Looking Back From Afar

Looking Back From Afar

Colby's far-flung international alumni consider their time on Mayflower Hill

By Stephen Collins '74


Yoichi Hosoi '79 is from an earlier generation of Colby graduates, but he, too, can reel off alumni from his era who are in Tokyo—his classmates Meyer, Robert Stevenson '78, and Yasuo Kaneko '78. Though he was born in Japan, finished high school there, and still lives in Tokyo, Hosoi, too, bridges international cultures both in his work and in his family.

After spending a dozen years working for Sun Microsystems in Japan, last year he became president of Nihon SSA Global, which does enterprise resource planning and customizes warehouse management systems. As regional vice president of the parent company, SSA Global Inc., based in Chicago, he frequently travels to the U.S.

In the mid-1970s Hosoi learned about Colby from Mike Meserve '72, who was teaching English at a high school in Japan. After he made the decision to apply and was accepted, Hosoi enrolled in an intensive 10-week English-language course in Brattleboro, Vt., to prepare. It was a program that would have a profound impact on his life, as it was there he met a fellow student from South America, who was to become his wife.

Hosoi said he came of age at a time when "very few people were going to the United States to college," but with his American education and his Colombian spouse, "We're an international family." His children attended an international school in Tokyo and speak Japanese, English, and Spanish. "Now my son is at Middlebury and my daughter, who is 16, will go to the States for college, too."

If Hosoi is part of an international family, Krishan Jhalani '99 is a one-man international juggernaut. A native of India and a graduate of the international school there, he had his sights set exclusively on America for college. (His mother is from Boston.) By the time he graduated he'd spent every summer abroad, one semester in Frieburg, Germany, and another, a year later, in Berlin. He graduated as an international studies and German double major and got a master's in public policy at the University of Michigan, during which time he spent eight months in Lesotho, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. This winter he had recently returned from a three-week visit in Zimbabwe to Washington, D.C., where he works for Population Services International, a public health NGO. He's engaged to a high school classmate from Bhutan, and they hope to be posted in Southeast Asia for three years after the wedding.

So how did Jhalani land in Waterville? The criteria were pretty straightforward. He recalls saying: "I want a school that's big and in Boston." He applied to Bowdoin, Bates, Tufts, and Trinity, but he was most impressed by the campus and the tour at Colby. And, coming from the Woodstock School in northern India with just 60 students, he said, "[Colby] was bigger than what I was used to, so it seemed big to me."

Jhalani's CV includes time at Greenwich Associates (a financial consulting firm), a wild two-year ride with an Internet start-up during "the bubble," and internships at Motorola, Hewlit-Packard, and Lucent Technologies. With some hiking and basketball coaching in India thrown in before grad school, Jhalani covered the literal and figurative gamut when he said, "a lot of it stems from the opportunities a liberal arts education gives you. You can tell from my experience, I've been all over the map."

Applying to four NESCAC colleges, Jhalani was clearly seeking a liberal arts experience. But not all international applicants are familiar with the anomalous American institution of the broad-based bachelor's degree. Many, if not most, countries track students into careers and specialized education in high school or even earlier. Some international students see the liberal arts approach as an opportunity to gain a broad understanding of many subjects and to keep their career options open; others approach a bachelor of arts program with misgivings.

"You have to go with the conscious knowledge that you're not going to be able to apply for a public-service job," said Grande, in Brazil. "'Collegio'--the translation means 'school.' If it was [Colby] University the translation would be easier."