Louise Stark (2001)

1) What are your fondest memories of Seisen International School?

This is a question that I, in all honesty, can’t answer. I do not have any specific memories that stand out in my mind – when I think about my years (many years) at Seisen, it comes back to me in scenes. I remember looking out from my 8th grade homeroom which was then located on the same level as the large playground, and seeing the door into the opposite building where the art room was. I remember looking down into the red-bricked courtyard from the stairs leading down to it. I remember walking “up the wall, down the railing” in all the stairwells – I still do that, to this day. I remember being scolded in one such stairwell by Mrs. Seno for chewing gum when I was representing Seisen at St Mary’s (I still feel bad about that). I remember saying an inappropriate word in a religion class when I was giving a presentation, and seeing all my classmates freeze with shock and barely contained laughter, feeling myself freeze with shame, and seeing Ms. StJohn trying to look stern and pretending not to have heard it. I remember always asking the cafeteria ladies for more food.

I remember all these things, and many more. And when I remember them, it makes me calm. They are all safe memories. Seisen gave me a solid foundation, and a strong belief of self-worth. Of everyone’s worth. My fondest memory of Seisen, is that it was.

2) How did your education at Seisen influence your career path?

Seisen did not affect my career path. What Seisen did, was never pigeonhole me. When I left Seisen, I felt secure in my knowledge, in the learning that Seisen imparted on me, and I felt like I could at least give anything I wanted a shot. Seisen encouraged my creativity, my curiosity, all my efforts regardless of whether they were academical or not. Seisen gave me a map, helped me understand where the different paths would lead me, made sure I had a well-packed knapsack, and set me on my way. 

3) What life advice would you give current students?

Listen to yourself, and put yourself first – put your own oxygen mask on before helping others. Otherwise, you will not be able to help anyone at all, least of all yourself.

About Louise

I moved to Japan in March 1985, just before my second birthday. I started Kindergarten at Seisen in 1986, in Violet. I continued at Seisen until graduation in May 2001. Along the way, I played volleyball (a lot), soccer (a little), track and field (slowly); I was in the One Act Play, the musical, the Speech Team – not all in the same year! I was also involved in the Student Council and Boosters.

After graduation, I moved to Sweden and started medical school at Lunds University. When I was 19, I did my military training (which was then not mandatory for women). After that year, I went back to medical school for one semester, but the military had made me interested in international law, so I did law school for one semester – it was not my thing. Via organic chemistry, I made my way back to medical school, and this time, it stuck.

I moved from the south to the far north, to Gällivare, above the arctic circle, to complete my internship of two years. After that, in 2011, I moved a little south and started my training to becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon at Norrlands University Hospital in Umeå. I completed that training a few years ago, and am now the only green-haired cardiothoracic surgeon at my hospital – the only green-haired surgeon in any of the surgical departments. I’ve also been the only pink-haired/blue-haired/purple-haired surgeon here.

In my spare time, I pet my cats, hang out with my husband, and try to chop wood like Mr Nicolai – our counselor at Seisen who grew up in northwest Canada and chops wood like he’s doing a graceful and effective dance.