Alumni Reflections

Hear what these former Study Abroad participants have to say about their study abroad experiences!


Jacqueline Esters
Japanese, minor in Fashion Design and Merchandising
Machida, Japan, Academic Year 2016-2017

“I had an amazing year abroad in Machida, Japan! My major is Japanese, and by going to Japan I was able to not only visit a place I’ve always wanted to go but I earned full credits which apply towards my major! The total cost included everything I needed! Tuition, money for books, housing (I, myself stayed with a host family), and even health insurance. In addition, the host university awarded a scholarship of around $2,000 to all study abroad participants. My parents pay out-of-state tuition, so by studying abroad in Japan for a whole year I actually saved them about $30,000! This experience was amazing for me! Not only did I live in another country and learn about the differences in culture, but I did it at a fraction of UH Mānoa tuition! I highly recommend studying abroad to all students, especially those who are paying out-of-state tuition!”

Jacqueline standing before the Golden Pavillion, Mount Fuji, and a red shrine in Japan.

Kayla Chamberlain
Second Language Studies, minor in Japanese
Kōbe, Japan, Spring 2017

“Pay lower tuition than UHM, receive a scholarship monthly for the entirety of your stay, and you get to live in Japan!? That’s why I chose to study abroad in Kōbe, Japan last spring. I completed my third year’s worth of Japanese requirement in a single semester, traveled the country, made friends from all over the world, and gained an experience unlike any other. I just wish there was an option for a fall semester abroad, so I could do it all again!”

Kayla going flower-viewing with her Japanese host mother.

Sanghun Bruce Ham
Management Information Systems
Seville, Spain, Spring 2017

A collage of Sanghun sitting in front of various buildings in Spain.

“It really is hard to pick one memorable experience from such an amazing four-month-long trip. I went on trips to different cities pretty much every weekend, and each city, including Sevilla, was really great. My most memorable experience would have to be the time I missed my flight to Barcelona! I had planned for Barcelona to be my last weekend trip in Spain, which was to be the day after final exams. However, the night before the trip also was the last night for everyone together in the program. I meant to stay up all night because my flight for Barcelona was really early in the morning. Unfortunately, I fell asleep one hour before I was supposed to leave the house. I guess I was exhausted after bonding with friends that I won’t see for a while and studying for the final exams. By the time I woke up, my flight has gone and I had a thousand text messages from a friend who was getting on the same flight. I tried to find a way to save my flight while I was on my way to the airport, but unfortunately, I had to purchase another ticket.

So this is the most important piece of advice that I would like to give anyone who wishes to study abroad: be open-minded, not just to the interesting moments or experiences, but especially to unpleasant circumstances as they are happening to you. My study abroad experience gave me confidence in living in a different country, and I learned that I am good at adapting and adjusting to a new environment.  I would love to encourage other international students by sharing my stories and experiences. If it is cheaper and helps to add more international experience, why not do it?”

Catherine Gardner
Second Language Studies
Seville, Spain, Spring 2016 & Summer 2016

A collage of images showing Catherine wearing a polka-dot dress, at a restaurant, and in front of the ICS building.

“As this was my first time living away from home (not to mention abroad!), I was given the opportunity to make important decisions on my own: how to spend my time wisely and, just as importantly, whom to spend it with; how to interact in relationships; how to budget my finances and then try to stick to that budget; and how to navigate through international airports, train stations, and metropolitan cities on my own (and at times without the help of a common language). I made my fair share of mistakes, too: losing flights and having to spend sleepless nights in airports, getting ripped off by the locals and unintentionally paying through the nose, even misjudging people’s characters and getting hurt in the process. And though I lost flights and buses, spent money in error, and burnt some bridges, I gained inconceivably more: I learned through those moments my faults and how to correct them myself. Through this experience, I have become my own person. Being away from home removed me from some of the constraining images projected onto me by my loved ones, images that I conformed to (for example, the little girl still dependent on her parents). Though I did not go to Spain expecting to grow in this specific way, I return different: strengthened with a greater spirit of independence, sharpened with a more confident self-image and a firmer understanding of my own identity. This experience is one I consider a stepping-stone to life after graduation, hopefully, a future that includes teaching English in Spain.

