Yu Aoyagi ("Yagi") joined the International Student Services team in 2021 as an international student advisor (DSO). He received a B.A. in Communication from Central Connecticut State University and a B.A. in Business Administration from Aoyama Gakuin University (Tokyo, Japan). Before joining the UFIC team, he supported F-1 international students at the University of South Carolina and West Texas A&M University.

With Aoyama Gakuin University’s Baseball program, he contributed to their winning Japan National College Baseball Championship as one of the team pitchers. He has a strong passion for college athletic programs.

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Yu Aoyagi

“Yagi”, is one of the International Center’s talented staff of eight F-1 International Student Advisors, known to the government as Designated School Officials (DSO), that update and maintain the student immigration records of our group of over 6,000 F-1 international students at UF.

Aside from his surname range, Yagi is also DSO for all F-1 Athletes. “When we were reorganizing caseloads among the F-1 advisors, Yagi offered to take on what I call one of our specialty groups,” said Martine Angrand, Director, F-1 International Student Services and Yagi’s direct supervisor, “these groups are typically small enough to assign one group to one advisor, regardless of surname, without inundating his regular surname caseload. I was happy to assign Yagi with the Athletes considering his enthusiasm for all matters sports, and specifically baseball. He has managed all his work quite efficiently!” Yagi’s career and passion for sports started from an early age.

Yagi was born in Tokyo, Japan. At a young age, he was playing baseball and training to be a competitive Kendama player—The kendama (けん玉, "sword [and] ball") is a traditional Japanese skill toy. It consists of a handle (ken), a pair of cups (sarado), and a ball (tama) that are all connected together by a string. The game is said to be helpful in developing concentration and perseverance. These days, kendama is more than just a toy — there are a large number of national-level competitive kendama tournaments held across Japan, and it is also used as a form of exercise to promote good health.

His passion for athletics and competition was furthered in college as a member of the Aoyama Gakuin University (AGU) baseball team (where he also received a BA in Business Administration). AGU is currently an exchange partner with UF. As pitcher, Yagi and his team were the Japan National College Baseball Champions in 1999.

After winning the National Championship, his college baseball program was invited to various schools on the west coast of the US, to participate in Spring Training, “That was my ‘wow’ moment!” Yagi loved his international experience and was inspired to help share that opportunity with other international students and student athletes.

He moved to the US in 2002 and received his BA in Communication from Central Connecticut State University in 2006. For years after he graduated, he worked for an international student recruiting agency in San Diego, CA to support international students and American students in finding academic and athletic opportunities in the U.S. and Japan. “But I always wanted to move and work directly with schools.” In 2016, Yagi started his career as a DSO at West Texas A&M University, moving after 3 years to the University of South Carolina and finally was hired in January 2021 here at UF. “The University of Florida was always a dream position,” says Yagi, “Florida has top-ranked athletic and academic programs.”

“And the weather here is good!” Yagi added the weather is not so important to him, but it is for student athletes.

Working with International Students is something Yagi is deeply passionate about. As a former F-1 student himself, Yagi is familiar with the processes of maintaining immigration status, and the stresses that go along with it. He earned his second degree, a BA in Communication, from Central Connecticut State University, “It was right after the September 11th attacks, and there were lots of regulation changes happening, and a lot of turn-over at my university,” explains Yagi. “So, at UF I try to give my students F-1 advising as quickly as possible, and as simply, so they can follow immigration guidelines.”

“You can be sure that Yagi will not only use his resources to read and ask questions to learn the regulations and policy about F-1 status and processes, he will create diligent notes which not only benefit himself but his colleagues, as we on-board new ISS team members,” emphasizes Angrand.

Yagi is happy to also have the opportunity to work closely with the F-1 student athletes, of which there are currently about 70, playing sports from basketball to tennis, to swimming, some of which are already qualified to participate in the 2024 Paris Olympics for their home countries! “International student athletes bring here a different work ethic and knowledge of their sports. They can have a good influence on domestic student athletes,” explained Yagi, “and also the coaching staff and fans.” Yagi believes that not only student athletes, but all international students enrich the fabric of our educational landscape here at UF.

Yagi’s drive is fundamentally rooted in his commitment to accessibility. Coming to a foreign country to attend college can be an overwhelming experience, as Yagi knows from personal experience. This is why, when asked what his favorite part of his job is, Yagi answered, “An empty list!” When all his processing is done and his questions are answered, Yagi feels a great sense of accomplishment. He knows that students come to UF with the highest expectations, of themselves and the institution. Yagi interacts with all his students with care and precision to make sure that they are receiving the best advice in the timeliest manner.

It is that commitment that also shows itself in Yagi’s interaction with the deaf community. “When I was a kid, I played baseball, and one of our opponent teams had a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults).” At that early age, he became interested in the deaf community. He completed a three-year Japanese Sign Language interpreter training program in Tokyo. He is presently utilizing the UF Employee Education Program (EEP) to learn American Sign Language and Deaf Culture in America and hopes to volunteer as an interpreter at the 2025 Deaflympics, to be held in Tokyo.

“Yagi has been a pleasure to have as a colleague and member of F-1 International Student Services at the UFIC!” concludes Angrand. As for Yagi, he sees his job in simple terms, “UF’s reputation attracts the top F-1 students and student athletes, and they deserve the top F-1 advising support.”

Thank you, Yagi, for making a world of difference!

Story by: Terrence Funke
Photo Credit: Christina Cozart


Job Title: 

F-1 International Student Advisor (DSO): Surnames R – T, and All Athletes

Phone Number: 

(352) 273-1649

Staff Type: