Succeeding as a single parent while in school can be hard and is not a lifestyle most would choose. But when Junko Takamura, graduate in mental health counseling, wanted to finish her education, she and her seven year-old daughter Rin packed their bags and headed to Kansas.
Junko’s husband works as an engineer in Japan and after long discussions, supported his wife’s decision to continue her education in America. But she did not receive the same support from his family who believes a wife should be home to support the husband and raise the children.
“Japan is very conservative to gender roles,” Junko said. “Like me, it is very unusual for a mother to leave. Most of my family was opposed to me coming to the United States, except my husband.”
A year of preparation led to both Junko and Rin enrolling in new schools in a new country. Rin attends the William Allen White Elementary School while her mother has class during the day.
Rin said her favorite class is computers because she gets to play games. She also enjoys playing soccer, house and jumping rope during recess.
“I have time to study until she gets out of school,” Junko said. “I meet her after school so we can eat then we usually come back to ESU to study. When she came to the U.S. she spoke very little English, but now she has friends at school and she speaks better.”
Both Junko and Rin spoke very little English before the move, but Amy Murphy, sophomore elementary education major, helped them improve their English, meeting with them once a week for tutoring and even taking them to Wal-Mart.
“They were always eager to learn,” Murphy said. “Rin was always fun because she loved talking to me about animals and the stuff she did at school, but she would get distracted easily, especially when there where people who spoke her language around.”
To finish her degree, Junko will need to spend three years in Emporia. During this time she plans to only go home during the summer, spending holidays with friends in the states.
“I really wanted to study mental health counseling,” said Junko. “Before I came to the United States I worked as a nurse midwife and I saw many pregnant women and mothers who suffered from mental health illness, and I wanted to help them.”
Junko attended Saniku Gakuin Junior College and Suzuki Memorial Hospital Training School for Midwives in Japan. She also graduated from Ferris University, a women’s college in Yokohama. She decided to come to the U.S. because she would receive a better education for mental illness counseling.
Junko discovered ESU through Sakae Institution Study Abroad, an organization which provides information about universities and study programs in the United States.
Junko’s bicycle is the main method of transportation for the two, a benefit of living close to campus. They spend most of their time at William Allen White Library so Junko can study for the workload of nine credit hours.
Without a job, Junko relies on her husband for financial support. She keeps in contact through Skype and e-mail whenever she can find time.