Kira Monji, Softball
Kira Monji just completed her first year at Carnegie Mellon majoring in international relations and politics and competing on the softball team. Prior to joining the Tartans, Kira had the opportunity to play for Team Japan in the Triple Crown Softball International Challenge. We asked her about that experience and how her identity has shaped her softball and college experience so far.
Tell us about your experience playing for Team Japan.
I was offered to play for Team Japan in the summer of 2021, where Grace [Fujino] and I met each other for the first time. This opportunity was a part of the larger TCS International Challenge in Colorado, where girls from all over the U.S. could try out for teams representing their identities. The different teams had different criteria for eligibility based on the criteria for the actual national teams. Team Japan made it to the championship round of the tournament, where we lost to Cuba to take second place. Our team parted ways after that final day, each girl going back to her respective travel team. At that point, neither Grace nor myself were committed. Later into the summer, I saw that she had committed via social media, and I reached out and we reconnected. We talked about CMU since we were going to be teammates, and then our story continued into this year. Team Japan was an incredible experience. I had never really played with other Japanese girls before, with the same holding true for most of us on the roster. It ended up that we all had so many shared experiences, with family, softball, and life, that it brought us together immediately as more than just a temporary team. We shared stories about our grandparents, who for most of us were immigrants, we sympathized with each other in our feelings of not being “Asian” enough, and not being “American” enough. I found a lifelong community in Colorado that summer. I happened to be lucky enough to continue to share and expand that community to my time at Carnegie Mellon.
As you reflect on your first year at Carnegie Mellon, what did you enjoy most?
I think that I most enjoyed exploring my Asian heritage and seeing the representation of more people like me. I never had a strong Asian presence at any of my schools or teams growing up and being here and becoming a part of JSA [Japanese Student Association] and ASA [Asian Students Association] was a great experience. I became involved in many different student organizations over the semesters and being able to advocate and be involved in those different organizations has been incredibly fulfilling.
Have you had the opportunity to incorporate your culture into your softball identity?
I think for me, my culture seeps into my softball identity in the way I play, how I cheer, and my mindset overall. I come from San Diego, where my teams were always split half Mexican, half White. Being in Southern California itself came with its own type of softball community, where we had vastly different experiences than my teammates from the East Coast. I grew up with Selena, Bad Bunny, and Daddy Yankee blasting on speakers during pregame, with the postgame consisting of fruit bowls with Tajin and Chamoy from the fruit carts run by the locals. We were always cheering loud, energy high, hair in braids, and farmer tans forming. That will always be a part of who I am.
Do you feel you play a role in supporting representation in softball?
For all of the athletes representing multiple ethnicities or groups, I see you. I see the people asking “Where are you from?”, the struggle with not looking identifiable to any one race, and perpetually being stuck between the different aspects of your identity. There aren’t too many Asian-Hispanic athletes at CMU, or even campus itself. I represent all of those with multiple ethnicities or multiple races.
What advice would you give your younger self about the growth process?
I would tell my younger self to keep persevering. Keep working hard, stay true to yourself and your beliefs, and it will work out alright. Trust the process. You’ll end up exactly where you want to be.
What are you looking forward to in your college journey (education, life, softball)?
I’m looking forward to growing — intellectually, physically, and in every way. I’m excited to keep learning more and more; that’s what I’m here for. I’m excited to continue to play softball, the sport that’s been with me for 10 years. I’m excited to continue to explore my own identity, forming and reforming it, and to continue to figure out my beliefs and values.