How do I summarize everything I have experienced these last few months? I simply can’t. My experience was rich and I am still processing and gleaning from all of my adventures.  I have grown and been changed by this opportunity, becoming more linguistically proficient, professionally competent, and emotionally mature—an understanding and growth I could not obtain except by studying abroad. I am forever grateful for this experience that has changed me wholeheartedly into an independent individual ready to continue to explore and perpetually advance the borders of my own comfort zone.”

In Spring 2017, Catherine graduated Summa Cum Laude with an Undergraduate BA in Second Language Studies. Undergraduate Commencement Speaker 

Koa Webster
International Business, Marketing, Chinese
Hainan, China, Summer 2014 & Shanghai, China, Fall 2014

Koa posing for photos with his study abroad cohort.

“I have been interested in studying abroad in China for quite a long time now. Majoring in Marketing and International Business major and minoring in Chinese, this was a great opportunity to spend a semester in China to really strengthen my grasp of the Mandarin language, and also to understand Chinese culture—specifically Chinese business culture. I love being around people who are smarter than me, and who have different perspectives on the world, so this seemed like a great opportunity to expand my personal views on business from a different standpoint.

I remember realizing early on that I will have to change my American way of thinking quickly because as Americans we have so many rights, which is one of the reasons America is such a great country. However, with this way of thinking comes the sense of entitlement and that we deserve certain privileges, but in other parts of the world this is definitely not the case, especially in a communist country like China.

I believe that with studying abroad there are so many lessons to be learned. Most of all, I think being on your own, more so in another country, really makes you grow up and learn how to become more of an adult, particularly when figuring out problems for yourself and sometimes needing to get creative. When everything is in another language, sometimes you have to think outside the box when communicating. This study abroad experience has been one of the most amazing and memorable experiences in my entire life. I only wish it had never ended and I could have stayed longer. I have a year to decide what I will do after graduation, and this experience has really forced me to deeply consider my subsequent plans. In many ways, this past semester has made my focus much clearer, and I’m looking forward to what lies ahead in my future.

In Spring 2016, Koa was awarded with an Undergraduate BBA in International Business Cum Laude, Undergraduate BBA in Marketing Cum Laude, and Undergraduate BA in Chinese Cum Laude.

Marcus Wallace
Hainan, China, Summer 2012 & Shanghai, China, Spring 2014

A collage of Marcus in various places around Shanghai.“I learned that I can take care of myself. I was able to navigate subways, hospitals, and pretty much everything life threw at me with just me and my language skills. It was a huge boost to my confidence. Hainan and Shanghai confirmed to me that I knew what I was doing and most importantly that I have the skill and perseverance to pull it off.”

David Holt
International Business, Entrepreneurship
Florence, Italy, Fall 2013

David standing in front of a spherical art sculpture.

“Being independent in a foreign country is not easy, it requires patience and discipline. This experience in Florence has broadened my understanding of other cultures and how to travel and live in other countries. I gained a deeper understanding of the people throughout the four months and felt more and more comfortable with my surroundings. I was able to adapt to living with a foreign family and learn to be a part of a family that has a different culture than me. I learned to overcome the uncomfortable feeling of not knowing how to communicate and being treated as a foreigner, and even worse an American. This is about accepting your position as a student from America and learning to get along with everyone that has an interest in getting along with you; not trying too hard to make friends with people who are uninterested. I learned how to really listen. Being a good listener is difficult, sometimes I find myself just waiting to butt in and tell them how it really is. But listening is listening. Keeping your mind open to their opinions and stories, without thinking about the next thing you want to say. When communicating in a foreign language listening is more important than ever because you have to focus on nonverbal communication as well as understanding the language. I also learned a lot about my Italian relatives when I visited them in Colfiorito this semester. They were very hospitable and loving, spoiling me with food, gifts, and their time. Reconnecting with my relatives was very important to me. I learned about the renaissance art in Florence and read some very interesting books; Dante’s Inferno, The Agony and the Ecstasy, and Brunelleschi’s Dome. I visited many churches and palaces, enjoy the ancient architecture and art of these magnificent places. I learned about my own faith and religion while visiting the breathtaking churches of Italy. I even attended mass at Ognissanti and prayed at a few of the churches. Florence is a wonderful place to study abroad as I learned about and enjoyed; art, romance, religion, family travel and history.”

