Friday, September 23, 2022

Lessons Learned from Studying Abroad in Indonesia

 Hi! My name is Elizabeth and I studied abroad in Indonesia this past summer. I was in Indonesia for 6 weeks studying Biodiversity and Conservation as well as their national language, Bahasa. I had an incredible experience and want to encourage all students to study abroad, even if it's not for a full semester. Here are some lessons that I learned throughout the process:

  • Don't be afraid to travel alone! There were twelve students on my trip and we all came from different universities. Nobody knew each other until we met in Indonesia. This gave us the best experience with each other and we all felt comfortable while traveling halfway across the world alone. Although it may seem daunting to go abroad alone, it makes for a more authentic experience when you are not with a friend from your university. 
  • It is more affordable than you think! The HPU Study Abroad Office has compiled a list of numerous scholarships to apply to on top of any academic scholarship you may already have from HPU. If you are interested in studying abroad but are concerned with the affordability, set up a meeting with the Study Abroad Office. 
  • The language barrier is not an issue. Outside of the tourist areas in Indonesia, most people do not speak English and, in fact, many do not speak the national language either, only their local dialect. My host family and I could not verbally communicate but we were still able to communicate with each other and it made for a great learning experience. I never felt uncomfortable when I couldn't communicate with others in English, we always found ways to get our message to each other. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022


Electric Avenue (sign at the very top of the picture)

Many agree that London was built on the backs of POC. A modern tragedy of this history is that it is ignored. In a United Kingdom Parliament debate, Claudia Webbe stated in Column 33WH that “black history is taught in only 10% of all schools.”

This is among a few reasons I chose to study “Diversity in London” as an elective course. History is written by the victors, so a personal value of mine to dig deeper to understand the truth of any new space I occupy. When the real story is ugly, it may be romanticized or just hidden altogether. So I basically wanted to cut to the chase right away.

In my diversity class, we read “White Teeth” by Zadie Smith, which didn’t shy away from stories of identity, cultural heritage, and the lives of immigrants in London.

I highly recommend this book, and engagement with historic museums and areas around London. Such as, the Museum of Immigration and Diversity, Chinatown, Camden Town, Kingsland Road, Migration Museum, Brick Lane, The Archives, and Notting Hill.

One special place I was lucky to have a tour of is called "Brixton". This tour was through my school but not led by my teacher. We were guided by local blue-badge tour guide, Anne-Marie Walker.

We learned about the U.K version of America’s “KKK”. They called themselves the “Teddy Boys”. They supported the
Oswald facist party, and dressed in Edwardian style.

In 1959, the West Indian Gazette came about, and Claudia Jones proposed the Notting Hill Carnival.

*keynote for U.S. readers: in England, Asian people are referred to as “oriental” and  African/Caribbean people are called “west Indian”.

This carnival is important because it was an attempt for unity amongst constant racist tension and hate crimes throughout this time. 

Caribbean immigrants were not allowed to open a bank account or mortgage, so they had to band together as a community to get a house. There were up to 8 rooms per house, and entire families, like Anne-Marie’s, would live in a room with no running water or facilities. 

In 2017, the U.K. acknowledged their Caribbean soldiers for the first time. 

Though Afro-Caribbean culture is still prevalent in Brixton, gentrification is currently pushing out immigrant families who created a life there. The average price of one house is a million dollars. 

Brixton is rich with culture and incredible food, so if you find yourself there, take in the street art, stroll down electric avenue, and try a vegetable patty at East of Eden.

While you’re there, it will be beneficial to pay special attention to Brixton’s complicated history and current struggles with gentrification.

Thanks for reading :P

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Stranded in Dubai

Ah, the juxtaposition between my Grandma (Bà Thuy) escaping communist Vietnam as a war refugee, and ME grueling desperately for entrance into Vietnam as a sweaty, naïve, backpacking…American tourist. 

To credit myself, I’m not unbearably sweaty, I do have a cute suitcase, and I did as much background research as possible.

But what could have prepared me for a 10 day layover, heatwaves, sandstorms, yellow fever, and… falling in love?

After I hugged my London companions goodbye, I embarked on what I already knew would be an unruly flight. I booked a cheap flight to Hồ Chí Minh City, and my layovers included Tel Aviv, Dubai, and India.

In 30 hours, I expected to be in Hồ Chí Minh city, Vietnam (the new Saigon) sharing a bowl of phở with my friend Truong, and finding family members that I hadn’t seen in 11 years. I was so excited to exercise the Vietnamese language I had been practicing.

The trip to Israel was the noisiest flight I’d ever been on. There were so many children, and at some point two seats were freed up next to me. Upon seeing this, an Israeli mother asked me if her baby could sleep there. 

Being half asleep myself, I said oh but of course! :))

I woke up with a baby I didn’t know sleeping on my lap, and went straight back to sleep. The mom couldn’t stop laughing and thanking me. So that’s the tone this adventure begins on. Crowded and silly.

I used my visa to get on my next flight to Dubai, which was difficult, but manageable. I felt excited about my layover in Dubai, because it was supposed to be 14 hours, so I could leave the airport to adventure.

When the tall, wide, UAE doors slid open, I was introduced to a gust of pure dry heat that I had never before met.

Men dressed in long white Dishdasha and women in a long black Burqa. It seemed as though everyone and everything moved slowly. Because how could anything move enthusiastically through this weather - summer in Dubai? 

My breath was ragged and I’m sure my lungs looked as though they’d tumbled and shriveled in a drying machine. 

I took a taxi to the Marina mall to begin my adventure, and when I went to pay the taxi driver, my credit card was rejected because I had a SIM card in my phone, which didn’t allow me to approve my purchase. 

So, I took out my debit card and used an Emirates Islamic ATM at the mall, to give the taxi driver some cash. 

Next, the ATM flashed “FRAUD SUSPECTED” and proceeded to…swallow…my…card. 

This is where things get interesting. A security guard lent me money for the taxi, and we went to Western Union so I could pay him back. Then we went for lunch and he got me into the Burj Khalifa by telling the management that I was a celebrity’s assistant. I found that last part out later. 

I thought this was the end to a pretty cool adventure.

HOWEVER. When I returned to the airport to check into my flight, I was denied entrance because of four things.

  1. I didn’t have my India visa

  2. My Vietnam visa said the wrong checkpoint

  3. I didn’t have my yellow fever vaccination certificate

  4. A sandstorm was coming

Ohhhhh no.

My biggest promise to myself on these travels that I KNOW will be crazy, is no crying and no mental breakdowns. This moment of rejection was the closest I’ve gotten to breaking that promise. But what help would that be? All I could do was laugh.

A quote I always seem to come back to during times of adversity is “Everything will be OK when you are OK with everything” -Michael A. Singer

5 hours later, I’m hanging out with some flight attendants that are my new friends because I’ve spent so much time at this airport. 

One of them took me to dinner when their shift ended, and gave me some cash for a hostel. My experience in Dubai was: everyone being ridiculously accommodating, feeling bad about me losing my debit card, and then blaming their religion when I questioned their kindness. Also, here they put ketchup on their pizza.

The sky was blanketed in fog when I woke up. Wait not fog - SAND.  

The sandstorm hit, something I’d never seen before.

Ok I feel like this blog is getting long so let’s wrap things up and not get too detailed. I made extremely interesting friends at the hostel that came from places I’d never seen: India, Morocco, Pakistan, Egypt, Uganda, and Texas. lol

I had so much fun, plus got myself together by getting a new Visa, yellow fever vaccine, and a DIRECT flight ticket to Hà Nội.

My friend from India celebrated her birthday and drew mehndi on my hand as I was leaving. Indian culture, food, and people were so amazing to be around in Dubai, and made me really want to visit India. Oh but now I want to see Egypt too.

mehndi design

My flight attendant friend hooked it up with a “friend pass” that got me an insanely cheap ticket to Vietnam on the "world's greatest airline", Emirates. It was a very fancy flight. But they didn’t ask to see my visa, yellow fever vaccine, or flight ticket. wow

That was an amazing end to my 10 day layover in Dubai and my mom is still trying to send the flight attendant homie some Hawaiian chocolates and macadamia nuts, as she does. 

Overall, I’m grateful that everything went wrong in Dubai. Because everything went right, too.

But when I touched down in Hà Nội, I nearly cried. 

I didn’t realize how desperate and eager I was to get here. Though it had been 21 years in the making, of me yearning for this panoramic place that I’d only read about in my Grandmother’s book, and heard about from my Mom.

Vietnam welcomed me like a warm hug from an old friend. With a fanny pack strapped snugly to my stomach, I triumphantly took in all the purple passion fruit, baby banyan trees, scooter traffic, and communism, that surrounded me. Which you will read aall about in my next blog!

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

From Quarantine to First Step's Out The Door

 * When in Korea, I picked up the habit of journaling to keep track of my mental health and overall my thoughts on things i've encountered and typically how I felt after a "normal" day as someone studying abroad in Korea. With that being said, this blog entry will showcase initial feelings of me during quarantine and my first steps out into the wide city that is Seoul!

Today is officially my first day? In Korea and it honestly felt amazing to just be able to be able to say that I finally made it here. From the long taxi ride from Incheon --> to my quarantine Airbnb, I felt as though I was about to be on an adventure of a lifetime and it would be an understatement if I said I was excited. (The photo to the right is the picture I took of my walk to the health center). After 3 days of being stuck in my temporary home, I was excited to be able to independently walk to get my first covid test of three. (Little did I know I chose an Airbnb right across the street from my university where the health center was). Taking a look back on today, I was so happy to be able to take a step into the world as someone studying abroad. Even though it was extremely cold outside this morning and I was frightened at the idea of anything happening, however I was able to safely walk to my location and overcome the language barrier of being a foreigner trying to get a covid test! stressful but happy day - 1 Point!

