Introduction and Preparation



Greetings, striving international travelers!

Let me get the introductions out of the way by telling you a little bit about myself.

I’m a current Army reservist with 3 years active duty time. Since leaving the active side, I’ve been going to school at UW Bothell and work home remodeling as a part time job. I’m an instrument rated Private Pilot studying for my Commercial Certificate, and I’m a senior at UWB’s Mechanical Engineering program. My long-term career goal is to become an Airline Transport Pilot.

I was born and raised in Bothell, WA by my American father and Taiwanese mother. I come from a large family of 6 siblings. As my older siblings moved out of the house, my parents began hosting foreign exchange students. We’ve taken in students from China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Japan, Taiwan, and many others over the years.

Being grown up around a large family and cultures from around the world, I’ve always been a traveler; most of the time solo. I’m driven all across the United States, from the Florida Keys to New York City, and have visited Thailand, Vietnam, Iraq, Kuwait, Canada, Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, Netherlands. Some of my other hobbies include snowboarding, rock climbing, mountain biking, and exploring the Northwest!

The program I will be attending in Early Fall is called Renewable Energy in Japan and US. The focus of this program will be on sustainable and reliable energy systems and how international dramatics can influence the choice for a certain type of system. When I heard this program was taking place in Japan, I knew I wanted to be apart of it. Being from Taiwanese descent, Japan and Taiwan have great relations and I have always been deeply interested in Japanese culture.

For me, the most important aspect of this program is experiencing engineering from an international standpoint. If I were to only study American engineering, I would be doing myself a great disservice. For example, the US relies heavily upon fossil fuels to support its energy requirements. Japan on the other hand, put a lot of money into nuclear energy. After the 2011 Fukushima catastrophe, in which a nuclear reactor melted down and leaked radiation wastes into the surrounding area, the Japanese government shutdown all nuclear reactors, creating a void in energy production, from which Japan still suffers today. Through cooperation in programs such as this, both the US and Japan will be able to take away different aspects from each other in order to better themselves in the crisis that each hold.

Although I do not speak Japanese, I have taken it upon myself to learn a few phrases to be respectful to others, but also find my way around If I get lost. Being an American, there are plenty of stereotypes which can be of concern. The only thing I can do, is act accordingly and bring the best that I have to offer in order to represent my country in positive light. The language barrier will be difficult, however there are plenty of aids available nowadays that I can use to assist me. Google translate is accurate enough to get a message across.

I have prepared myself to the fullest, but there are always unknowns when traveling internationally and it is up to me to ensure that I’ve minimized the risks that come with traveling abroad. Planning accordingly and getting things organized well ahead of time will greatly reduce stress and the likeliness for you to miss important information.

For now, the departure date is still a month away, but stay tuned for more updates on my adventures on Japan Study Abroad!


My Teaching Experience

I could feel the sweat drip down my temple as we drove down the bumpy dirt road. I was thinking about how easily the dust entering the van through the windows would stick to my skin. We were heading to the village for our second day of teaching the 4th and 5th graders at Nirman, our partner school. The first day didn’t go as well as we had hoped but we had a more solid plan going into day two. Luckily, it did end up going much better than the day before, and for the most part this trend continued for the rest of the week.

A large part of our study abroad was about designing and then integrating a lesson plan for some Indian students. Kaylah, Dibbya, and I were assigned to teach 4th and 5th graders about keyhole gardens that can be used for composting. We were surprised to discover that most if not all the students didn’t know what composting was. As someone who is interested in environmental issues, it was a privilege to be able to work with the students on this project.
Although we began with a lesson plan for each day of the week, we ended up having to do a lot of revising and improvising at the end of every day. We found that often times, we didn’t get to doing some of the things we had planned for the day because we had to spend more time than anticipated on classroom management. For example, after Monday we always split the class in half, having some students working outside and some working inside, which worked really well since there were three of us. Another key thing we discovered was that educational games as a learning tool worked really well for the age group we had. After doing a “what is compost and what’s not” game with much success on Tuesday, we decided to incorporate more activities like this into our lesson plan for the rest of the week.

Creating the garden was really fun for both us and the students. Our plan for this stayed the same for the most part, although we had to move some things back due to lack of time. Fortunately we were able to complete the garden with seedlings planted. There is work to be done with the garden still, but for going in with so many unknown factors I’m happy with how it turned out.

Being able to introduce kids in India to one sustainable practice was meaningful in the fact that kids learning about these kinds of things can make all the difference in the future of the health of our planet. I’m so grateful I had this opportunity. In the end, I think the kids may have taught us more than we taught them.


