Cougar of the Week

Marimo Oka of Women’s Volleyball


Sara Conroy, Sports Editor

Hey there Scarlet faithful’s, I have the pleasure of introducing you to Marimo Oka (‘22) of the Women’s Volleyball team this week. I sat down with Marimo for a few minutes on Tuesday, September 24th. Between class, practice, and a slew of extracurricular activities, I was lucky to catch Marimo for as long as I could. Below you can read through our conversation and learn more about one of our amazing Cougars.


Interview Transcript –

Scarlet: “To start off getting to know you, where would you call home?”

Marimo: “I’m from Fukuoka, Japan… In my personal opinion I call home wherever I feel comfortable and where I am surrounded by people I can talk with. But I lived in Canada for three years and I also call Victoria [Canada] home. Now, I feel like I can call Worcester home too.”


Scarlet: “Has the experience of having many homes changed your perspective of Worcester?”

Marimo: “I’m not sure… Because [Worcester] is such a different city from the city where I’m from in Japan… Fukuoka is more of a city-city, it’s surrounded by tall buildings and there are many people, but here there is so much more nature. I feel like I have a second, refreshing home, even though I am stressed with academics. Through the environmental perspective it is very relaxing and I’m very glad I have another place I can go back to.”


Scarlet: “You mentioned the stress of academics, what kinds of stuff do you study here at Clark?”

Marimo: “I’m thinking of majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology”


Scarlet: “Wow, did you find an interest in that from a younger age or was it a new development?”

Marimo: “It’s actually interesting, because in Japan we have college entrance exams depending on which department you want to go into and you have to choose your major before you go to college. So, up to high school all the studying is based on memorization and how to get good scores on exams. So, when I took biology and chemistry in Japan, I didn’t enjoy it at all. [I think this was] because I didn’t have any time to think about the background. It was all about formulas and how fast you can solve the problems. And, so I came to Clark and in my first semester I took biology and chemistry to compare how the subjects were taught. And I loved it. Because all the professors took time to explain how the [subjects] could be applied in everyday lives and how we can apply them. I think you can’t explain biology without chemistry, and I thought the interaction between the two was very interesting. So, I didn’t choose one or the other.”


Scarlet: “Do you know what you would want to do in this field later in life?”

Marimo: “I’m aspiring to be a pediatrician… and, this may be a long story.”

Scarlet: “No, please share it with me!”


Marimo first provided me with greater context about her choosing of a liberal arts school in the US.

Marimo: “I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was graduating high school. I didn’t want to constrain myself to one field. My parents went to college in the US and they told me about their experiences. I thought it would fit me better. Since I had some experience in Canada, I thought I could give [the US education system] a try. [This experience] is also the reason I chose a liberal arts school, because I wanted a different view.”


Marimo, then shared with me the story of how she became interested in pediatric medicine.  


Marimo continued: “Before I came to Clark there was a medical form I had to fill out. But it was all in English and I couldn’t find a hospital or clinic that would accept the form, perform the examination, and then write the results in English. I went to about 4 or 5 hospitals and they all rejected me. They said they couldn’t do it. In the end, I went to a pediatric hospital that I went to when I was very young. I was nineteen though and I knew I didn’t belong in the pediatric department, but I went and asked if they could do the [check-up]. This doctor was like, ‘I’ll give it a try. I’ll research the words and try’. I was surprised since I wasn’t like his other patients, but this doctor accepted me. He wasn’t robotic… he just understood my situation and how urgent it was for me to fill out this form. I thought all doctors should be that way. I thought it would be problematic if doctors like that were in the minority and most were like the ones who rejected me. I thought maybe I could take advantage of my English skill and bring it back to my country and that’s why I am studying for medical school right now. I know it will be challenging because I am an international student. But I know that it’s not impossible.”


Scarlet: “That’s an amazing story. You are incredibly inspiring. So, when you’re not planning on saving the world, do you participate in clubs on campus?”

Marimo: “I am an RA and I’m also on Rapid Response. I joined Rapid Response… to get hands-on experience… It’s a great way to develop the thought process of figuring out the best way to serve patients in a limited amount of time.”


Scarlet: “If you don’t mind, I’d love to get to your sport. How long have you been playing volleyball?”

Marimo: “So I started playing grade 5 and played through grade 8. Then I did judo in during high school in Japan for three years. I wanted to play at the varsity level in volleyball in college, but I didn’t know the recruiting process. It wasn’t possible for a coach to come [to Japan]. So, I thought why not try out. I sent the coach [at Clark] a video of me playing volleyball and told him I’d really love to join at the varsity level and that I was ready to try out. So, I guess I haven’t been playing this entire time, but I did three years of volleyball, three years of judo, and now volleyball again.”


Scarlet: “Do you think your experience with judo helps you compete in volleyball?”

Marimo: “It actually does. In judo we train a lot strength wise. Also, because volleyball is a team sport and judo is an individual sport, I think I’m stronger mentally. In judo, the coach doesn’t tell you what to do. You’re on your own and you only have three minutes to compete, and I think that really trained me to be strong mentally. It also helped me to learn from every experience. And when I thought about those things, I stopped being so nervous at the match. I [knew] I had been through [my mistakes] before, I knew how to deal with them.”


Scarlet: “So, you were named NEWMAC defensive player of the week for Women’s Volleyball, the first week out of the gate. Was that a surprise for you?”

Marimo: “Yah! My teammate sent me the image, and I wasn’t even sure what it was. I didn’t even know that existed. I would just dig the ball in the match because I wanted to win, that’s all. I guess that just came out as a number. I was very happy. I was just doing my best and what I wanted to do at my maximum effort. So, I was happy to see that those efforts [were recognized].”


Scarlet: “Now, I’m going to ask you a few fun questions! What’s your favorite color?”

Marimo: “Um, light-green… and yellow… and red.”

Scarlet: “So you have three favorite colors?”

Marimo: “Yes” *Laughs*


Scarlet: “Okay, do you have any hidden talents? Other than being a judo expert?”

Marimo: “I can do handstands and I can climb a rope without using my feet, just with my arms.”


Watch out, it sounds like Marimo’s judo strength is matched by few others.


Scarlet: “One last question, if you could go to one place in the world right now, all expenses paid, where would you go?”

Marimo: “Do you mean like just on earth?

Scarlet: “You can certainly leave earth if that’s where you want to go”

Marimo: *Contemplates* “Venice, Italy”


A huge shout out to Marimo for hanging out with The Scarlet this past week I hope you enjoyed hearing about Marimo’s story as much as I did. As always, thank you to all of our readers for taking some time to get to know the Cougars better. To keep up with Marimo and the Women’s Volleyball team, follow Clark Athletics on social media, check out the Clark Athletics website, or check back into The Scarlet throughout the year.