Yuri Maruyama
Yuri Maruyama ’12

Yuri Maruyama’s post-graduation move to Washington, D.C., coincided with a big event in the nation’s capital: the 2012 presidential election. Even better, the election was Maruyama’s first chance to vote as an American citizen.

Maruyama was born in Japan but grew up in Irvine, Calif., where her family moved when she was 6. She became a citizen in 2009, during her time at Colby. Her first election “was really exciting,” she said, “although I voted absentee [in California], so I didn’t have the satisfaction of getting an ‘I voted’ sticker.”

And yet, Maruyama’s reason for landing in D.C. takes her back to her roots: she’s working for the U.S.-Japan Council, a relatively new nonprofit that strives to create personal connections between people from both countries to strengthen international relations. Her extended family in Japan told her about the organization. She landed an internship in August, which quickly turned into a full-time position.

As administrative assistant, Maruyama plans programs and events, helps with fundraising, and serves as an assistant to the council’s president.

“It’s such a small organization, you kind of have your hands in everything,” she said over lunch at a noodle bar on Dupont Circle, close to her office. “A liberal arts experience in the real world.”

One of the programs Maruyama’s involved in is the TOMODACHI (“friendship,” in Japanese) Initiative. Organizers are helping students affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, in part by bringing them to the United States for educational and cultural programs.

“I still feel very deeply connected to the country,” Maruyama said. “I just wanted to do something that would help people in that area.” Many of the students she works with lost their families and jobs, but, she said, “it’s great to see they still have so much hope and ambition.”

The advice from an art history major (her introduction to Washington came through an internship at the Smithsonian) to future Colby grads?

“Don’t be too stuck on what you majored in, because sometimes, if you step out a little from what you’re used to, you could still find something absolutely incredible.”

—Alexis Grant ’03