Last Sunday, I attended my very first alumni event of the graduate school I had attended between 1996-1998. The school is called Monterey Institute of International Studies(MIIS) which is a very small, private graduate school located in Monterey, CA. It was there that I had learned to speak and write English, met my lifetime friend Mari (whose twin girls’ picture is in this post), and earned a Master’s degree in International Public Administration which qualified me to apply for a Junior Professional Officer position at the United Nations. MIIS also helped me find a summer internship in Zimbabwe which was an eye-opening, once-in-a-lifetime experience. When I look back and think about that chapter in my life, I feel I have to give thanks to my parents who supported my decision to go to Zimbabwe, despite the concerns they must have had when they first heard where I was considering going.
I still maintain contact with friends I made during my MIIS years with whom I shared all the good and tough times together, and I have a very fond memory of that place. Today’s event was the first alumni get-together I have ever attended within the past 10 years (apparently this was the first one that’s been organized in San Diego). The newly appointed MIIS President Sunder Ramaswamy was the guest of honor at the event. He took this opportunity to meet with the alumni and inform us what has been going on with the school. I learned that a great deal has happened since I had graduated 10 years ago, one example is that MIIS is now being integrated with Middlebury College in Vermont. Despite all the changes that had taken place, some of the unique aspects of the school are still maintained; MIIS students are still required to take a 2nd language and be proficient at it to a certain degree, which was one of the selling features that drew me to that school. It still maintains a high ratio of international students. Of the American students, 95% have lived or worked abroad through Peace Corps, JET program or with some other programs. Also, there are currently 21 Fulbright scholarship students which is apparently an impressive number, given the size of the school – sure, UC Berkeley has more than 30 Fulbright scholarship students, but MIIS has a higher percentage.
The in-coming president Ramaswamy is an economist and gave a very humorous and inspiring speech. One thing he said that stuck with me was that the characteristic of the students who are attracted to the school has been that they all want to find a solution to some problem. Whether it’s a translation & interpretation of one language to another (MIIS is also known for this program), or helping the developing countries with global issues such as poverty, HIV/AIDs or environment – we all want to find the solution and that’s what brought us there. When I heard that phrase I thought that that’s what my career choices have been all about; my first real job was to work for the United Nations and send volunteers to the different projects in various parts of the world. I also worked in Viet Nam for Japanese International Cooperation Agency(JICA) as a consultant, working on Japanese government sponsored Education project in Viet Nam. After moving to San Diego, I worked for a small non-profit organization which deals with Family Violence, before starting working as an Executive Director for a Japanese Saturday school which is where I currently work. My friend Mari jokingly said that I must be the lowest paid Tokyo University graduate. Although that may be true, I can honestly say that I may be one of the happiest, as I have enjoyed every job I’ve had since graduation. Now I am about to start yet another chapter in my life by creating my own business, which focuses on creating closer connections within family and couple relationships. Be the solution to the problem. While I no longer see “problems” in this world as such like I previously did, I know that there are people who are faced with challenges in the areas of relationships, and I know I can serve them. I’ve read somewhere that “Part of being good at something is just wanting to”. I know I will be good at it. I want to be good at the services I offer and making this work, for people I serve, for my family, and for myself. There is nothing else that I want more right now.