Kevin is a senior at Hawaii Pacific University, majoring in International Relations with a focus on North/South Korea. He is currently on full scholarship on study abroad in South Korea. When he returns to HPU in a few weeks, he’ll continue at his previous job at the HPU study abroad office as an assistant to the Director. He speaks Arabic, Korean, Chinese and Filipino. Once his BA is complete, he plans to take a year to travel and connect with the many friends he has made on various trips abroad while also apply to graduate school. He intends to pursue a Masters in Global Governance or International Relations and Diplomacy.
Kevin joined OWN-Hawaii when he was a Sophomore at James Campbell Highschool. At the time, he was studying Chinese and had felt pulled towards international studies and diplomacy as his future career path. He had been watching the Arab Spring unfold and wanted to have a greater understanding of the culture and language. OWN-Hawaii was the door way to fluency in another language as well as leadership training. For two years, Kevin studied Arabic and Chinese simultaneously, two of the most difficult languages to learn.
In our interview, Kevin said “every experience with OWN is a good memory” but a few points stood out, including his first trip to the Get Global Conference in Seattle. It was Kevin’s first time on the mainland. Considering himself an introvert, Kevin surprised himself by facilitating a workshop on stage in a conference hall with a large audience. His peers in OWN-Hawaii and Seattle gave him the confidence and support he needed.
Through OWN-Hawaii, Kevin was award a scholarship to study abroad in Morocco for three weeks. Today he keeps up with his Arabic by sending his host family small care packages and letters in Arabic. While he wants to go back to Morocco, calling his time there “a memorable, once in a lifetime experience” he is eager to see as much of the world as possible.
I am a true Seattleite by birth. Anyone in this room self-identify as long-term Seattleites? Let me see a raise of hands.
To give you a bit of a background of the person standing in front of you today. I grew up just around the corner from what was formerly known as the Safeco building, now dubbed UW Tower on 45th.
Picturing it in your mind, I spent a good amount of my childhood in a studio apartment with a family of four in an aging apartment.
With that, the University of Washington fountain was my go-to stomping grounds. Ravenna park was a local favorite when I could urge my Korean mother to muster the time or energy to take me. It was certainly no paradise, but not an impossible way to live. We managed. Growing up, I still remember it was a big deal when we moved into a one bedroom when I was 8 or so, though there wasn’t a door to separate it from what we called the living room.
Yet as the years when on, the inevitable hit. My sister and I got older and puberty onset. In that small one bedroom, it got crowded at home (to say the least).
By high school, I started wearing all black. I listened solely to heavy metal and would stay out late like most teenagers.
Perhaps unlike other teenagers, I had played violin in several orchestras for about seven years and hoped to compete nationally. Though, I could never afford those trips and quickly started losing interest in opportunities to travel or compete because I was deterred by the high costs. This indifference soon spread to college aspirations – it simply seemed too expensive and out of reach for someone like me.
So during these formative teenage years, while spending too much time on the internet like many of those at that age, I stumbled across an advertisement for OneWorld Now! on a fellow myspace or facebook page – whatever we were using at that time.
‘Study abroad!’ the picture beckoned. Morocco or China – images of these exotic and completely unknown spaces swept me. And like my orchestra trips, I knew that I wanted to go too. And even if I couldn’t afford it now I believed that there would be a way, somewhere, somehow to go.
I saw there were scholarships available, and for the first time I thought to myself that maybe, just maybe with enough work that I would be able to go too.
And when I joined the program, where many others would see a nuisance, an anxious and unfocused teenager donning all black clothing, OWN saw potential. The OWN staff saw drive, and at the time they must have known this even more than I did. Through the leadership program, they were able to make me believe that I had worth. That my ideas were worth sharing – over the course of one year, they were able to channel this energy into someone who became introspective, who became comfortable taking risks, and they redirected that drive into a self-sustaining graduate.
Beyond that, I became part of the OWN family. Many of us in the OWN program were working students through high school (saving money here and there I worked 20 hours a week since my 16th birthday), and most of us were the children of immigrants. We had little knowledge of how to navigate the intricacies of higher education, and few of us were encouraged to pursue it outside of the support of OWN.