--> Transitioning to initial thoughts and moments when freed from quarantine

One of the first thoughts I had today was "will I be able to make friends" while moving into my dorm and "how was I going  assimilate into being a college student abroad all alone". However, what a lot of people don't tell you is that almost everyone is thinking the same thing you're thinking. Unless these are people that are traveling from the same university, everyone is operating the same and is just as new as you are. So what does that mean? Don't be so hard on yourself! 

Shortly after moving in, the exchange student group chat on Kakao was buzzing full of people wanting to meet for dinner and plan trips around South Korea before the semester! And guess what happen, you met people and now you are going to the National Seoul Museum (Picture to the right). And you are going to skiing for the first time ever! Also, you met your international exchange buddy and his friend! (turns out these will be two of the funniest people that you have ever met). They've both been to Hawaii and are extremely cool and diligent people, I am actually extremely lucky to be paired up with him because we are actually very compatible!

Overall, although these last couple of days have been mixed with meeting a lot of different people from a lot of different places, these are the moments that are truly going to set the precedent for the rest of my time abroad!

--> Transitioning out of my journal entry (Here are some pictures from the beginning of the semester that have many memories attached to them!)

The story behind this picture is actually really interesting, when preparing for our ski trip we took a very long bus ride to a resort and it was a totally empty and really eerie! Thankfully one of my friend's had knew someone nearby and was able to drive us to a different ski resort!

(Here we are on the lift and I am honestly trying too hard to be cool because I was extremely scared and thought I was going to get hurt. ALSO******** Snowboarding is way harder than skiing, however snowboarding is way cooler looking hehehehe)

One thing I did enjoy a lot about dining in Korea (with the fact that all food is good food) is that there are a ton of rooftop diners! Here is a group picture for a friend's birthday at a burger restaurant and the view was beautiful!

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Health is Wealth

 Wellness while studying abroad.

The other day, a friend said to me on the train: “I can’t remember the last time I tasted a fruit.” With some consideration I concluded that I also hadn’t gone out of my way to eat fruits or vegetables for quite some time, maybe a month? 

When we got off the train we headed straight for the nearest Tesco to load up on apples, broccoli, avocado, and whole grains. Tesco in London is comparable to Walmart, with fair prices and a large range of products.

We’ve been going out so often, it’s been easy to forget a balanced diet.

This put me on quite the health kick. Getting your physical, emotional, and intellectual health in check is important when you’re in a new place. If you’re like me however, this won’t be on the forefront of your mind until it’s urgent. I went through a series of colds, strep throat, and even hay fever, before getting my health situated.

Being from Hawai’i, I was not used to the cold and everything that came with it. If I didn’t close the window when I slept, I got sick. If I didn’t wear a warm jacket, I got sick. I had jackets, but I didn’t have a sweater with Scottish wool. I found one in a vintage thrift store in Scotland, and it allowed me to feel warm and healthy for the first time while out and about.

Also, transportation. Traveling on the train often close to so many people prompted me to start carrying around hand sanitizer as well. 

When you travel overseas, you’re required to get international health insurance. I am on something called CISI, cultural insurance services international, which is expensive, costing me about $55 per month. Since I pay this much, I am not hesitant to use it!

The doctor gave me loads of good advice, and one piece was that when you’re in a new place, it’s important to make sure you are taking care of your immunity with plenty of Zinc and vitamin C. 

Back at home, I’m used to my partner taking care of me. So in a funny way, being sick reminds me of him. But now I don’t have that. Oh, and we separated right before I left, oops. This presents my next problem: heartbreak. Therapy abroad anyone?

All it took from me was the smallest inquiry to my program, AIFS, about needing mental health support, and my emails were flooded with resources. I didn’t even get around to reading them before a counselor found me after class and took me out to lunch to talk it all out. Then, someone else offered mentoring, and another, therapy sessions.

I’ve found heartbreak to be a great unifier. It’s important to me, as a psychiatry intern, to experience what clients describe to me as a stressor that turns their worlds upside down. It’s nice to mean it when I say, “I understand”. If you’re worried about your mental health abroad, ask for help. This is common and your program will be well equipped and prepared to support you in every way they can.

With my medical and mental health in check, I proceeded to focus on the intellectual and physical components. This involved study groups and trips to the gym. I really like the gyms here, they just make sense.

While you’re studying abroad, going with the flow, and having fun, it’s easy to forget about health preservation until you get sick. Before it is too late, you can establish who you’ll call when you need help. But even if you don’t, you’ll be okay.

