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From a young age Kota Tabuchi ‘03 knew he wanted to live in Switzerland. Kota’s story is one of complete serendipity: At a very young age Kota’s grandparents traveled to Switzerland and came home with photos and stories of Switzerland’s beauty. Kota spent the following years dreaming of Switzerland and when the time came to apply to universities it was a simple online search for universities in Switzerland that led him to Franklin. Pulled in by the allure of the small classes, hands on learning, Academic Travel and his lifelong dream of visiting the beautiful country his grandparents spoke of, Kota’s journey began in 2001 when he transferred from a community college in northern California into Franklin. Kota graduated in 2003 with a degree in International Communications and Political Science.

As a Japanese American student from the San Francisco area, Kota fit right in to Franklin’s cross-cultural environment. Originally from Tokyo, Kota moved to the US at a young age and spent the first years of his life between Japan and the US.

Kota’s time at Franklin is something he misses dearly. The daily challenges that came with becoming a part of Sorengo and the local community were parts of his fondest memories. Every moment from the group flight to simple things like initial bus ride in from Zurich and opening his window on a crisp fall morning and taking in the mountain air gave him a sense of adventure. While many of his Franklin experiences pushed him beyond his comfort zone, the small daily adventures and challenges amongst of the best aspects of his education at Franklin.

Looking back on his college experience, Professor Anne Flutti had the single biggest impact on his education and professional life. She led an Academic Travel to Botswana, and that trip shaped his life from that moment forward. At the time Kota was unsure what he wanted to do professionally, but the Academic Travel to Botswana confirmed that Africa would be in his future.

Kota is now the Managing Director: Africa for Travel Beyond, a company that specializes in Sustainable luxury  travel around the world. Kota works directly with clients, companies and organizations to plan trips to exotic locations.

Much of what he learned while on Professor Flutti’s travels remains key his professional mission of “not just creating a vacation, but creating a journey that focuses on community and conservation in Africa”. Travel Beyond allows clients to create a trip that will open their minds while also helping to fund conservation programs that help the local communities and protect sensitive habitat. Kota attributes his environmentally conscious mindset partially to Franklin because he was able to see the world through many different lenses and experience firsthand the challenges facing many rural communities around the world. His time at Franklin also increased his ability to communicate effectively with people of various backgrounds and critical problem solving through a multi-cultural perspective; a result of daily and hands on experiences at Franklin. He now works with clients who have a passion for exploration for destinations around the world. Travel Beyond currently offers destinations in Africa, Australia, India, Southeast Asia, and South America. 

It was not a straightforward path into ethical and sustainable tourism for Kota. Just like the way Kota found Franklin, his pathway to his current profession seemed to be serendipitous. After graduation, Kota found his way back to southern Africa where he served as a cook, driver and guide for the same tour company that led his Academic Travels to Africa. Once he gained some experience in the industry, he worked for two other tour operators before finding a home at Travel Beyond. Kota’s work in ethical and sustainable tourism has also landed him with the Top 25 Travel Agents in Travel Agent Magazine of 2013.   

Kota has continued his Franklin connection throughout the years serving as a Franklin Admissions Ambassador and Career Mentor, and organizer for the 2013 Alumni and Parent Academic Travel to Jordan. He is now helping to plan his second Alumni and Parent Academic Travel for Franklin, this time to South Africa on February 3-12, 2017.

Kota’s advice to recent graduates, “It’s ok to stumble and wander in finding your path. I’ve found it incredibly valuable to keep in touch with Franklin and the community. Don’t let go!” Franklin has served an important part of Kota’s life in helping him stay engaged with his cross cultural community.

And for those just beginning their Franklin experience, Kota gives the simple advice to seize the day. One of the things he regrets most is getting too comfortable in Lugano - not buying that weekend train ticket or renting a car to travel more. The experience Franklin has given Kota is something that has completely shaped his career and was as he describes “the best two years of his life.”

When asked what Franklin means to him, the simple answer is: Inspiration. He continues to seek and provide inspiration for stewardship in community and conservation around the world and we are proud to call him a Franklin alumnus.

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The Franklin curriculum requires students to complete academic travel courses that take them to Japan, the Baltics, Malawi, and more.