Written by Emma Hattori

My Homestay Experience

After dropping off two of our classmates at their homestay, Niko and I made way to ours. As our driver’s car weaved through the narrow alleys of Varanasi, dodging people and cows alike, I was filled with excitement and anxious to see what our living situation would be like. I remember Niko and I dreaming that we’ve lucked out, anticipating that we’d be staying in a place with AC, hot showers and room to roam. Those predictions quickly vanished as we were dropped off by side of the road and lead through a series of dark ally ways that eventually lead to the doorsteps of the home of our host family. Upon entering a narrow hallway, we were invited to set our bags down in a small living room with two arm chairs and a couch. We were greeted by the family’s son, who’s nickname is Golu, which means circle. He was around the same age as Niko and I and spoke very enthusiastically, especially when it came to the Tabla, a famous Indian instrument that consist of two drums. Golu’s father, Mr. Mishras is a renowned Tabla player in Varanasi, teaching at a local university called BHU. Golu was a also an aspiring Tabla player and a student at Banaras Hindu University, working towards a masters in Tabla. After our introductions, Golu asked if we would like to hear him play the Tabla, which Niko and I excitedly said yes to. The sound was nothing like I’ve ever heard before and it was evident that years of practice has gone into the level and skill that Golu was playing at.

I was starting to feel at ease in my new home when something started to catch my attention. It was very subtle at first, but eventually became something that I could no longer overlook. During our conversations with Golu, I noticed that he was making very little eye contact with me and much more eye contact with my classmate Niko, who was a white male. I thought to myself that maybe I was being too shy and needed to exert myself a little bit more. Occasionally, I would make a comment or ask a question and Golu would look at me but quickly returned his attention back to Niko. As the night went on I started to noticed that Golu seemed to only ask Niko questions, which lead me to wonder if he simply forgot my name. When it came time for us to go to bed, Golu got up from behind his Tabla and said “Niko, let me show you to your room”. He lead Niko to a room across the hall as I stayed a little further behind wondering if my room was to be somewhere else in the house. I peeked my head into the room, which consisted of a computer desk, a cabinet and a twin sized matt on the floor. Niko and I exchanged glances, waiting for Golu to show me to my room, but that moment never came. We both set our belongings down reluctantly as Golu asked if the room was ok. Not wanting to come off ungrateful, we both said the room was fine and asked for another mat for us to sleep on. Golu and his mother returned shortly later with a thin matt and laid it next to the one that was already there. As Golu was about to head upstairs to bed, he poked his head through the door and said “Niko, if you need anything at all, anything, let me know”. That night, as I was laying 4 inches away from Niko sideways on a twin sized mat, I was so perplexed at what I had just experienced. My mind was ruminating, trying to find some logical explanation of this foreign feeling I was experiencing. Was it some cultural formality to address someone first? Did I come off rude and unwelcoming? Did he simply not know my name? I was trying to find a reason, any reason that would make sense of what I had just experienced. As I started to rule out each explanation one by one, I had to ask myself the question I was reluctant to ask, was I experiencing racism?

The next morning, I had a talk with Kara and she suggested that I have a talk with Irfana ma’am, the director at the school we were working with. The conversation was unproductive as I danced around the issue, as inquiring if my host were racist is well…a very awkward conversation. The only issue fixed by that conversation was that by the time Niko and I returned home that night, there was a much more comfortable mat next to the old one. It wasn’t until my homestay experience was over that we all had a conversation about the issue, as another non-white student experienced something similar during her home stay. Although I wouldn’t want anyone to go through such an uncomfortable experience, a part of me was glad that someone else had the same experience. Her confession validated my feelings, I wasn’t crazy. Nita ma’am and Irfana ma’am as well as the rest of the group had a really good discussion about the issue. Nita ma’am explained that the concept of racism doesn’t even exist in India, that the possible reason that our host family treated our white classmates differently is because they viewed us, people of color, very similar to themselves. She reassured us that what we experienced is in fact not racism and not a common occurrence. We also discussed casts in India and how wealth fits into that system, and the associations of Caucasians with wealth. Although the explanations did make sense, a part of me still feels like I haven’t found a satisfactory answer. This experience has definitely given me plenty to think about and has made me more aware of how my identity plays different roles in different cultures. This experience made me realize how “racism” is subjective and can mean different things to different people. This experience also makes me wonder that if someone doesn’t view something as racist in their culture, does that invalidate the feelings of the individual who experiences it as such?