The way the insurance works is, you pay the clinician upfront, and then file a claim for CISI to reimburse you. The clinics I’ve seen in London have been pleasant and accommodating.

To recap: remember fruits and vegetables, and vitamin C and Zinc for immunity and gut health. If you need help, ask. My additional advice is to check in with your friends and loved ones back home, but be present with your new friends and experiences as well. 

Another thing I’ve found beneficial is allowing myself resting days. There is so much you’ll want to do, but don’t forget to take breaks and check in with yourself!

P.S. Did I mention I ran into Brandon from HPU debate club at the natural history museum? Smalll world.

Sunday, June 12, 2022


 Adventure is out there...

Each time something cool happens, I try to take note of it on my way to or from my experience. I find my solace on a bus, train, flight, river, or underground. This recap blog is a lazy composition of a few of my excerpts. Though it's hard to keep track of all this in a consistent and careful way, at least something is better than nothing.


Trip to Cambridge, England. Saw the school.


Trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. Had a cup of coffee, found a hostel, made friends in a pub, climbed many hills, cheered on marathon runners, got free drinks from Marta.


Sooooo...I was on my way to afternoon tea, when I decided tea is not quite enough for lunch so I’ll get myself a pizza beforehand. When I got my pizza, I opened it up to find it was shaped as a heart. How sweet, I thought! They make heart shaped pizzas in England. Then, when I looked at the top part of the box I saw that THE ITALIAN BOY WHO MADE MY PIZZA HAD WRITTEN HIS NUMBER, NAME AND A HEART ON THE BOX. He made the heart-shaped pizza for me. Ohhh. The phone number he left was from Italy and I’m still hesitant to message.

After the pizza, I had my nice afternoon tea date with the girlies, and proceeded to spill more tea than I drank. If you know what I mean.


Experienced a Mama Mia musical. SO CUTE. I am saying farewell to the session one students as they fly home tonight.


I went to the Tate Modern Museum to see the 2001 Babel Sculpture, which I loved, but I took an interest in the Monument for the Living. The sculpture “Monument for the Living '' was made by Marwan Rechmaoui in the year 2000. This piece represents diversity as the intersecting of different identities and characteristics. The sculpture is made of concrete and wood, replicating the Burj El Murr building in Beirut, Lebanon. Burj El Murr was built in 1974 with the intention of becoming a large office building. The ravages of war left the building unfinished and the office plans were not carried out. During the Lebanese Civil War, it was instead used as a sniper post. The entire evolution of this eerily resilient building greatly represents its environment and people. 

First built to hold office space by a wealthy family in a time of plenty, then filled with ammunition and dead bodies, and later deemed useless and obstructing in the post-war era. Now that the unfinished building can’t be knocked down, it serves as a memorial for the unresolved conflict of the civil war. To me, the building is a great representation of the “elephant in the room”. It's a looming reminder of change that the city is unable to be rid of. 

This historic structure represents many things for the country. Money, strength, neglect, abandonment, unresolved conflict, and death. The prominent building is a display of wealth because it had grandiose expectations. There were constant renovations and a lot of money put into it in order to become a strong office building. Then of course, the war left it neglected and abandoned. The war also left a lingering unresolved conflict and death. In “Monument for the Living”, we see that diversity may be a vast range of experiences all happening at once. 

This was interesting to me as a viewer because I’ve never considered the relevance or depth a sculpture of a building could hold. When I first saw the tower, I noticed that it was tall, sturdy, and jarring. I scoped it out all around and couldn’t think of the beauty or meaning in a tall concrete building. Before I read the description, I didn’t understand it at all. The artist, Marwan Rechmaoui, is from Beirut, and chooses to express Lebanese history through his work. The Lebanese civil war and its interconnected complexities is far out of my world knowledge, yet Beirut’s story traveled all the way to London, and I met in the middle from Hawai’i. That is a diverse interaction in itself.


Heads up, I wrote this on a train in present-tense speech. Today I am traveling along the sea-to-sea rail service from West Ham station to south end central, to see the sea. I am taking a round trip train for about 1.5 hours total. The ticket was £17.50. We are passing tall green foliage that sometimes let up to reveal a town or forest. The lavender fields have opened up at last, and I want to be in the country as much as possible to explore the fruiting terrain. The closer I get to Essex, the wider the fields get, as the blue sky opens up to accommodate fluffy white clouds. I first catch sight of the ocean at Chalkwell. To my right are beautiful white beach homes surrounded by trees. To my left, flat and glittering cold water. Its good to see the area where I’ll attend school in the Autumn.


Traveled far south to the lavender fields today. Got lost, had fun. Loved every moment. I hope to buy a film camera soon and capture all this on 35mm so I can keep my phone turned off.