Recent Hope graduate Anna Kremer ’16 sees a future as colorful as her past, a future where a diversity of people and a specific product casts hues of browns and tans and greens. It’s a future that is simultaneously distinct and sundry. It’s a future where her love for Latino and Asian cultures and coffee meet.
Kremer, from Zeeland, Michigan, is clear about what she wants in life. She plans to use her international studies major and creative writing, Asian studies, and Spanish minors to become a green coffee buyer for an American coffee company some day, travelling to Central and South America to do so, and maybe Africa and Asia as well. There, she’ll build relationships with coffee growers so direct trade can better benefit the farmer and the purchaser alike, eliminating the middleman and enhancing each party’s profits and quality control. It is a Kremer-unique way to continue her commitment to and affinity for living a life that unmistakably values and embraces multiculturalism.
And coffee is not the only reason why, though it makes sense that it would be the next step for this java junky who has worked at JP’s Coffee and Espresso Bar near campus for the past four years. While coffee fields are the new best places for her to take her international mindset, Kremer is also extremely mindful of how Hope helped brew her desire to have one.
“Anyone who knows me well knows about my love for the Phelps Scholars Program, and I am sure that I would not be on the path I’m on if not for it,” said Kremer during her speech at the Women of Color Celebration about the program that combines residential life, academic engagement and social activities to prepare students to be leaders in an increasingly global society. “The experience of living in community with students from so many diverse backgrounds, taking classes focused on diversity and heritage, and going on trips to cultural festivals, centers of worship, and ethnic restaurants – all for free, mind you –provided me with such honest, authentic learning experiences, and for that I am incredibly thankful.”
While Phelps Scholars opened the door to Kremer’s interest in diversity and inclusion, other social and international opportunities almost flung it off its hinges. Kremer became a member of Hope’s Asian Perspective Association (HAPA), a resident of the Fried International House, facilitator at a GLCA Students of Color Leadership Retreat, a presenter of her research on Sharia law (the religious legal system governing Islamic faith) in the United States, and a regular attender of Black Student Union events.
But it was her semester in Argentina in the fall of 2015 – attending classes, a home stay, and conducting research on the transgender community in Paraguay – where she found that promoting acceptance and empathy is what the world needs now.
“What my international semester taught me is that we are all the same. What we really want in life are the same things,” she reflects. “All people – no matter where they live – value family, friends, a good job, love. We are all not that different from each other.”
Calm and unassuming, Kremer is just easy to talk to, her many friends say. Vanessa Greene, director of multicultural education, describes Kremer as being “comfortable in her own skin.” Perhaps the sui generis nature of Kremer is attributed to her approachability and open-mindedness. “She could have come to Hope and fit in the ‘usual’ way,” says Greene. “As a majority white student, she didn’t have to be pulled into multicultural life but she wanted to. She loves diversity and has been committed and intentional in her growth in it. She has left a legacy here because of that.”
“When I reflect on my experiences at Hope, in Argentina and Paraguay, I think I see better in a broader sense now, and I think a lot that comes with age,” she concludes. “I’m much better at looking at situations from an outside perspective. I’m much better at thinking less about myself than I did when I was a freshman, to thinking about myself in community with others. This is the best lesson a college education could have given me.”
It’s coffee time now, and Kremer is off. She hopes to work on a coffee farm in Central America this summer, a foray into the coffee industry where she’ll exchange her barista apron for work gloves. She’ll brushed up her “rusty conversational Spanish,” hoping to get her hands dirty. She’ll hold a green coffee bean in her palm, imagine it dark brown or tawny some day. And she’ll remember: Community, like coffee, is best savored when many become one.