Katsunori Baba: “finding where I belong”.


Imagine yourself on the other side of the world. In this place people speak a different language; and they expect you to speak it too. Their costumes would never be acceptable in your society; and every second in the street is just an endless confusion where you think… is this ok?  Every time you look up the landscape offers a complete different palate of colors and expressions of the beauty in the world. And finally, every time you eat there’s not even a single dish that will bring you a memory from your mom’s home made food.

This is the life of an international student here in the U.S. As soon as they set foot here their life is never the same. As International student advisor Jesus Cendejas explains “We try to give them all the accommodations and help we can but for some it’s just to hard to adapt”. Every year a large amount of students decide to go back home instead of finishing their career. Leaving scholarships, sport, musical, and many other types of opportunities behind because they feel like they don’t belong.  So, how can anyone feel like they belong in such a different place?

Some might say it’s education, others give credit to their own goals and the drive to achieve them. And for others just like Katsunori Baba a student from Fukuoka-shi Hakataku (Japan) it’s a complete different thing.

Katsunori is a student majoring in Vocal Performance and Theatre. He is currently in his second semester at Morningside; and has great dreams that he wishes to complete (every single one). What keeps Katsunori so far away from home is nothing more than the good old happiness. In his life he never felt like he belonged anywhere until one day he started singing and he made people happy through his singing.

“I realized how people reacted to my singing I found my place” he explained. But how did he get to belong so far away from home?

Katsunori was a regular student back in japan. His only motives were swimming and getting the big prizes but as he explained this was just a shallow goal. One day he realized he needed a change in his life. He said to himself “if I stay here nothing is going to happen in my future, I’ll be living a boring life with a boring job.”

He decided to study abroad. Sadly, his high school didn’t offer the level of English necessary to achieve this life changing decision. So he dropped out of high school and studied English on his own.

He would soon realize that was a mistake. In Japan High school consists of three years. So the last year prepared him for college exams. He had a rough time studying on his own so much that after two months he thought he wouldn’t make it. Luckily, his grandfather had connections with a very prestigious school where the principal rushed to help. They allowed him to use the facilities and study certain classes that would allow him to get a high school diploma but also learn English.

After a hard year Katsunori’s effort was rewarded and got all his objectives achieved. This meant he was able to study in one of the best universities of Japan. But as he explained “After you study for hours a day just to pass one test, everything that comes afterwards is heaven, so I let myself get carried away by the college party life… I felt like I was loosing myself, I knew I had to make a change”. This lead him to take a pause in his college career and go back to his first goal… study abroad.

Looking for a better preparation in English he left to the Philippines where he spent two months studying English. But after he got there he found more than just learning a language he learned about life. He found friendships that would impact his life forever, these friends asked him questions that would change Katsunori forever. They said “what do you want to be?”

He responded by looking into his deepest memories and an almost fading idea of him being an entertainer appeared. He said “I want to be an entertainer!” his friends responded “then what are you doing here? get out there and start doing!”

He stood up and started singing for them. At this point he realized that belonging doesn’t have to be in a place. Belonging meant to find a way to channel who you are and give back to the people around you.

He went back to japan and for a while his life stayed the same. He got a part time job and fell into the same abyss he tried to escape from the beginning. So he took a big step and started cutting all his ties in japan. Everything that held him from his dream of studying abroad. He wanted to experience different cultures, find new experiences, and a new place where he belonged every day. So his mom gave him the idea of going to the U.S.  so they went on and started planning everything. On his side he left his college, said goodbye to his loved ones and to his friends. It was very challenging but the questions that the Philippines left in his head would never be fulfilled if he stayed in Japan.


He proceeded to apply for multiple universities and all of them accepted him and offered promising scholarships. But still not all of them had everything he needed. He was looking for proper formation for his voice and a program that allowed him to do theatre at the same time. Morningside gave him the best option.

As soon as he arrived like other international students he felt out of place. He arrived a bit early for orientation, so he wouldn’t start class until a couple of days later. He could have given up into the homesickness but he felt something he never experience before… calm. “Here I feel in peace” so during those days he just enjoyed the calm. He got to experience the feel of the college, going to the cafeteria, meeting new people, learning about the culture, getting to know every single building. For the first weeks everyday was a whole new adventure.

Then classes started and the peace became focus. He found a place where distractions faded away; and everything impulse him to succeed. As he explained it was a completely new feeling being so far away from home but also far away from the distractions that made him move in the first place. Suddenly he felt unstoppable and everyday he could do what he loved: singing, acting, dancing…performing! He found his place.

After talking with his classmates for voice and movement they all seemed to agree in the same subject. He is full of surprises. As soon as he steps up in the stage he is a new person kept on repeating his classmates.” Emma Darragh an international student from Ireland said “He really has a power to move people when he performs and I never though he could do that”. And he quickly became a part of the choir where he enjoys to share his voice with others.

For Katsunori everyday consists now of making people happy through his art. In the process he found unexpected thing that ultimately helped him to be the best version of himself. And now still 6,139 miles away he is still looking to improve himself. He’s convinced that nothing can stop him; Everyday is still a new adventure in his education to be a better performer.


Comments are closed.