By Hana Soma (King's College London) / Special To The Japan News We were six large bodies crammed inside a five-seat sedan, laughing even as our hearts fluttered at the sudden braking and inconsistent lane-crossing the driver, our classmate, undertook to get through the rush hour traffic. We were headed to a facility for disabled people in an area near the university campus, as part of our project to support and raise awareness about this community.
After finishing my first year at King’s College London majoring in International Relations, I was now at the Queretaro campus of Tecnologico de Monterrey in Mexico for the summer semester. I was finally here after months of repeatedly refreshing and anxiously scouring my inbox to find the email that would decide how my first five weeks of summer would be spent. That my acceptance was not confirmed until two weeks before the programme’s commencement was, I conceded, a reminder of the common piece of Mexican slang, ahorita, which can connote “now,” “later,” or “maybe never.”
It was puzzling that I was back in another small Mexican city after nearly a decade of complaining to my father whenever our family trips were to Mexico’s historical towns instead of the secluded, tourist-oriented resorts. In conjunction with four years of Spanish language study, these past travels developed in me a fascination for Latin people and culture, prompting my interest in pursuing a career specialising in Japan’s relations with Latin America. As the geopolitical leader of Latin America, Mexico had to be where I first deepened my understanding of the region and educated myself on its growing potential.
In the social entrepreneurship class where we launched our awareness project for disabled people, I found myself interacting and conversing with these people directly, having meetings with the facility director and negotiating with companies. By involving myself with a local community in a foreign country through hands-on fieldwork, I experienced the fervor of Mexicans for new ideas and the goal-oriented work ethic of the upcoming generation, capable of leading Mexico to new heights.
And with the distinct syncopated rhythm of salsa class satisfying my ears, the fast tempo of each day would slow down before I went home to the comfort of my host family.
* * *
King’s College London
Founded in 1829, the public institution is a constituent college of the University of London. Notable alumni include science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke and social reformer Florence Nightingale.