Bright past, brighter future
Barbara Sieck ’05, a close friend of Grobel’s, described what makes Grobel such an interesting and accomplished person. “Hana has so many interests and is constantly trying to learn more,” said Sieck. “Her love of travel, music, the Japanese culture and language, science and medicine and photography make her a wonderful person to have conversations with because she incorporates all of her knowledge into our discussions. She is constantly challenging herself to learn more and do more and see more; this means that she is always evolving and embarking on new adventures.”
Grobel has many possibilities for her future, including medical school. During her sophomore year, Grobel was accepted into the Mount Sinai Humanities and Medicine program. “It’s a program that allows undergraduates to explore other areas before deciding on medical school,” Grobel explained. The summer after her junior year she went on rounds with doctors in the mornings and took organic chemistry and physics in the afternoons. “It was an amazing summer,” said Grobel, “but I’m still not sure whether or not I would like to continue on that path. I really enjoyed going on rounds with doctors from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., but leaving the office or surgery room after 4 hours only gave me a peek into the life of a doctor.”
Nonetheless, those who know Grobel well believe that if medicine is the path she chooses, she will succeed. “I’m sure that if she [goes to medical school] she’ll be fantastic, both as a student of medicine and as a compassionate caretaker of her patients,” said Kelly Ott ’05.
Although she has a Japanese mother, Grobel never learned Japanese as a child. “I knew I wanted to begin the language when I came to Amherst,” she said. “I was lucky to be able to be immersed in the culture when I got to go to Japan after my freshman and sophomore years.”
After her first year at the College, Grobel participated in the University Mobility in Asia and the Pacific Leaders Program at Kyushu University in Japan. Then, the summer after her sophomore year, Grobel was a Nambu Foundation intern at Aprica Kassai, Inc. in Osaka, Japan. During the internship, Grobel translated many things from Japanese to English and vice versa. “It was an incredible summer. I was able to speak and make friends and really live on my own. I promised everyone I would come back to Japan after I graduated,” she said. Grobel is keeping her promise, as she will soon return on the fellowship she was awarded this winter. The moment she found out she had been chosen for the fellowship was certainly a memorable one for Grobel. “I was so surprised,” she said. “I really didn’t think I was going to get it.”
Grobel has lots of plans for what she is going to do with her time when she is not teaching English. “One of the things I hope to do is study Eastern medicine,” said Grobel. “My mother never gave me western medicine when I was a child. Now I am curious as to if and how Eastern medicine works.” Another project Grobel plans to pursue in Japan was sparked by a course Grobel took in Buddhism the first semester of her senior year. “I want to learn more about Zen meditation,” she said. “I want to find out about the effects of meditation on anxiety and stress. The third thing hopefully that I can do is study traditional Japanese music.”
Grobel would like to be able to play with different groups in Japan during her year there. She has been a member of a Japanese taiko drumming group in her hometown of Los Angeles for 10 years. “There weren’t a lot of Japanese people at my high school, so the drumming group is where I got most of my Japanese culture outside of home,” she said.
Proving once again the breadth of her interests, Grobel is also an accomplished pianist. “I’ve been playing the piano for 12 years. I’ve continued playing the piano at Amherst for four years.” One moment that Grobel remembers vividly is the first time she performed in a chamber music group at the College. “It was just for a semester, but it was exciting and different to perform together,” Grobel remembers. She laments the fact that piano is one of her passions that she probably won’t have time to pursue after graduation. “I’m really going to miss having the luxury to play the piano,” said Grobel.
While Grobel spent much of her four years here learning Japanese, she has also continued her interest in Spanish. “I really have an interest in Spanish, too, and of course, it is useful in medicine,” said Grobel. During the spring of her junior year, Grobel studied abroad at the University of Alicante in Spain. While she was there, Grobel took the opportunity to explore the rest of Europe.
She met up with Sieck, who was also studying abroad in Europe. “Hana and I traveled together in Venice and Prague and what I remember most is laughing with her in every location that we visited,” said Sieck. “From a German overnight train, to a Czech opera house, to a water taxi in Venice, to sitting in my room at Amherst talking late into the night, my times with Hana have always been very special to me.” Grobel added, “Being able to travel with my friends has made me realize that I’ve made these friends at Amherst who will last for a lifetime, and that I can have these experiences with them anywhere.”
While studying and cultivating her many talents and interests, Grobel also has managed to balance another very important part of her life: friendships. Ott described the qualities that make Grobel a wonderful friend. “What strikes me about Hana is the degree to which she supports her friends and how loving she is-there has never been anything that has been too much for her,” said Ott.
Sieck added, “Hana is a truly warm person who understands people and works to make them feel comfortable and good about themselves. She has wonderful insights about people and knows her friends really well.” While Grobel admits that keeping up with academics and maintaining friendships at the same time has probably been the most difficult aspect of college, she also added, “Friends keep you on top of things.”
While balancing schoolwork, friendships and her passions for music, Grobel still found time to work at the Little Red Schoolhouse on the social dorm quad during all four years at the College. “The 3-4 year�olds I work with are so cute,” said Grobel. “I’m going to miss being able to play with the kids and being a part of their life.” Sieck explained that Grobel works well with children. “Hana is able to put people at ease with her sense of humor and empathy, and is equally thoughtful with people of all ages,” said Sieck. “She’s particularly great with kids because she meets them on their level and has a real sense of fun that makes them feel good about themselves.”
Grobel is grateful for everything the College has allowed her to do during the past four years. “Amherst has given me a lot of opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have been able to have,” she said. While Grobel admitted, “At times I’ve felt like it was a little small,” she added, “but because it is so small, you can get these fellowships. Also, the language department is amazing because it is basically one-on-one.” Looking back on her four years, Grobel said, “I’m going to miss Amherst. If you’re sad you go next door. If you’re bored, you can find anyone at any time.”
Grobel’s friends are impressed with all she has managed to accomplish in her four years here. “Hana has an amazing work ethic and deeply cares about what she does, no matter what it is, whether homework for a class, working at the Little Red Schoolhouse, or practicing the piano. This has helped make her the success that she is,” said Ott.
Professor of Asian Languages & Civilizations Wako Tawa commented on why she believes Grobel has a bright future. “Hana has a passion for learning,” said Tawa. “She is also someone who sees the positive sides of things. Hana is someone who does not give up easily. Hana will do well in life because she makes good things happen with all these wonderful attributes.” Indeed, it seems that no matter which path Grobel chooses for her future, she will find success.