And upon graduation from year one of the OWN program, I was afforded the opportunity to study abroad in Morocco. After the summer of 2008, when I left Rabat, I actually cut off most of my hair and wore color for the first time in years – worn jeans, a green shirt and white cardigan.
And that’s pretty illustrative of my transformation following that experience in Morocco. The trust that I had in myself and my ability to work towards achievable goals by securing that first scholarship became even more evident. With the mentorship I received from the program on how to prepare for what they don’t teach youth in the traditional classroom: national testing and applications to universities, I was enabled to do what may have been otherwise impossible. When I was accepted to the University of Washington, seeing yet another success, my goals grew larger.
And I set new goals.
First, I wanted to get a degree – instead, I’ve gone on to obtain two. A BA in International Studies at the University of Washington (go huskies), and an MA in International Energy Policy from Sciences Po in France.
Second, I wanted to return to the Middle East – I have lived in the Middle East for more than 16 months total.
Third, since I graduated from the OWN program in 2008, I wanted to go to DC – I have since spent more than a year in the DC area.
And this wide array of incredible experiences has now led me to my dream job, which I started only two months ago. I now work for the Department of Energy right here on Seattle working on next generation technologies. That all started with one opportunity right here in our own backyard.
Thank you immensely OneWorld Now! and thank you all for being here today.
Global Leader Reception 2017 Speech
Andrea: Arabic, Study Abroad in Morocco, Leadership Co-Facilitator
My journey with OWN started when I was 15 years old (and they still have my baby-faced pictures to prove it). At the same time, I attended a private school in the Lake Washington area. While I received an amazing education that prepared me to excel in university, the social aspect was not quite the same — I did not feel very well represented by the demographics of my school: not by nationality, not by ethnicity/race, not by economic standing. OWN was my refuge where I was finally surrounded by peers with similar lifestyles — students who went home and didn’t speak English, students who grew up translating for their parents. Students who, like me, were first-generation American.
I’m from parents that came from something and arrived to nothing so that I could have everything.
My name is Andrea Pamela Vielma, I was born and raised in Seattle but I feel largely connected to my Central and South American heritage. More importantly, I am the daughter of two Latino immigrants. Though I grew up speaking Spanish at home, I still speak English the majority of my time and my grasp of English grammar and vocab is stronger, but that does not erase the experience of learning English as a second language. They will never erase the familiarity of my mother tongue.
I’m from speaking Spanish as if it was born in the air and not from our lips because our lips are too busy kissing cheeks and other lips hello, goodbye, and I love you.
I’m from accents that weigh down on the tongue and languages that liberate your lips
From hands that fly in the air to the rhythm of my speech.
I think my expressive hands come from my mom’s side of the family. It’s hard to say though because I have very limited exposure to my dad’s side. That’s one of the down sides of immigration — you have to leave things behind. Not just possessions but pieces of your childhood and people. For example, I was 18 when I finally met my dad’s family, and before then I’d never seen a picture of him in his youth. Growing up, I craved family and the sense of belonging. OneWorld Now is, was and will forever be family, because we all trusted each other creating a safe space where we could share our stories, goals, opinions, and values that we might not have been comfortable sharing elsewhere.
I’m from memories that flood the present and legends that tint the future, I’m from timelessness
I’m from what’s mine is hers and what’s hers is yours and we belong to us because that’s the only possession we know.
So with that in mind, I hope you can cherish the space, speakers, and stories you witnessed today. I am a brown woman — mama says my skin is golden caramel: not too dark, not too light, but just right. She says my lips are full and shapely, my hair thick and lively. Sometimes, it feels a little too lively. I love my hair but what you see on top of my head is replicated throughout my entire body — I grew up shaving, waxing, and tweezing myself. I’ve bleached the hair on my face and I’ve experimented with Nair on my legs. Slowly though, I’m becoming more and more comfortable with my physical heritage.
