Why did you decide to study abroad?
Studying abroad wasn't something I had planned on doing from the start of college. In fact, my decision to go away was so spontaneous and in the moment that I technically applied after the forms were due at my home university. Luckily, everything worked out better than I could've imagined and before I knew it, I was on a plane to Auckland. What really made me realize I wanted to study away was seeing what an amazing experience other students were having all over the globe. I had initially gotten kind of discouraged because I was finding very few options for science majors. One of my professors had told me how great places like Australia, New Zealand, and Africa were for Biology students, so when the opportunity to spend a semester at the University of Auckland landed in front of me, there was no way I could pass it up.
How did you pay for your study abroad experience?
With the University of Auckland and Diversity Abroad Scholarship from Diversity Abroad, the full tuition for my semester as an international exchange student at the University of Auckland was covered. I was also able to use my scholarship from Pacific Lutheran University, which allowed me to cover the remaining costs of the U.S. study abroad program (Arcadia) I went through.
What is one thing you wish you would have known about studying abroad before you left?
Be prepared for things to not always go as planned or expected. I think a lot of times, looking at the awesome pictures and videos of someone's time abroad, you get this image of a perfect, awesome trip where they visited all these amazing places. In reality, it is breathtaking to go to those "insta-worthy" sites, but sometimes its the journey that leaves the biggest mark. Don't be afraid to try the unexpected and don't be discouraged if something goes wrong or the journey changes because you never know what could come of it. Even if you get lost or something, make the most of where you are.
Did you experience any discrimination abroad because of your race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or a physical disability? If so, what did you learn from the experience?
I am half Chinese and half Japanese, born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii. In Auckland, I was surprised to find that there's a substantially large asian population, both local and international, and of a pretty wide range of ethnicities. I didn't experience any real discrimination while abroad, which has given me even more respect for New Zealand. Anywhere you go, there will always be people that just assume things about you based on how you look and the color of your skin. Just by showing them who you really are can change those preconceived perceptions.
How has studying abroad benefited you, personally and academically?
The biggest thing I've gained from my time away is confidence. As ordinary as it sounds, I think confidence might be one of the most important, life-changing characteristics out there. As people confidence can carry us a long way. Whether it be in school, in the workplace, or even in social life, having confidence shows others your strength and comfort in your own skin. Living in a foreign country showed me I can overcome anything and that in the future, I won't be afraid to just go for things without hesitation. In terms of long term goals, I gained experience doing some research in a real marine lab, which will help me as I prepare for a career in science. Having met people from other places in the world also will help me communicate and work together with others.
Any additional comments or thoughts that you have about your study abroad experience
Studying abroad, however cliche this may sound, really did change how I see not only the world, but myself and my role in it. I got to see and do so many things in New Zealand that it felt more like I was taking a break from university rather than working toward my degree. Coming from a small school with average classes of 20-40 students, being in huge lectures with hundreds of people and 10 different professors was a cool thing to experience. No matter where you go abroad, there will be something different that just wows you. I think that if the opportunity presents itself the right way, everyone should study away.