Shiori Fujishige’s Essay

I was born on the Big Island of Hawaii and brought up, without a father, by my mother who was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan. We lived with my grandmother who was born and raised in Germany and my step-grandfather who is French.They worked very hard to convince me that a decent education is very important to survive in this ever more challenging world. Since they all helped to bring me up, from an early age, I had role models who demonstrated how to excel in new environments. Interestingly, several years ago, before entering High School, I visited Japan and was fascinated that many of my values, namely perseverance, commitment and hard work were cornerstones of a Japanese upbringing.

I have lived and breathed diversity. On the Big Island of Hawaii, we are “a melting pot” of Native Hawaiians, Koreans, Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos and Caucasians. Not one group is a majority of the population. Similarly, even off island I have thrived in new and diverse contexts. This past summer, I participated in tennis camps on the mainland at the University of California, Santa Barbara and University of California, San Diego. Luckily, I had a chance to meet people within my age group from Europe, Japan and assorted U.S. states, which I found very stimulating. Though we were complete strangers and I was the only attendant from Hawaii, I quickly bonded with my peers and roommates. During my stay, I was able to explore the university campuses and visualize what life on campus as a college student – no matter where – would be like. I imagined my sports activities, which consisted of a rigorous eight-hour schedule every day, being replaced by attending a variety of classes, extra-curricular activities, volunteering on campus, doing intramural sports and studying with a range of diverse college-mates.

I will be actively involved in campus and community service, and fundraisers, as was the case during high school. Since my freshman year in high school, I have been a member and leader of the Interact Club. We are a community volunteer organization. Most recently we held a car wash to raise money for orphans in India. Similarly, every year, I volunteer to help with the Ironman Triathlon World championship which requires hundreds of volunteers to coordinate the athletes’ efforts. Despite my busy schedule with work and school this semester, I also managed to help out as a server at my National Honor Society’s “Dinner under the Stars” fundraiser, cook for and serve the needy on Thanksgiving and other occasions, and participated in the beautification of our school’s campus during our “Kealakehe Parkway Cleanup Project”, sponsored by our school’s Interact Club. I am a committee member for Project Grad which is an under- taking to provide a safe, drug- and alcohol-free environment for our graduation party, which is strongly supported by local businesses.

I also expect to continue participating in sports. Through athletics such as running cross country, varsity tennis team and varsity cheerleading, I had honed my concentration, discipline and interpersonal skills. Likewise, I have eight years of ballet under my belt and would enjoy dancing as a creative outlet.

In order to help support my family, I work as a server assistant at a high-end eatery at the Four Seasons Hotel just adjacent to the breaking surf. Our patrons come from every corner of the globe to share the majesty and beauty of the Big Island. We work very hard as a team at the restaurant to make sure our visitors’ experience is unforgettable. Sometimes I get the chance to try out my Spanish and my French. When I ask them about their favorite parts of their visit, many mention the lava spewing volcano and the unspoiled beaches, but most fulfilling are their comments about our “Aloha Spirit”. No matter how many times guests ask me how to say “thank you” in Hawaiian, I tell them “mahalo”. Further, I explain that we feel very blessed to live in such a special place and thank them for making such a long and arduous journey to honor us with their presence. I truly appreciate learning and working with colleagues and guests from assimilated cultures and religions.

Being from Hawaii, I can’t imagine my life without spreading the “Aloha Spirit”, which means showing my respect for everybody, exhibiting compassion and empathy and appreciating diversity in cultures, religions and customs.