and shakes her head when asked if she’s begun riding motorcycles since joining Global Products Inc., but she admits the job’s been an education in Harley-Davidson headwear and accessories.

“The things that sell the most are skull caps and bandanas,” she says. “We even sell hair scrunchies. And we do glass imprinting, so we have mugs and shot glasses and such.”


This story was originally published in the spring 2015 issue of UMSL Magazine.

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