Seisen Class of 1988
When I was asked to write a profile for Seisen’s website, I agreed because I think it would have been helpful to me, if I had known more about students who had graduated before me, to get their advice, impressions, hopes and fears as they tackled successes and challenges. After jogging my mind a little, I tried to imagine myself back in high school... not easy since these days I often forget what I did just last week in the busy-ness of everyday tasks.
It may sound cliche, but it is true, that the cultural diversity of the Seisen community did make me appreciate and be open to the differences amongst us. By difference I mean not just where we came from and where we wanted to go, but in how people express themselves, are motivated and interact with each other. What Seisen also taught me, as a small school, was the importance of taking the intiative, to make things happen, to get things done. I was an ambitious student but what I remember most from high school is how there were never enough hours to sleep in every morning or enough hours in the day to do everything I needed to and wanted to do. Well, some things never change.
The IB program began at Seisen my junior year of high school. The school encouraged me to become one of their first diploma candidates. The IB was already well established around the world at good schools but at Seisen it was brand new--and only 2 students signed on to do the full diploma in my class. It seemed a small risk in that I had no idea how well the school could prepare me and I had always planned on taking AP courses and applying to universities in the United States only. I think however, the IB did encourage more independent and in depth research, critical thinking and prepare me better for the kinds of courses I was interested in, when I got to college.
With the luxury of my parents paying for college, and admission to a world-renowned one, I obviously wanted to do well, but had only a vague idea of what I wanted to do, something in ‘Business or Publishing’ according to my college application. I wanted the time and freedom to explore both academically and socially, which I did and loved. I tried to get in to as many small seminars - classes with about 12 students and a professor that met weekly, which allowed me to delve in depth and go off on tangents that I wanted to read about or learn about, and plenty of time to spend with my new friends. Harvard had wonderful resources, fascinating people and really interesting professors. The friends I made in college, not to mention my husband, are some of the people I am closest to, even now, almost a quarter century later.
Even as I was graduating from Harvard, I hadn’t made up my mind - I either wanted to be an academic in my field, art history, or wanted to become an architect. I sat at home and tried to figure out what I wanted to do and how hard I was willing to work for it. I took on some entry level jobs that at least seemed interesting, at broadcast station NHK helping organize their figure skating competitions, exhibits and concerts and then at Seisen, where the school had graciously offered me a position as a kind of college and academic counselor. I applied to graduate PhD programs in art history and professional degree programs in Architecture and waited to make my decision, meanwhile interning at different kinds of architecture firms: large corporate ones and small studio-like ones, making xeroxes, cutting endless rectangles of foam core and cardboard to make into models.
Architecture school (Harvard University Graduate School of Design) was intense and an abrupt wake-up for me, going from leisurely, thoughtful and intellectual seminars and endeavors to regularly staying up until 2 or 3 am in the studio fueled by coffee - finishing drawings and models for presentations. What you learn even in architecture school, as one should, is how fun and easy it seems to think, to imagine and to design, but how difficult and time-consuming the actual production of drawings, the coordination of clients, engineers, stakeholders, and contractors in the design and construction process is to transform ideas into reality. I can’t complain because when I had that fork in the road where I chose to go to architecture school over a doctorate in art history - I decided I wanted to make things and see ideas built into something that people could touch, experience and occupy. There’s a Japanese saying about how everyone is either a craftsman, a salesman or a showman by nature. I think to be successful as an architect you need a little of all and juggle a little bit of each: you have to care deeply about how things are made, you have to convince your clients that you are the one that can realize their vision, and then you have to project that confidence and design sensibility to everyone around you - whether they are clients, builders, peers.
The same is true in life: I juggle being an architect, a mom, a wife, a daughter and a friend... and am trying everyday to be the best I can be at each of those things, knowing it will be far from perfect.