They arrived having previously been boarding students in London. Mari remembers the privilege of weekend activities such as excursions to small towns or visiting Lausanne and watching concerts. During their school days, Mari and Chieko’s parents were based in the UK and Japan and, at that time, all the boarding students were female. Boys were first enrolled in 1993 but only as day students. Mari's favorite teacher was history teacher Mr. Katz and she enjoyed the conversations with Mrs Zund, former Principal that took place during lunch in the dining room. She says that academically she progressed greatly as well. For Mari the ski trip was the most exciting event of the year. She loved playing in the snow and having fun with her friends. Her fondest memory is the school trip to Milan and Venice in Northern Italy. Mari’s opinion is that it is very important to experience different cultures in other countries at an early age. Getting used to mixing with youngsters from other countries and hearing languages help children to grow and open their minds.
The environment of the school with students from all over the world was a great experience to get to know people from different backgrounds. Mari added that exposing children to diversity early on can have an impact on how successful they are as adults. Children introduced to that at a young age acquire stronger social skills and are more receptive to those who speak a different language than their parents. These children are open to imitation regardless of language, which demonstrates their willingness to learn. Immersing children in culturally diverse activities gives them the opportunity to become more comfortable with the difference in race, religion, language, and lifestyle. An International school like St. George’s allow students the opportunity to interact with others that look and speak in a way they aren’t familiar with. As this becomes the norm, a child’s tolerance and open-mindedness for others increases.
It was very easy for Mari to make friends and after 20 years, she is still in contact with some, although it’s difficult to plan to meet up for reunions. Photo below Mari at the back with friends Amanda and Sandra in 1997.
Life skills gained at school, especially being a boarder was becoming independent, learning social skills and having to focus on things at an early age. In addition, being open minded, sociable and not having a bias as to how people look or talk when you first encounter them. The advice she would offer to current students is that St. George’s is a great school and pupils are given such a great opportunity to study and learn in a great environment. Enjoy this moment, you will cherish it all your life! From a young age, Mari knew what she wanted to do in life and has valued the opinions of her parents, but she has always made her own decisions. She feels she had learned from her mistakes and as nobody is perfect, she adds that it is important to try not to repeat the same mistake again.
In 2001 Mari moved to Los Angeles USA where she later graduated from Loyola Marymount University with B.A. in Economics. She continues to live in LA, having been there for 20 years and has a daughter, aged 7 who is a 2nd grader in an elementary school. Nowadays, Mari works for the family business. They have a factory in Japan that make machines to create wood-like material from plastics. The recycled plastic is transformed into home furniture items that are eco-friendly. As a result, trees are not cut down which helps the planet. Mari works for the international department as the company has clients all over the world.
Beside work and doing her best for her daughter, Mari is passionate about travelling and learning foreign languages. She has studied English, French, Chinese, Spanish and Italian. She told us that "Twenty years ago it was ok to only have the knowledge of English. Now we are living in such a competitive society, it's a must to be at least bilingual and it is better to know another language beside English. I started learning a foreign language at St. George's which gave me an opportunity to learn other languages from an early age. This experience has opened doors to me. I started learning Italian two years ago and I have now completed the C1 level this year and passed the CILS exam (the Certification of Italian as a Foreign Language). I would like to learn Chinese again because it is the most spoken language in the world and is very useful in business. “
“I think it's never too late to start something. We can always begin learning something new any time with the correct attitude and motivation. I like to challenge myself. We don't grow when things are easy. We grow when we face challenges.''
Mari’s goal now is to make her business grow and live happily with her family. Both Mari and her sister, Chieko were delighted to have been invited to the school's 90th anniversary and reunion in 2017, but unfortunately were unable to attend. In February 2020, just before the pandemic, Mari and her family visited Montreux and returned to St. George’s. She recalls “even though we didn't have an appointment with the school, the faculties allowed us to visit inside the school. I saw my sister's school photo from 1993 in the hallway leading to the lounge. All the great memories of my time spent there came back to me.“
Chieko, Mari’s older sister, lives in Tokyo Japan and she has 3 children. She runs her own flower arrangement business. After becoming a parent, she encountered a problem with her weight and she started to work out. Prior to this, she had no experience or knowledge about fitness! Since then, she has won many fitness competitions. Beside her passion for working out, she likes to climb mountains which is not an easy challenge, but the best view comes after a difficult climb. Both Mari and Chieko have great memories from St. George's. They truly appreciate the school for giving them such wonderful learning experiences.
Many thanks to Mari for taking the time to share her memories with us.