David received the Johnson Scholarship in Fall 2013. Read his Study Abroad journal here.

Mick Jower
Seville, Spain, Spring & Fall 2013

A collage of Mick standing before various historical buildings in Spain.

“Going abroad and being immersed in a new culture and language has not only opened my eyes to the world beyond the U.S., but more importantly, I’ve learned a great deal about myself and my desires for my future. My time abroad has allowed me to grow academically and as a person, and hands down one of the best experiences of my life. The opportunity to study abroad is one of the best things that a college could offer a student and I feel that this has been my most rewarding semester of college thus far. So my advice, study abroad. Just do it, you won’t regret it.”

Natalia Hussey-Burdick
London, England, Spring 2013

A collage of Natalia's seeing the sights in London.

“Studying Abroad in London was definitely the best decision I’ve made in my entire life.  I took two incredibly interesting Biology courses, (Cell & Molecular Bio and Ethology), which were both taught by amazing professors who were actively performing research in their field.  The course work was refreshingly self-directed, and they offered fascinating weekly seminars with guest lecturers presenting new developments in cutting-edge studies.

Now, it is true that they didn’t offer Math or Chemistry courses in London, so I have a little catching up to do, but I think the benefit of having Study Abroad experience in my C.V. will far outweigh any negatives when I finally apply to Medical School.

I won’t subject you to endless stories of my unbelievable travels in Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Ireland, Poland, and Hungary (although I’d be more than happy to tell anyone who will listen, feel free to ask Allison for my contact info if you have questions about the logistics of traveling in Europe!), but I do want to tell you that what I gained was far more than the actual experiences.

I really think that the time I spent away from home allowed me to look inward and discover what I really want for myself, instead of just listening to everybody else’s suggestions.  I was able to concentrate more on my ultimate goals for the future, rather than feeling stuck in an endless cycle of coursework.  I came back to Hawaii feeling rejuvenated, and now I’m more focused and motivated than ever before.  Studying abroad has helped me grow in so many ways, I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t.  I highly recommend to anyone who’s even half-considering it, just go to an info session; it’s more feasible than you might think!”

Eve Millett
French, Ethnic Studies
Angers, France, Summer 2012

A collage of Eve standing by a castle and posing with friends.“I appreciated everything about my Angers study abroad experience.  I am glad that I earned UH Mānoa credits and that I did not have to worry about having to transfer my credits back.  I loved the fact that I had a home-stay.  At first, I was nervous about the home-stay, but it was the best experience I could have had!  My family was so nice and supportive, and they really took their time to show us around.  They also always encouraged us to enjoy our time there.  They were so amazing! I appreciated the fact that we had a Resident Director with us because if we ever had a problem, we could go to him.  Finally, going to the Angers program was great because our classes had TAs who would not only help us refine and work on our French, but they also would organize events outside of school for everyone to come together.  This was great because it allowed for us to meet outside of class and get to know everyone better.”

In Fall 2012, Eve graduated with an Undergraduate BA in French Magna Cum Laude and Ethnic Studies Magna Cum Laude. In Spring 2015, Eve graduated with a Graduate MA in French. Eve is currently an Academic Advisor at the Manoa Advising Center.

