Profile: Ingrid Saito

Ask SILS second-year Ingrid Saito where she’s from, and she will respond with a plethora of answers. Read about her journey here.

Her Campus Waseda: Where have you lived?

Ingrid Saito: I was born in Paraguay, but I have lived in Mexico, Japan, Panama, Bolivia, Sri Lanka and Uganda.

HCW: What is your best/worst memory of living in so many different places?

IS: I went to three different types of primary schools in three different countries (Japanese school, international school, American school). During those first 6 years of my primary education, I was exposed to so many things at once, which at first was really overwhelming to transition from one school to another, but I feel like it really expanded my horizons. I’m really thankful that I got that experience at such a young age.

HCW: How did you cope with adjusting to a new place?

IS: I couldn’t do that at first because I would be emotionally attached to the place. For example, the very first place that I remember living is Panama. When I had to move from Panama to Bolivia, I didn’t take it too well, and I said that I didn’t want to move on and that I wanted to stay there with my friends. But in life, everything changes and nothing is constant and nothing guaranteed, so it was tough love on the part of my parents.

HCW: Which place that you lived in had the biggest impact on you?

IS: Uganda, because it was without a doubt the most international experience that [I had]. My classmates were from all over the place. Right now, I have friends living in all corners of the globe. [Uganda also had an impact on me because] I lived in an African country, which many people have pretty extreme misconceptions about, and being exposed to such a beautiful country that has had a tumultuous past with dictatorships and civil wars. I felt like I could see a lot of development firsthand, and I could interact with the locals. I know that are still problems that prevail in Uganda at the moment, but it’s come such a long way and I think it’s important to recognize those positive aspects about certain places in the world that are often overlooked or marginalized.

HCW: Where is a country that you’d like to go to that you’ve never been before?

IS: There are so many places that I want to go to. I feel like every person I met in Uganda who was a foreigner living there was an ambassador of that country and they loved their country so much. They cooked their own country’s food, told us about their traditions and showed us their music and dance and expressed themselves in a way that was not overly nationalistic. They were inviting and welcoming and told me of all of these places that I’ve never been but I feel like I know. I feel like it’s possible to have that with a place that you’ve never been to. I fall in love with countries more than I fall in love with people, and for that reason it’s impossible for me to choose one single country, because everywhere I go I’m going to fall in love [with that place] anyways.

HCW: What makes you happy?

IS: My friends and food. I think my love for food has become deeper and deeper with every passing year. I also love my friends, since they’ve always been a really significant part of my life. They were my support system when I needed help. In the very beginning when I couldn’t speak English when I first went to an international school or when I couldn’t speak Spanish when I went to Bolivia, my friends and I weren’t able to verbally communicate but we could somehow understand each other on a level that was deeper than just oral communication. It’s so easy to make connections when you’re young by just playing in the field.

HCW: Is there something/someone that has impacted you in any way?

IS: I am constantly inspired by intelligent people that I meet. I can’t just point to one person, because I owe who I am to all of the interactions that I’ve had with all of the different people that I’ve met and have impacted me positively or negatively. I take everyone as sandpaper and I’m a rock. Every interaction is polishing yourself up with every little connection that you make with people. But if I had to [mention] one person, it is a senpai (older person in school) from Sri Lanka. She founded a social platform where people can communicate their ideas and share their thoughts and stories that are attached to a certain food that they like. Her idea is that no matter where you’re from or what language you speak or how you’ve been raised, nobody in this world can survive without food. She thought it was important to share what’s the same between us and foster more understanding. One dish can tell so many different stories and mean so many different things to people. To be able to express yourself through something as lovable as food, I thought it was pretty impressive.

HCW: What is your favorite thing about Waseda?

IS: For a pretty substantial part of my life, I’ve lived abroad and coming to Waseda was tough for me in the beginning because I felt like I didn’t quite fit in and I couldn’t find the atmosphere that I was used to. But, I think Waseda has given me a chance to be more independent and possibly more than learning academically I’ve learned a lot of things about myself and how I project myself to people in certain situations.

HCW: Anything else that you’d like to add?

IS: I feel quite strongly about the word “ha-fu” (Half). In many Japanese societies, I have never felt like I really fit in because I’m perceived as the other. There are a few categories like “Japanese” and “foreigner” and “other.” That box that I would have to tick is what many Japanese people call “ha-fu” and I hate that word because I’m not half anything. I’m not half-Japanese or half-Paraguayan, and I’m not both. I don’t know what I identify myself with more or less. But the word “ha-fu” has become so popularized and so mainstream in Japanese culture but is kind of discriminatory because [it shows that] you will never be fully Japanese. So if I had to tell anyone anything about my identity, I would never use the word “ha-fu” even though people ask. I wish people would be able to see there’s so much more to me than just my ethnicity or nationality. We’re not at that stage in Japan where it excluded itself from all other nations. I think we need to be more open-minded and realize that words have certain connotations and implications that are not as positive.

This article was written by HC Waseda Guest Writer, Megumi Kitamoto.