One in 2000: Ayami Hatanaka ’18

Photo courtesy of Arjun Kakkar.
Photo courtesy of Arjun Kakkar.

Ayami Hatanaka ’18 has only been at the College a short time, but she has already cemented herself as one of campus’s liveliest presences. The Record sat down with the Fro-Co president who hails from Hawaii to discuss her aspirations, her transition to “the mainland”  and how exactly she mistook a professor for a pre-frosh. 

You are from Hawaii, right? How has the transition been?

Yes, I am. It’s really funny. My mom came to visit me over Parents’ Weekend and was bundled up in this huge winter coat. I am surviving in a Patagonia, which means I’ve acclimated. The transition has been nice because it’s been gradual. I had to ask my [Junior Advisor] (JA) if I should put my shorts away for the winter. Culturally it’s been a little different, too. Like a lot of my entrymates make fun of the way I talk. Also, people are really friendly back home. I am very outgoing and wild, so maybe that just throws people off a little when they first meet me.

What’s been your strangest experience as a first-year so far?

I asked a professor accidentally if they were a pre-frosh once. [Laughs.] There were a few factors going into this. I was really tired. It was really early in the morning. She, I won’t say who, was wearing a huge backpack or purse. I thought she was going to the airport after this class or something, so before this one class, I asked “Are you a pre-frosh?” When she said no, I was like, “It’s so awkward. I ask seniors sometimes too.” And she just straight-faced said, “This one gets better. I am a professor.” I think I laughed really hard then ran away.  Hopefully, she won’t remember my face. She looked really young. She seemed like a nice lady.

[Laughs.] I bet she probably took it as a compliment. So, you’re the president of Frosh Council. How has the job been so far?

It’s really fun. I get to meet a lot of people, which is awesome. Sometimes I feel bad because people will come up to me and ask questions, which I don’t always have answers to.

Do you have any plans or goals for your year as president?

We are starting this thing called House Cup. It’ll be, like, random things throughout the year. We had pumpkin carving. And then Dean Dave didn’t show up when we asked him to judge, but we knew President Falk and Dean Bolton were doing a thing for the parents inside Chapin Hall. One other guy and I had to be like, “Hey, Dean Bolton, want to judge a pumpkin carving contest?” Adam Falk walked out and was like, “What is this?” So he got roped in, too. So, the House Cup is basically a year-long entry contest, with pumpkin carving, broomball tournament, trivia contests and scavenger hunts. We are hoping to end it sometime before finals. Hopefully we will end it with a bang. We want to get a trophy and each year it can reside in the entry that wins. It is really just for eternal glory.

What was the biggest adjustment coming to college for you?

I think it was being comfortable with myself. At home, I kept school and home life very separate. I was still kind of weird at school, but people saw me as very prim and proper, like the student body president. “She is this very structured person.” But at home I just sit around and watch Netflix and make weird sounds. At college, though, you are constantly living with the people that you go to school with. I remember First Days, sitting with people and having some serious talks with the JAs, and I just remember thinking, “Oh these guys have no idea what’s coming to them.” It was funny because last week they were like, yeah, we thought you were kind of quiet at first.

Any crazy high school stories?

Well, when I gave my speech at the end of my junior year to run for student body president, I read my speech to my friend. She said I needed to grab people’s attention more in the beginning and start with a bang. So I thought, why don’t I literally start with a bang? I shouted “Bang!” into the microphone before starting. Everyone jumped out of their seats, and I was like, “Sweet. So now that I have your attention…” What else? I broke a microwave once. I didn’t know you couldn’t put tinfoil in it. It was at home, not at school. I even ate the burger afterwards, after it had caught on fire. We had to throw the microwave away. My mom made me research why tinfoil and metal can’t be put in the microwave. That was my punishment – researching tinfoil.

How did your mom like Williams when she visited?

She loved it. My sister goes to a big school and Williams, by contrast, is such a small, liberal arts college. I think my mom wanted both of us to go to small, liberal arts colleges, not like she cared where we ended up, but that is what she would choose if she were us. She grew up in Japan, so she was used to four seasons, but now she has lived in Hawaii for 20 years. She is used to the warmth. I think she hit it off with the Japanese professor I introduced her to. They started talking about their respective pregnancies, and I was like, okay, it is time for me to leave.

Which climate do you like more?

When I was in Hawaii, I was really ready to get out. I am not as homesick as I thought I would be. This is my first fall ever, and this winter will be my first real winter. I live in Mission, but I work in Schow, so even though I might have classes relatively close to Mission, I still have to walk all the way across campus. If you see me, this little thing trudging up the hill, then offer me a place to stay. Give me some warmth!

Have you bought winter gear yet?

One of the dudes in the mailroom accused me the other day of having a shopping addiction. I came without any winter clothes, a coat or anything. There were a few weeks when I went to the mailroom every day. I am also lazy, so I even order shampoo off Amazon.

What was it like living on an island?

Everything is expensive because you have to have it shipped to you. If Hawaii ever has an island-wide power outage, no one could get to the island. We would all be dead in, like, three days. Because it is a small island, there are a lot of apartments. If there is no power, you have to climb up like 20 to 30 flights of stairs. Yeah, I think Hawaii needs to address that issue. You have to fly to other parts of your state sometime, to one of the 8 islands. The culture is fun though. There is something very laid back and chill about the culture. The people at Williams are awesome too, though, and chill, and I love them. But it’s a very different vibe from back home, and I am trying to learn a lot from both vibes. Hawaii is a great place to raise kids, though. There is a lot of diversity, you have a lot of great resources, and there are so many great people there. I loved growing up there.

What is the typical cuisine of Hawaii?

I think there is a Buzzfeed video of people from the mainland trying food from the islands. I get laughed at all the time, as someone not from the mainland. The number one thing that people are grossed out by or that is unusual is Spam. I don’t eat a lot of Spam, but a lot of Hawaiians do. They will eat Spam rice. If you ask, what is the food of modern Hawaii? I would have to say Spam. There’s this thing called Spam musubi. You take a slice of Spam, some rice, and lay them on top of each other. You put some sauce on and some seaweed, and eat it. That is the only Spam thing I’ll eat. My mom is from Japan and very grossed out by it. My friends ate it growing up, so I am not grossed out by it. If someone here said they had [it] and offered me, I would be like, “Yes! Where is it? I’ll be there!” Also, dessert-wise, there is haupia, a coconut dessert thing. They once had it in Driscoll. I was freaking out and people told me to calm down because it was just a white mushy thing. It has a consistency between pudding and Jell-O. This one was a little mushy. I love dining services; those people are so nice. But this haupia was lacking.

What’s on your college bucket list?

Graduate. [Laughs.] I really want to walk to Vermont. That sounds insane to me, walking to another state! I think it would be cool to meet all the people in my class year and have meaningful connections with them. I feed off people and their energy. When I am in my room, I am very calm, which is the opposite of how I am around people. The minute I walk into the common room, I get so insane. Like, this energy kind of takes me over. I can’t control it, especially during entry snacks sometimes. It’s really bad. But I really think that because I feed off other people so much, it would be cool to get to know every person in my class.

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