But if there’s one thing that I never questioned, it was the pride in my cultural heritage. I am Latina-American. I’m bilingual. I’m bicultural. In middle school, one year, my family marched for immigrant rights. We gathered at the park next to Washington Middle School, marched down Jackson street and through downtown. I still remember seeing white people scattered at our edges shaking their heads and fists at us. I didn’t quite understand why.
I’m from hair that cascades down your head, trickles down your arms, creeps towards your belly and escapes down your legs.
I’m from making love with a razor.
I’m from curls that need to be tamed, women that need to be tamed, honey don’t you ever let a man tame you…
I’m from a people with a chant that cannot be tamed.
I’m from “Si Se Puede” chanting down the streets, “Si Se Puede” marching down ID “Si Se Puede” wondering…why those white people so mad at me?
I’m from searching for my identity.
Being bilingual and bicultural is both a blessing, and a curse. I’m pretty fluent in both languages, but I make grammar mistakes all the time. I can talk to my classmates and my community peers, but sometimes I struggle to feel like I belong in either group. At school I was “ethnic” and “exotic”. Y’all I was born here, but let me tell you how other-ized those words can make you feel. But then in my community, I’m “a gringa”, a term I associate with whiteness. This polarized duality was and still can be tough to navigate, but over the years I’ve come to realize that I’m not alone in this experience. Many of my closest friends go through this existential crisis, whether their parents are from Mexico, China, or Ethiopia. At school, I kept to myself, because I felt like I was the only student struggling to belong. At OneWorld Now, I blossomed, because I felt understood and I knew I wasn’t alone.
I feel like I’m making OneWorld Now sound like a homogenous body, but let me assure you, it’s not. Our student body is made up of boys and girls, English mono-speakers, bilingual speakers, atheists, christians, muslims, buddhists, americans, immigrants, openly gay and trans people, in the closet people, students who are still figuring it out. Some of us are really shy and some of us are very outgoing. Some of us are insecure and some of us have all the confidence in the world. If there’s one thing we have in common, though, it’s that we’re given a voice and a platform. From leading workshops about global issues to being comfortable on stage, many students get naturally louder the more time they spend with OWN.
But most importantly to me, OneWorld Now was my support system when the government opened a deportation case against my dad. I was finishing my sophomore in high school when my dad was first detained. Luckily, he was able to come home and by the start of my junior year, we were a family of four again. But the deportation case created a lot of tension in our household. My parents were constantly fighting and I didn’t want to add to that stress — so I bottled my emotions and only let them loose at school. I mean, I really let them loose. I cried every day and did nothing to look after my emotional and mental health. This made it difficult for my friends to be around me; as a result, I did not feel supported at home or at school. But at OneWorld Now, there were adults who genuinely knew and cared about me. There were peers who could empathize with my experience. There were peers, who because of our leadership workshops and global exposure, could sympathize with my experience. OWN was my haven because I was nurtured with ideas that genuinely interested me — self-awareness, cross-cultural outreach, international competency and more. The idea of learning a third language intrigued me, and whereas my focus was lacking in school, at OneWorld Now I wished for even more knowledge. Leadership prepared me to take charge of my own well-being and future. At the advice of my mentors, I sought out my school psychologist. But most importantly, OneWorld Now opened international doors for me. I found that I loved traveling, loved overcoming challenges and making friends abroad. So I studied abroad in college on my own, too. Now at this point in time, travel was an escape. I was running away from the tensions that still existed within my family, years after the deportation case had been frozen. And still, with each country I visited, I felt myself growing more confident, found who I wanted to be and felt more sure of myself. Approaching the end of my university education, I was able to approach my parents and start working out the issues between us. We’re still working these kinks out, but I no longer travel to run away. The last few countries I visited, I was traveling to go, not to leave; that made appreciating diversity all the easier. And that’s a gift OneWorld Now gave me.
The moral of this story is that I needed OneWorld Now. And I walked away enriched with language and interpersonal skills. Our city needs OneWorld Now — immigration and refugee tensions are rising all over the world and OneWorld Now continues to be a safe place, as well as a leading educator in sympathy and understanding. My high school self was unable to see past possible deportation but now, I see a future where I can be a global leader and unite diverse cultures. Thank you.