Student (now Alumni!) Spotlight: Michelle Mecham ’22

Meet Michelle Mecham, a senior student at Berea College who is double majoring in Asian Studies and Child & Family Studies. At the time of the interview, she had only recently applied to the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET). Now, she has gone through final interviews for JET and has been accepted to the program. Wishing the best to Michelle in her journey to Japan!

So, what made you choose your majors?

“My primary major, Asian Studies, was my first interest in any major on campus. I started off taking the Japanese courses on campus, and quickly found that I loved learning Japanese. I took some Japanese cultural classes and I was just immediately in love with learning a different culture. [Additionally,] there were several opportunities made aware to me since freshman year like JET.

As for Child & Family Studies (CFS), that’s a little bit more of a fun story! I’ve taken lots of CFS classes on the side, learning about food. I didn’t commit to being a CFS major until this semester, actually— Mostly because my hope was to study abroad in Japan. [However], because of the pandemic, that has not become an option for me during my college career.

It’s going to be so fun for me to continue my studies in CFS, as I have a deep appreciation for the development/health of family units and community through food. I love food!”

What are the biggest takeaways from your labor positions?

“With the Horticulture Center, I have developed a very strong sense and ability to always be in the state of growth and to acquire or practice a new skill at any given point.

[As a Japanese TA] I started the conversation practices that are used to help students build their communication abilities; I had to figure out the best way to engage with students and how to get them talking within the program. Through that, I have learned a lot about working with students… and that in turn has made me more adaptable and capable as a teacher.”

Do you have any extracurriculars?

“I am a member of Berea College Women’s Soccer Team (since freshman year)— it’s an amazing experience! Also, I’m a member of the Mortar Board Honor Society… I’m hoping to do [a service project] relating to mental and physical wellness for our community.”

What campus resources do you recommend?

“Go to TA hours if nothing else! They will save your life, and you don’t even have to go when you have homework or when you’re having an issue; you can just go and be right next to the person who is best able to answer late-night questions.

I would also say: poke a toe into every office on campus because when you do, you usually end up talking with someone associated with that office and you become aware of more studying areas and people that you could contact… just poke a toe literally everywhere on campus and you will know where resources are at.”

What are your plans after college?

I am planning on hopefully being a participant in the JET program so ideally, I will be selected and then I shall go to Japan and teach English to children.

If that does not occur, I am looking at potentially being in Berea Corp for the Horticulture Center, as I have quite the background in agriculture work at this point.

Although I hope to be in JET or be in Berea Corp, I am at the point where I can kind of explore my life and see where I want to go if those two don’t end up happening. So, there is a big ole future out there that I will see what comes of it.

Do you have any final advice?

For prospective and current students who are in the process of applying for things: always take a chance and apply for opportunities you think might be beneficial. You don’t know if you’ll get them and there can certainly be a lot of anxiety surrounding that, but you’ll always feel better knowing that you tried and gave in your best rather than just assuming “Oh shoot, I can’t do it; they won’t accept me; I’m not the best applicant.” What’s the worst that they can do? Say no? No is not that hard; rejection is something that everyone needs to build resilience for. So, put yourself out there— apply to everything that you want to do. At one point or another, someone is going to say yes, and then you’re going to have a great experience afterward.

Have questions or want to chat with Michelle more about her story? Contact her directly at

By Hannia Amaro-Zambrano
Hannia Amaro-Zambrano Peer Consultant