Kai Ueno ’16, Psychology
“I am a member of the Japanese Society Club here at Becker,” Ueno said. “We discuss Japanese culture, make Japanese foods, work on Origami paper crafts, and do other activities that remind me of home. Almost all of the other students are from New England, and I don’t think they have had much experience interacting with Japanese people and culture. I’ll be happy if the club leads them to become even more interested in my culture.”
It’s because of her own interest in a specific aspect of that Japanese culture that Ueno’s passion for psychology began. The 24-year-old Hokkaido, Japan, native grew up during what was considered a period of destruction of public morals in Japan. She cites widespread social withdrawal, a shift in the dating patterns of high school girls, and brutal murder by a religious cult as some examples she remembers from the news. “I saw lots of news stories related to antisocial or maladaptive behaviors and became interested in those behaviors,” she said. “I wanted to know why those behaviors happen.”
Ueno graduated from Waseda University in Tokyo in 2013 with a degree in adult and community education—a major she chose for the freedom it provided her to study anything as long as it related to education in society. “During my college days, I made an effort to meet people with maladaptive behaviors,” she said. “I volunteered as a teaching assistant at an alternative school for children, and I studied juvenile delinquency and spent time at a juvenile training school for delinquents. Through these experiences, I realized many children with problems are not as peculiar as I thought and they are often not all that different from other kids. I’m still curious about why those behaviors occur and which interventions are most effective.”
While attending a graduate program at Waseda after earning her undergraduate degree, Ueno participated in an internship at a public junior high school and became interested in studying psychology. “During that experience, I met a student with autism,” she said. “Unfortunately he was being bullied, and neither myself nor the other interns nor his teachers could deal with him well because none of us knew very much about his disorder. I realized I needed to learn more about those kinds of disorders.”
Upon receiving a scholarship to study in the U.S. through the ALLEX Foundation (Alliance for Language Learning and Educational Exchange), an organization that brings native Chinese, Taiwanese, and Japanese speakers with teacher training to institutions in North America to teach or to learn, Ueno left Waseda in January 2015. She was assigned to Becker by ALLEX because of Becker’s small size and the comfort it offers foreign students; she has since been pursuing her psychology degree at the College.
“I appreciate the resources Becker provides for students,” Ueno said. “For instance, the Collaborative Learning Center (CLC) provides one-on-one tutoring sessions, and professors are very willing to provide extra help. At my previous college, there were 50,000 students, professors were always busy, and the writing center was always crowded. I’ve needed a lot of help at Becker with writing papers and catching up in my classes, and these resources have been very helpful to me.”
Ueno aims to attend graduate school in the U.S. when she completes her degree at Becker in 2016. She has enjoyed learning about behavioral disorders and is now unsettled as to which particular career path to take in the future. “I do know I would like to work with kids with special needs,” she said. “I’m currently interested in clinical psychology, or being a school counselor. Since my interest stemmed from Japanese societal problems, my ultimate goal is to go back to Japan and work toward alleviating social problems there.”