"It takes a certain profile to leave everything behind: family, boyfriend—everything," said Marina Netto Grande Campos '94, a Brazilian telecommunications executive, recalling her decision to come to Maine 15 years ago. Looking back to her years on Mayflower Hill she classified her international classmatesthere as either fleeing a bad situation in their own countries or coming to the U.S. because they really wanted to be here. Based on that dichotomy, she said, "You're either homesick or homesick by choice."
In her case it was a choice. As with most of those interviewed, Grande had an international background before deciding to seek an education in the U.S. She was born and bred in Brasilia; her grandfather was Austrian, and she had lived abroad before coming of college age.
Marina Grande Campos '94, pictured in Rio de Janeiro, fulfilled her "far-fetched dream" of attending a U.S. college.
In Brazil, she explained, "you have to declare a major before you take the [university entrance] exam." Her brother, she said, has bounced from a military high school to a computer science track to law. For herself, going to college in the U.S. was attractive in part because it offered choices and broader exposure to ideas and subjects than the tracked system in Brazilian universities.
"My mom kind of thought it was a far-fetched dream," she said. But she was one of four determined students in her high school class eager to study in the U.S. "We pooled resources and wrote to four or five hundred colleges. We did a lot of research." Ultimately it was the reputation of Colby's Economics Department that attracted her to Mayflower Hill.
While it takes unusual determination to leave home so far behind, it also can take a mighty commitment for many international students to stick it out for four years. "To graduate from Colby was really, really tough for me," said Nozomi Kishimoto '96, now a bond trader in the Tokyo office of Deutsche Securities Ltd. "To do it in a second language and to read three books a week? It gave me a lot of confidence. I studied hard. I was always worried I would flunk out. I'm proud of the fact that I graduated from Colby."
Kishimoto, originally from Kobe, Japan, says she got over the worst of the homesickness as a high school exchange student in Iowa. "The food is different. Everything is different. I couldn't understand. I couldn't pronounce the word," she said in now-flawless American-inflected English. At Colby, she said, she "really didn't have any bad experiences because of difference," but between the academic challenge and the emotional upheaval there were times when it was a struggle. "In my third year I felt I was losing my identity. . . . I felt I was becoming an American."
Nozomi Kishimito '96, at home in Tokyo, straddles the line between Japanese and American culture.
Photo by Bruce Osborne
Happily, it's a struggle now reconciled: she's back at home in Japan near family and friends, and she said, "I'm married to an American guy, so I kind of have a happy medium."
It was her husband, Brent, originally from Minneapolis, who answered the phone at their Tokyo apartment in late December. "Hold on," he said. "She's watching the fifteenth Seinfeld in a row."
Contributing to Kishimoto's comfort straddling Japanese and American cultures is a growing Colby presence in Tokyo. At Deutsche Bank, "Everybody knows where Colby is because that's where Edson Mitchell ['75] graduated from," she said, referring to the late Deutsche Bank head of global markets. In the Global Finance Division she works side-by-side with Ari Druker '93 "every day," and she also counts Joseph Meyer '79 as a colleague.
A Colby, Bates, and Bowdoin alumni group has occasional events attracting about 20 people, she said, and the Colby Club in Tokyo got together for dinner with Oak Professor of East Asian Language and Literature Tamae Prindle when Prindle visited the city in January.