Japan-Palau Alumni Series: Vol.10 Ms. Lisa Abraham-Rengechel


Ms. Lisa Abraham-Rengechel is an esteemed alumna of the Specialized Training College program of Japanese Government (MEXT) Scholarship. She currently manages four stores and two warehouses in Koror and Airai owned by her husband. These establishments offer a diverse range of products, including office supplies, groceries, local products, construction materials, and air conditioning units. Leveraging her networking skills, Ms. Abraham-Rengechel actively participates in workshops for business entrepreneurs, extending her knowledge to various states in Palau.
Ms. Abraham's journey began at Kalihi Kai Elementary School and Farrington High School in Hawaii. After completing high school in June 1988, she returned to Palau to assist her sister. During this time, she worked as an International Operator for Palau National Communications Corporation (PNCC) in Meyuns, Koror, for nine months. She applied for Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and the Japanese Government Scholarship, and she got accepted to both. Ms. Abraham chose to pursue her studies in Japan, seeking new experiences beyond those in Hawaii. She believed that she could always pursue studies in the United States at any point in her life. However, recognizing that the opportunity to study in Japan was a unique and once-in-a-lifetime chance, she ultimately chose to embark on her educational journey in Japan.
Upon arriving in Japan in 1989, Ms. Abraham-Rengechel dedicated six months to study the language at the Bunka Institute of Language in Tokyo. Her biggest challenge with the Japanese language was learning the particles, but listening and picking up the words were easier for her since she grew up with grandparents who knew how to speak Japanese. She immersed herself in Japanese life, conversing with friends at “sento” public baths, singing at karaoke, engaging in sports, and socializing with classmates. After graduating from the language school, she pursued Computer Software studies at Nihon Denshi Kogakuin, displaying exceptional dedication with up to five hours of daily study after classes. Also, she would always take very detailed notes. She still keeps those notes carefully and uses them as a source of motivation.
Ms. Abraham-Rengechel recalls her humble beginnings in Japan with minimal funds, which made her determined to succeed in Japan. The two and a half years of study not only provided her with an academic foundation but also instilled discipline in character, budgeting, decision-making, and prioritizing. She fondly remembers Mr. Takei, a teacher who imparted valuable lessons on “yakusoku” promises and Japanese culture. Mr. Takei (Takei sensei) and Ms. Abraham would meet every 15th of the month at 6:00pm. If she is late for even one minute, Takei sensei would leave. Takei sensei taught her how to navigate through life in Japan.
After completing her Specialized Training College, Ms. Abraham-Rengechel worked for a Japanese company in Saipan, where she served as a tour guide for a couple of years. After she went back to Palau, she worked for Palau Visitors Authority for many years. And then, she pursed further education at Palau Community College and got her associate degree in business accounting before she spent 10 years of working at Small Business Development Center. She moved to Hawaii in 2015 to embark on further studies while working at USDA in Hawaii. In 2019, Ms. Abraham-Rengechel redirected her focus to her husband's business and came back to Palau. Her journey in running her husband’s business has given her extensive experience in human resources, accounting, and finance.
Fondly reminiscing about her time in Japan, she treasures memories of iconic places such as Yokohama Bay Bridge, Kamakura, Roppongi, and Shibuya. Her favorite Japanese food, barbecued squid ("yaki ika"), and her cherished Japanese customs, such as celebrating with classmates after passing semester exams ("nomikai") and "warikan" bill-splitting, remain etched in her heart. Her favorite Japanese word is "shifuku," which means bliss, the thing she wants to accomplish in her life.
Ms. Abraham-Rengechel believes that the educational setting and mindset in Japan contribute to the consistency exhibited by Palauans who studied there. As Japan and Palau celebrate the 30th anniversary of the diplomatic relations, she hopes that more Palauans will seize the opportunity to study in Japan through the Japanese Government Scholarship.