Alumni Spotlight: Kacie Ho

Here at the Study Abroad Center we are proud of our alumni, and would love to feature those who want to be in the spotlight!

Kick-starting our new Alumni Spotlight featurette is Kacie Ho, who studied abroad in the Fall of 2011 to Seville, Spain. Upon her return from Seville, Kacie and Resident Director Wayne Iwaoka of the Dept. of Human Nutrition, Food and Animal Sciences presented a seminar on Spanish Olives: Growing, Harvesting, and Processing at the Waimea Civic Center on June 5, 2012. Kacie graduated Magna Cum Laude from University of Hawai’i at Mānoa in May 2012 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Food Science & Human Nutrition.

Kacie posing with friends, in front of a statue, and scenic views of Spain.Where are you working now? 

In August 2012, I officially started as a graduate student at Purdue University in the Food Science Department. Here, I work under Dr. Fernanda San Martin, a professor in Food Processing and Technology Development.  My research focuses on microwave-assisted extraction of lycopene and encapsulation in nano emulsions. I’m currently in the MS program, but am looking to bypass to PhD. Also, this past summer, (Summer 2013), I was able to intern in Cargill’s Global Food Research Group in Minneapolis, MN. 

Why did you choose to study abroad in Seville?

Initially, I chose Seville, Spain because that program allowed me to take classes that counted towards my major (Food Science courses) so that I could still graduate the next semester. The resident director that year was also my academic advisor, and had strongly urged me to apply for study abroad, as he wanted me to gain a cultural understanding outside of Hawaii. In retrospect, Seville was a great option because it allowed me to be immersed in a completely new culture and language. 

What was your goal/objective for studying abroad in general, and in Seville? 

My goal for studying abroad in general was to gain a new understanding culture. Prior to this experience, I had never been to Europe nor had I ever taken Spanish. Thus, my goal for Seville was to learn some of the language and to experience living like a Spaniard. 

Did you experience culture shock? 

I definitely experienced a bit of cultural shock. However, I feel like that is part of the natural cycle of moving to a new place, regardless of the geographical location. I think the SAC pre-departure orientation was incredibly helpful as it educated me about basics to Spanish culture (i.e. faux pas). The orientation helped me to understand that I would experience shocking differences in culture, which enabled me to accept and learn to love and appreciate the new experiences. 

What was your most memorable experience in Seville? 

I have many great memories, but a funny one that I always recall is my first morning waking up in Seville.  My house mom (who spoke no English) asked me something in Spanish.  It took us 30 minutes of back and forth miming before I could communicate back to her that I wanted one piece of bread and my coffee with milk.  Although I did not know any Spanish prior to going, I left (at least) knowing how to handle food situations.     

What did you appreciate most about this study abroad experience? 

Earning UHM credits was especially helpful as I would not have studied abroad otherwise. It is great that this experience allowed me to grow culturally, while not forcing me to sacrifice my academic goals. I also really appreciated the opportunity to stay in a home stay. I feel like living in an actual home with natives allows you to experience the country as a foreign resident rather than tourist. 

What did you learn about yourself from this experience? 

I learned that I love Spain and that I have a thirst to travel to new places.  

How has this semester abroad in Spain changed you, your career choice, etc? 

This semester did not change my career choice. However, it did make me realize that living in another country vs. just visiting gives you a whole different perspective.  In the future, I plan to look for post doc positions or job/research positions in another country.  

What advice would you give to prospective students interested in studying abroad in Seville? 

Have patience! Life in Spain is a lot slower than in the US. Accept that lunch will take a few hours, and appreciate siesta! 

How has the study abroad experience prepared you for your fellowship?

I feel that studying abroad has made me a better candidate for graduate school and for future jobs. I feel like most employers can appreciate an individual who is culturally empathetic and who can work well with diversity. 

Do you think your study abroad experience played a role in landing you the fellowship at Purdue University? How so? 

I can’t be sure if my study abroad experience directly played a role in landing a position as a graduate student at Purdue University, but I’m sure the recruiters and graduate committee appreciated it, especially since Purdue’s campus population is about 50% international. Also, I was fortunate enough to receive a fellowship from the National Science Foundation. For this, it is possible that they considered my study abroad experience as they do have several programs to send scientists to other countries for research opportunities. 

What advice would you give to students who wish to have the same career as you? 

Be curious. Take as many math and science classes as you can.  Also, if possible, as an undergraduate (or even before that) try to get experience working or volunteering in a laboratory. Also, look for industry and government sponsored internships to gain experience during the summers or in your downtime.  

Name your 5 favorite foods of Seville. 

Jamón ibérico; manchego cheese; pulpo (octopus, which they typically prepare with a smoked paprika…it is especially tender!); salmorejo; and helado. 

Name your 5 favorite sights to see/things to do in Spain. 

The Alhambra in Granada; the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid; just walking around in the Parque de María Luisa, which was quite close to my house; the aqueducts in Mérida; eating queso con miel helado at Mama Goye in Plaza Nueva. 

Kacie was also featured in Purdue University’s Graduate Agricultural Research Spotlight.