Written By Tam Hoang

Process Before Your Trip

Blog By Lorena Andrea Marulanda, Community Psychology, Gender, Culture and Human Rights in India

This is my first time writing a blog in English, so I am so sorry if I make any mistake. However, at the same time it is a representation of me as an immigrant whose first language is not English. So here is the process that I wanted to have before and during my time in India.

Process before your trip…

 This is a process that we should all enjoy, although it is stressful, once you get the congratulation letter everything will have a different face :).


For this I do not have much to say more than be yourself. If you do not know something it is okay to say it, you do not need to have a perfect answer. From this, you will learn (like I did) to be okay with who you are with your answers even if they sound silly sometimes. For a while I was worried that I was not going to be selected for the program because of some of my answers, but I got the good news and that opinion about myself changed…

…and if you are wondering about the picture in my congratulation letter, yes we took it while in India!



If you are like me and do not read the instructions, you are going to be very frustrated. For this, you will need:


  • A picture of yourself with a white background. What I did… I took a picture of my passport picture and change the size of the picture to what it was required and it work!
  • A clear picture of your passport


I thought it was going to be easier, so please take your time to do at once. However, if for some reason you can not finish it when you started it DO NOT FORGET to write down your application ID number which is on the middle top of the page. It happened to me, and I had to start over again and learn the hard way.


These were the mistakes I did while filling out the application:


  • DO NOT write your social security or your driver license enter NA.
  • DO NOT use punctuation marks. If your name is hyphenated then use a black space instead. Do not use a period if your name has a sux such as “Jr.”
  • AND write the address as they show it even though the space is not long enough. Copy and paste what they give you, and if it does not fit IT IS OKAY!


…and here goes your first investment on your trip $61.50 for you visa!



Go to the doctor as soon as possible so you will know what your insurance is able to cover. If you do not have insurance Bartell Drugs store and Walgreens offer the service of the immunizations that are required to enter to India. Bartell Drugs have an international nurse that will help you with the research and the decision with some the ones that are optional (malaria).


Hepatitis A $139

Typhoid $102


For me, my insurance covered the Hepatitis A, and with my doctor we decided that I was not going to take anything for Malaria. However, I paid for the Typhoid at the community clinic in North Gate and I paid $76.78, so it was more convenient.


DO NOT FORGET to ask your doctor for CIPROFLOXACIN for traveler’s diarrhea. Most insurances cover this. WHAT I DID TO NOT USE IT… I was really worried about getting sick during India, so my cousin who traveled to Nepal recommended to take probiotics as much as possible BEFORE and DURING the trip. I was eating two yogurts everyday, kombucha, and I bought some probiotic pills called “Pearls Complete” that he recommended. I got them through Amazon for $15.49…. and I never got sick of my stomach!

To New Beginnings

Jesus God.

What a crazy few weeks it’s been since my last post.

Quick update on the Asian buffet I talked about on my last post; turned out to be bad from what everyone said. I thought it was good but that was probably because I was missing Asian food from home.

Versailles was a beautiful castle with an extravagant garden. It could’ve been more stellar if the weather was a tad nicer. Getting past the ticket people with our student card was a big hassle, but after that it was uphill. Going home from Versailles was a hot mess because a train had a “switch malfunction” and possibly collided with another train. Panic ensued but we all got home safe.

Pictured: Garden of Chateau Versailles

Week 5: Museums, Mom, and Laughs

Nothing much besides the usual class and museum outings. We went to Centre Pompidou, Les Halles, Bercy, and the National Library of France all in one day. My other class went to Musée de l’Homme which was an interesting exhibit about human evolution.

The 4 of us had planned to meet at a museum and I got there late. When I arrived at the museum they didn’t let anyone in for some security reason they didn’t say. There were a lot of police and military personnel everywhere so I assumed it was some sort of attack or threat. Speaking of attacks, something happened at the Louvre that made us have a lockdown from all outings that day and warnings to not visit any touristy locations.

My New England Patriots are Super Bowl 51 champions! Tom Brady is the MVP!

My mom FaceTimed me this week. I haven’t talked to her in a while and she was happy to talk to me as any mom would be. My mom and I don’t really show our emotion to each other but she said she misses me and she misses that I eat all of her food. It doesn’t sound like much but it was the way she said she misses me. It was a really sad tone and I could hear it in her voice. I’m not one to cry but my mom got me almost teary eyed from that.

Towards the end of the week Toad and I went inside Centre Pompidou to check out their exhibits. Their contemporary art was okay but their modern art floor had a lot of nice pieces. They even had a gallery featuring Picasso and Matisse! If you’re in the area of Centre Pompidou, definitely check out the crêpe shop around the corner! They have giant crêpes at really good prices!

