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Living & Learning: Japanese students overseas / Learning to appreciate my potential as a woman

Courtesy of Kaori Hayashi

Kaori Hayashi, center, with friends on campus

By Kaori Hayashi (Wellesley College) / Special to The Japan News This column features reports by Japanese students currently studying overseas on their lives on and off campus.

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Getting out of my lab filled with the artificial smell of chemicals, I walk to the lake to enjoy the fresh air and the sounds the leaves make as they rustle in the breeze. Had I stayed in Japan, I wouldn’t have experienced either of these moments.

Going to a coed high school in Japan, an American college wasn’t an alternative until the last year and a half of high school. The thought of attending an all-women’s college didn’t even pop into my brain. Yet somehow I am here, at Wellesley College, a place where I can truly be as I want to be in a beautiful environment.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

Being at an all-women’s college often gives a negative impression to Japanese people. However, it has a significant impact that even I did not imagine, teaching women to be major influences in making

differences in the world. I witness student organizations led by women, physics and math classes filled with women, and alumnae working as leaders of companies and political parties. Yet even though I’d thought I had had progressive perspectives on women, I was stunned by the enormous emphasis Wellesley puts on the power of women when I started my college life last fall.

As I realized the comfort of studying what I want to and taking leadership in the community, I realized how pressured I felt when I was in a coed environment. I always had to fight the hesitation of being “smarter than men” and being too active and powerful for a woman. This all-women’s liberal arts college allowed me to pursue and combine my interests in neuroscience and philosophy, both male-dominated academic fields. I dissect sheep brains, record neural excitement, and read and write papers about the reality of time without hesitation based on the fact that I am a woman.

Had I gone to a coed college in Japan, I might have buried my potential under the social pressure.

Wellesley’s motto is Non Ministrari sed Ministrare: “Not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” The place you belong might be somewhere you can truly believe in the power of women.

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Wellesley College

The private women’s college, based in Wellesley, Mass., is widely acknowledged as one of the best institutions of higher education in the United States. Notable alumni include Hillary Clinton, former U.S. state secretary and first lady.

In partnership with Ryugaku Fellowship

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