Turning in a new direction

Amber Coulter

Some students travel thousands of miles from everything they know for excitement, cultural flavor or ambition. Then again, some students come to Bowling Green.

Sophomore Emi Koike, 20, said she just graduated from her Tokyo elementary school when her parents told her and her sister, Anri, 22, that their family was moving to New York.

In light of her parents’ ambitions to establish themselves as New York hairdressers and after taking multiple trips to Hawaii, Koike said she was excited about the move. She said her parents had many reasons for leaving their hometown

“Tokyo is probably too crowded and has too much air pollution, maybe,” Koike said. “I think they were just kind of tired of Tokyo and they just kind of wanted something new.”

Though they expected to return eventually, after two years the Koike family members were forced to leave their New Jersey home and return to Tokyo when their visas expired.

While back in Tokyo schools, Koike said she was introduced to a new realm of athleticism and competition-cheerleading. She said she practiced about 15 hours a week.

While she focused on cheerleading and finished her secondary education in Tokyo, Koike’s mother and sister moved back to the United States as permanent residents. It would be four years before she and her father could rejoin their family in New Jersey.

“I missed them,” Koike said of her mother and sister’s absence. “But I had fun at school so I was OK.”

Though she was busy with school, upon her return to the United States she came to doubt her place in New Jersey.

“I didn’t like it,” Koike said. “Too many Asian people. It’s so close to New York. I only see some Americans. Everybody’s immigrated. I wanted to learn English as fast as I can, so I wanted to be separated from my mom and my sister so I could learn language faster.”

That desire along with the dream to be on an American college dance team, brought Koike to Western last summer. She began improving her English at the English as a Second Language International Program at Cherry Hall while she studied textiles.

“I didn’t even want to go to college in Japan and do dance or cheer. I wanted to come to the United States and be on the team,” Koike said.

But Koike didn’t make the dance team on her first time at try-outs. Still determined, she came out again and made the junior varsity team this season.

“I came back because I wanted to dance,” Koike said.

“I took a couple of jazz classes and hip-hop classes, and I worked out at the gym… I really wanted to be on the team, so they could see I wanted to be on the team, and they thought that I had a strong thought.”

Amy Kempf, coach of the newly-formed junior varsity team, said she could see a difference in Koike at the second tryout.

“It was very obvious in her second try-out that she was determined to be on the team somehow, some way,” Kempf said. “I will catch her at times practicing on the side before it is her time to go. A coach loves the feeling of telling a girl to go home and practice and know she will. She seemed to be quiet and shy, but she would let all the energy and personality out when she danced.”

Koike said she feels like she expresses herself when she dances. She said making the dance team is the most exciting part of coming to the United States.

Koike said she may try out for the varsity dance team on Saturday, and if she likes it, she might stay at Western for three more years.

Reach Amber Coulter at [email protected]