Pictured: “Dr. Dunkenstein” at Centre Pompidou

Week 6: See You Later

The final week of block 1! The highlight of this week is surprisingly not finals, but the Eiffel Tower makes an appearance in my blog again! Toad and I had devised a plan to go up to the Eiffel Tower’s 3rd floor and drink champagne up there and feel classy. The only thing is we weren’t trying to pay for overpriced champagne–we were planning on sneaking in our own champagne up there and boy did our plan go through. We brought our own champagne and champagne glasses and managed to get through 2 waves of security, walked up the stairs again, and after waiting in line after line, got up to the 3rd floor and proudly drank our rosé champagne on the 3rd floor! We ended the Eiffel Tower by skating at the ice rink on the 1st floor. It was fun ice skating at the Eiffel Tower…until we both fell down embarrassingly in front of so many people so we left right after that happened.

We all planned our last get together at Destiny’s place for a farewell dinner and on the menu was Destiny’s famous 3 cheese crab pasta! The next day was bittersweet with finals and everyone leaving to one place or another as block 1 wraps up. Toad is heading to London while Jared goes to Rome and I was going to London for the weekend. It was a sad moment when each person went their separate ways but as cliché as it sounds, it’s not goodbye, it’s see you later.

Pictured: Group dinner

Block 1 was chock full of amazing memories with amazing people and with more people coming to Paris for block 2, I’m sure there’ll be just as much fun to be excited for!


As always, thank you for reading my entries! Any feedback is much appreciated no matter what it is!

Preparing to Return Home

The last four weeks have helped me learn a big lesson; a lesson I didn’t realize I was getting. I couldn’t pin point it until after a few of our group discussions and then it became more clear and it is cultural competency. In our small groups, we were able to share our frustrations with the language barrier we were having as most of us did not speak the local language (Italian). One student compared our lack of cultural competency with the Italian culture with how immigrants and refugees must feel when they go deal with the culture of their host country without knowing the Italian language. It made me realize how frustrating it must be for them to deal with officials about their papers and/or if they needed help on health services, etc., without knowing any Italian.

On another note, all of us on this program were expected to do some ethnography work for our video project and yes, we had translators with us and everything, but it still wasn’t easy. The language barrier is not just about loosing a few words here and there. No, it has been about loosing crucial information needed for our supposedly “authentic” research. That lost information is sometimes done unintentionally while other times it gets me thinking if it was done on purpose. Why do our translators give us the sweeter and milder version of the truth? It’s a bit upsetting. We are not getting accurate information. This has happened very obviously during our meeting with the Mayor of Castelsardo town when we asked him if he knows anything about the Roma population living in his town. He said “there are no Romas living here. I know everyone in this town” thankfully Vicente (a famous Roma activist, who was visiting us that day) asked the mayor “how do you know there are no Romas here?” he was implying that the mayor was using skin color and certain ideas of how Romas look like for making that judgement call. Vicente can pass as a white man, his skin is as white as a white person’s but he is a Roma man. And Roma people usually have a darker complexion but some are light skinned. Vicente later told us that the mayor was being racist in labeling Romas as dark people. Even though the progressive Italians, like this mayor have good intentions and want to help immigrants integrate into the society, unbeknownst to him and the others, they perpetuate the same racism and power structures that they are trying to demolish.

As I’m slowly packing my things and preparing to go home, I’m going to miss the island. One moment I was swept off my feet with its beauty and charm. The next moment I would look at it and feel sad, sad about the many lives that tried to reach its shores, but they couldn’t make it. Overall, I really enjoyed my stay here and I’m leaving with a lot of lessons and memories made. Thank you Italy for your warm welcome and hospitality. Grazie mille! (Thanks a lot).






Mama I made it! (To Amsterdam)

Amsterdam is such a beautiful city! Everything is so lively-regardless of the weather!  The canal houses are gorgeous with the different bricks and shapes that are along the street and the canal itself glistens as we walk past it with our group.


We are a diverse bunch of students who specialise in mainly design and a couple of CHID students.  Our first couple weeks here have mainly been museum, cafe, museum, discussion, cafe, museum, etc.  I’m not complaining though, it’s been truly amazing.  Being able to study what I love in a new country has really been eye opening in a sense where what I’ve learned back in my class in the states has been helping and contributing a lot to what I am learning over here.  

