Senita Lavulavu

A photo taken during my study abroad trip in Papeete, Tahiti.

A Tongan American senior at the University of Washington, I am majoring in Medical Anthropology and Global Health. My academic interests revolve mainly around indigenous culture studies along with health research studies. My most recent studies have been involved within the South Pacific region, specifically within the Polynesian, Micronesian, and Melanesian islands. For the past few years, I have been involved with Research Sisters with Professor Holly Barker at the University of Washington, doing extensive research on indigenous artifacts within the Burke Museum. During my years at the University of Washington, I have also been a member of the Polynesian Student Alliance Club on campus. Polynesian Student Alliance (PSA) has become my tight knit community within University of Washington’s large campus. Overall, I am excited to use the knowledge I’ve gained at the University of Washington to give back to those who have given so much of themselves to others.

My first study abroad trip consisted of studying abroad to Papeete, Tahiti. During this study abroad trip, we compared and contrasted indigenous Tahitian knowledge about medicine with Western ways of medicine. This New Zealand study abroad trip focuses on sovereignty, environment, and representation within Maori culture.  I hope to learn a lot more about the environment from the indigenous Maori culture perspective versus the Western society perspective. The land is a very important aspect amongst all of Oceania. Although most of our Pacific Islands have been colonized, the mana amongst Oceania remains constant and strong.  The land and ocean make up a large piece of what Oceania is as an identity. Thus far, we have already learned so much during this trip. We have already been exposed to so many traditional Maori customs and traditions. I’m excited to see what the rest of this trip has in store. I know this experience will be life changing for each and every one of us students. I am honored to have this privilege!


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