Emma Ching
Anthropology & English
Florence, Italy, Fall 2011

A collage of Emma posing with friends and at a scenic point in Florence.“Before I studied abroad I was nervous; I didn’t know what to expect, didn’t know if I could handle all the challenges. Thank you for your encouragement, enthusiasm, and support. I’m sure you hear it time and again, but my study abroad experience truly changed my life in so many positive ways. Traveling to Florence the first time on the group flight was a perfect way to introduce me to international travel and allowed me the confidence and experience to travel independently this time. The relationships I was able to form with people from all around the world have opened up wonderful opportunities for me and knowing such amazing people has made me a better person. Studying abroad made me fall in love with travel. I look forward to many more trips around the world and will cherish for the rest of my life the friendships and journeys that all began during my study abroad in Florence.”

Upon graduating Summa Cum Laude in both Anthropology and English in the Spring of 2013, Emma embarked on a three-month European adventure exploring France, Germany and Portugal, and which brought her back to Florence, Italy, where she reunited with her host parents. 

Katrina Valcourt
Communication, Minor in English
Berlin, Germany, Summer 2011 & Florence, Italy, Fall 2011

A collage of Katrina posing with friends by various buildings and scenic points in Berlin and Florence.“My goals for Germany were very simple: Have fun, and don’t fail. I didn’t know anyone from the group, so I felt pretty vulnerable in the beginning, but everyone was in it together and we bonded almost instantly. In Italy, I had had classes with some of the people going but didn’t know them well, either. But my goals there were more about being part of the Italian culture.

I’m not sure if I had much culture shock, but there were definitely frustrations. I did not speak any German, and I got lost more than once, sometimes when I was alone. But it taught me to be independent. In Italy, the language barrier was worse because I lived with an Italian woman and I had just barely begun learning. My roommates were all more advanced than I was, so I had a really hard time keeping up with conversations at dinner. Dinner was served really late. Stores were closed in the middle of the day. I got lost easily, again. But I don’t hold on to things like that and let them get me down. It’s definitely the worst during your first few days there when all you want to do is sleep, but after that, you just adapt. You can’t expect the rest of the world to change for you, nor should it. The Study Abroad Center made that pretty clear—you will have to open your eyes and grow up when you leave home.

I definitely felt like I had grown up after being in Germany. It was my first time away from home for that long, a chance to let go of the past and start fresh, and an opportunity to do exactly what I wanted. I felt more mature and more understanding, and surer of who I was as a person. I felt ready to do it again in the fall. Italy was great in affirming my choices in school. Even when some of my classes bored me, others were enthralling, and the film festival was a really great way for me to take part in something in the community that I wanted to possibly do in the future. I feel like I grew more personally than any other way, which is most important to me because I believe that once you have all of your values and passions in order, everything else will kind of fall into place. You won’t have to struggle with choices as much because you’ll know who you are and what you want.”

In Spring 2012, Katrina graduated with an Undergraduate BA in Communication, Minor in English, Magna Cum Laude. 

Makana Mattos
Hawaiian Studies, English
London, England, Fall 2010

Makana posing with three friends in front of Stone Henge.

“Study abroad is an adventure in itself. You learn about different culture. You learn to learn differently. You learn to be independent. You learn to have fun and explore. And in all your learning experiences, you learn about yourself. I feel my time in London, though short, has helped me develop academically, professionally, and personally. Living on my own, making friends, adapting to a different lifestyle, and traveling, have prepared me for anything this world has to offer.”

Sean Konieczny
International Business
Paris, France, Fall 2010

Sean visiting a reindeer at a farm.

“Paris, France, a city of love, lights, and baguettes. From the smell of freshly baked and buttered croissants to the many, extravagant tastes of red wine, straight from the vineyard, the culture and lifestyle in France are one of its own. When going overseas it was like I found something that I wasn’t really looking for but critically and unknowingly needed. It was a journey that created structure and foundation for me, and most of all it was a voyage that totally reformed me. It completely changed the way I relate to things and thoroughly forced me to re-evaluate myself. My study abroad experience presented to me the vitality of leaving my comfort zone, it replaced ignorance with knowledge, and most of all, it enlightened me on my true self-identity. ”