Living & Learning / Immersed in Diversity and Social Justice

Courtesy of May Kurata

May Kurata, center, is making dinner with her floormates.

By May Kurata (Grinnell College) / Special To The Japan News I am a Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies major, currently in my third year at Grinnell College in Iowa. I decided to go to Grinnell because it’s a small liberal arts college, it offered my major, it has an open curriculum (meaning that the first-year seminar is the only required class for all students), their financial aid offer met my needs 100 percent, and because it seemed like a school full of talented, social-justice oriented and caring students and professors from diverse backgrounds.

I was absolutely spot on with the last reason. My first semester, I was roommates with my now best friend from Florida with whom I have spent many hours watching a reality TV show that selects America’s next drag queen superstar, visiting her aunts and uncles in Lincoln, Neb., for Thanksgiving every year, and eating many late-night vegan snacks together. I also became best friends with a Chicagoan vegan yoga instructor floor-mate who was a year above me. Our daily conversation sometimes only consisted of strange onomatopoeia and occasional cooing but on other days we would have extensive discussions on topics ranging from white privilege and intersectional veganism to emotional labor in romantic relationships between individuals raised as cisgender heterosexuals.

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Meanwhile, I was taking classes with four extremely smart, caring and badass professors — a Political Science professor from Spain who taught me all the different types of nationalisms and why her son who cannot pronounce “hola” is not a Catalan like she is; an Arabic professor from Egypt who fed me delicious vegan Egyptian cuisine and shared with me the personal and very political reason why she wears her head scarf in the United States but not in Egypt; a Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies professor from Canada who taught me the joy of working through and figuring out dense readings on Critical Theory; a Philosophy professor, once a student of Hannah Arendt, who taught me “Modernity, Morality and Genocide” in my first-year seminar, and has been advising me on the courses I take and introducing me to so many brilliant professors like the ones I have just mentioned.

I did not expect to learn so much from all the people I have met nor to grow so much, but I did, and I am excited to go back after an almost yearlong break for my mental health.

In addition to my degree in Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies, I plan on getting a certificate in labor and social welfare laws in Japan and working with companies (and hopefully in the not-so-far future, the government) to improve work environments for women, parents, LGBT folks, workers from outside of Japan, and those at risk of becoming mentally ill.

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Grinnell College

Founded in 1846, this private institution located in Grinnell, Iowa, consistently ranks among the nation’s best liberal arts colleges. It has about 1,600 students, about 18 percent of which are international students.Speech

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