Leandro Burnes says that working in Japan taught him to put others before himself.

“The Japanese have a great sense of honor. They are loyal, kind, and respectful, especially towards their elders. They put others above themselves at any cost.”

Burnes, who studied Japanese at MIT for four years and has been to Japan on two MISTI internships, discovered in that country his own deep yearning to serve others.

His internships –– one at the Advanced Telecommunications Research Laboratories in Kyoto, where he did research in speech therapy, and another at a start-up in Kumamoto where he taught computer literacy to handicapped students –– revealed to him that not only is technology useful but it can change lives.

“The handicapped kids we taught can now one day go into the work place. Before they couldn’t get jobs. It definitely changed me,” he says.

“It made me realize, why are we here? Can we help out? Can we leave a better mark for our children and for the next generation? Can we actually make a change in the world, or are we here just to enjoy?”

Burnes, who in 1998 earned a degree in management of technology with a minor in Japanese, and who is now studying for an MBA, hopes to one day start a telecommunications company that will deploy wireless networks in developing countries.

“I’m dedicated to cross-cultural understanding and raising global awareness. I’d like to use all I’ve learned about respect and technology and go into rural areas around the world to give kids computer and Internet access. I feel that everyone should have the necessary educational skills to contribute to the world.”