Speaking of academia, we don’t necessarily have your typical classroom setting, sometimes we might have discussion in a park, a cafe, a restaurant, or even or student kitchen, but having these different environments really give us a versatile way of brainstorming and to have kind of an informal comfortableness to it all.  It’s also nice to hear different perspectives from different design majors such as industrial, architects, human-centered, and interaction.  Myself and another person are only the UWB students so it’s interesting to compare the different methods we both been taught but its cool to bounce off ideas from each other.  

What also has been cool was meeting some amazing designers! We went outside the city of Amsterdam to places like Utrecht, Rotterdam, Dordrecht, and Hague to meet various designers that range from fashion, graphic, and speculative.  They definitely weren’t what I was expecting since we mainly saw fashion and industrial designers whereas I am more of a technical designer but it was still amazing to meet these designers and having them tell us about their work.  To be quite honest, not a lot stood out to be but it was still enriching to hear why they starting in the design field and what they loved to create.

After visiting these designers, I felt more validated in the field I want to work with in design which is user experience and interface.  Studying here so far has reconfirmed where my passions are in design and what I want to do for my future career which is developing and creating iterations of applications.  Also, my freedom of independence here is definitely something I am relishing in like having my own place, cooking my own food, and being able to go out on my own and explore the city.

Pre-departure Thoughts

I have wanted to study abroad ever since my freshman year of college. I would check the study abroad website a couple of time each quarter to see what they had to offer but none of them really drew my attention. I was in my junior year when I got an email from my Health Studies advisor about two different study abroad options; one of them being Sardinia, Italy. After carefully reading over the description of the program, I immediately applied! When I first was in search for a program, I cared mainly on what I would be learning and not where I was going to be learning it. I think that every place around the world has something to offer and you can’t be picky about where you are going to study but what.

The full title of the study abroad program is called CHID Sardinia: Island Migrations, Health, and Social Justice. What drew me to this program was the material and content that we would be learning. In the title of the program, those are the three main topics that we are going to be studying and also what I am very interesting in learning. When I first applied, I really wanted to get a different perspective on social justice and health around the world. I have been learning a lot about western culture and so little on others, that I wanted to add more diversity into my studies.

We are going to be collaborating and engaging with Romani migrants that have migrated to Italy in hoped for a better life. With migration, there comes discrimination. I would like to, personally, understand their culture and reasons for migration and get a sense of the daily struggles they have to deal with. For example, in America we have a problem with migrant farmers coming to work illegally and they have been discriminated against and misunderstood. Understanding, why they are doing this, why they are migrating and understanding their stories is a big part of this journey.

With intensive learning about Romani people and the engaging we are going to be doing when we arrive in Sardinia, I hope to develop skills that will help me be a better listener. I would like to learn how to better communicate and understand the different cultures and history of a person. I would like to have a better grasp on social justice and health and how the laws and policies can allow more people to have access to it. I have learned a lot about discrimination and stigma, but I would like to see how this is affects others especially in a different country and apply this back home.

This would be my first time studying abroad and my family won’t be able to come with me. The program is a month long and that is going to be very difficult for me. I have already thought of ways to communicate with them. I would most likely use an app that allows us to message each other but only if there is WIFI, and skype. Before, I applied to this trip my family was planning a trip to Spain around the same time my study abroad started. I had to make a difficult choice of going with them or studying abroad. It was a difficult choice but I knew that it would be beneficial in the future. The information that I will learn on this program, I can apply to my career to make laws and policies that fit more around different cultures that are more manageable for them.FullSizeRender (2)

4 Things That are Completely Different in Spain

  1. Drinking Gas – Yes, people drink gas in Spain… but not the kind of gas that you are probably thinking of. Gas is what people call sparkling water and it seems to be a big deal. In some restaurants, they will automatically give you sparkling water if you ask for water, unless you say agua del grefo (free water/tap water).
  2. Clubs – If you plan on going ‘clubbing’ as in dancing and bopping around with friends, don’t go to a club in  Spain. You may be surprised to find yourself in a brothel instead. If you’re looking for the dancing kind of club, use the term discoteca (or disco for short).
  3. Coca (Cola) – In America, we ask for Coca-Cola and think nothing of it. Ask for Coca-Cola in Spain and you may get some strange looks. People normally just say “Coke” or “Cola” because coca is slang for cocaine in Spanish (which makes sense given the notorious history of Coca-Cola).
  4. Preservativo – Many Spanish and English words sound similar to each other so I now have a tendency to think that if there is a Spanish word that sounds like an English word, they are likely to mean the same thing. Therefore, preservativo must be the same thing as preservative, right? Not right. Preservativo actually means condom, not those things that keep your mayonnaise and ketchup from going bad.