Graduation Speech by Mary Helen Tamae Mori
Good Evening Everyone!
From Ambassador Peter Sato, president of APIC to Mr. Saruwatari, former president of Rotary Club District 2750, Mr. Sakamoto of the Yukigaya Company, fellow members of Rotary Club, Mr. Hayashita, former president of Sophia University, Father Sakuma, Chancellor of Sophia University, Ambassador Fritz of the FSM, members of our embassy, other distinguished guests, family and friends, I thank you all for taking the time out of your already busy schedules to be here tonight.
Never in my life had I imagined I would be speaking in front of such important groups and individuals, let alone at such a young age. But that just shows the extent of the opportunities I have received since coming to Japan.
I was not sure what I would talk about tonight, but I was certain that I had to find a way to express my gratitude for how far I have come.
As a senior at Xavier high school applying for Sophia University and the APIC scholarship, I did not know what I was getting myself into. All I thought was, “Why not Japan? Everyone else is going to the US; let me try something different.”
It did not seem like a big deal at first. Like many of my peers, I thought I had watched enough movies to prepare myself for my move. And just like my peers, I could not have been more wrong.
At the age of 17, I made the move from one of the world’s smallest countries to the world’s largest city. It was no secret that my transition was a very tough one. But thanks to the continued encouragement from family back home and friends here, the never-ending kindness from the FSM embassy, the friendliness of former high school teachers living in Japan, and the support from APIC and others, I was able to persevere through the tough times in the beginning.
As evident from this, coming to Japan has even provided me with a solid support system. From this transition alone, I have also learned to be much more independent.
As I started to get adjusted to Tokyo, I saw it for more than a large city with millions of people. Each day, I grew more accustomed to the lifestyle, that every time I would visit home I find myself missing the reliability and convenience of public transportation, convenience stores and how people are very respectful towards others and their belongings, as well as many other things. Tokyo has become a home to me.
That is, however, only one part of my life here in Japan. I came primarily for a college education and I do not think there could have been a better choice than Sophia University. I studied Social Studies in Sophia’s Faculty of Liberal Arts or FLA. I had classes with students who came from all over the world and had professors with degrees from several esteemed universities. You can imagine how amazed I was when I saw one of my very own professors being quoted multiple times in the Japan Times Newspaper. I believe learning in an environment like Sophia’s FLA’s has equipped me well enough to face what the future holds for me.
I have been truly fortunate in the past four years. How many people get to say that they got to live in Japan for college and that their whole undergraduate education at a prestigious university in Tokyo was fully-funded, they had numerous internship opportunities, went on fun excursions, and were able to meet many influential people? I don’t suppose there are that many. But because of the generosity of benefactors, APIC, Sophia University, and the cooperation of various groups, embassies, and organizations, I get to be the one who says I had all of that and more.
These four years have been the toughest, most exciting, educational and adventurous years of my life and I thank each and every one of you for providing me and the others that follow the experience of a lifetime. I hope for your lasting success and the continuing of programs like this one.
Thank you very much!