Welcome to our latest cohort of alumni as the 78 students completing their East-West Center awards participated in the Ho‘opuka (“passing through” ceremony) at the Imin International Conference Center at Jefferson Hall on May 2, 2019.
East-West Center Participant Association (EWCPA) president Layla Kilolu (MURP in Urban & Regional Planning, 2017-2019) beautifully moderated the graduation ceremony. Select students who have exhibited leadership skills and dedicated service to the EWCPA community were invited to share their East-West Center experience. The following are excerpts of the speeches by Dewi Setiani (MEd in Educational Foundations, 2017-2019), Takumi Aoki (MA in Second Language Studies, 2017-2019), and Tsolmontuya “Tsom” Altankhundaga (MPA in Public Administration, 2017-2019).
Dewi Setiani is from a poor village in Indonesia that didn’t have a high school. Her journey to the East-West Center started fifteen years ago in an internet cafe when, as a high school student in the city anxious about being able to attend university, she was searching for a scholarship and learned about the East-West Center. Although she thought it was impossible for a village girl like herself, she dreamed of attending school abroad and becoming an East-West Center scholar. Dewi reflected on her two years here at the Center:
Fast forward. Today, I can’t believe it myself. The East-West Center brought me here, to learn and grow. . . .
I am leaving in less than a week. I have been sorting what I will bring home, what I will sell, and what I will give away. Then I realized that I have a lot to bring home ̶ it is all mostly in my head, my heart, and my life. People at the East-West Center have “raised” me ̶ even though you are not my parents, you have helped me to grow. I have so many fun memories in my head, from free food in the kitchen, potluck, volunteer, dancing at East-West Fest. I have so much aloha in my heart ̶ all my friends here, I will certainly miss all of you. Thank you for your support, your smile, the food you shared with me. You guys are amazing. I am not the same person anymore. You have raised me to be better.
Coming to this university and becoming an East-West Center participant in Fall 2017, Takumi Aoki attended the Community Building Institute (CBI):
I met so many amazing people from all over the world and also I was so impressed by the quality of a student-led event like CBI. So even though I was still new, I decided to work for EWCPA and eventually became an activities coordinator. Especially in the beginning, it was challenging to organize even small-scale international events but once I built rapport with people around me, it was just so much fun organizing events for our community and seeing all the smiles on people’s faces. It was absolutely rewarding.
Takumi’s biggest accomplishment as activity coordinator was organizing the 2018 East-West Fest (EWF) – something he can brag about as a major personal accomplishment. It was a lot of pressure and he felt a huge responsibility to make a blueprint for this event because he was charged with organizing the East-West Fest on a larger-scale than in recent years, as a featured event of the Center:
Through organizing this event as a head event manager, I got to meet many people from different countries with different talents. I absolutely needed their support to maximize the quality of this event so I called the EWF organizing team and we nailed it. One take away from the EWF is that building rapport with your team members is very important. How? By face-to-face communication, not online. It takes time but you can’t avoid this to create a trusted team that has your back always. Some people may not be comfortable with talking face-to-face, but we can’t forget the value of face-to-face communication especially in this technology era. I feel so many things can be solved just by talking eye-to-eye not to the screen.
It has been a wonderful two years for Tsolmontuya “Tsom” Altankhundaga, being part of the community representing Mongolia while building friendships, sharing her intellect, and training to become a global thinker:
I used to see myself as a global citizen, assuming that I have met enough people from all over to be one. But living here in Hawaii as a part of the ‘Ohana here at EWC changed that assumption I had about myself. I realized that it’s not about meeting people from different countries, cultures or nationalities. Instead, it’s about interacting, understanding, and seeing our differences through friendship. The friendship we build here. . . .
We all came from different places, and we gathered here under one roof for the same reason, perhaps to create change or to become the change. My time here taught me a valuable lesson that to become a global thinker, I had to change the way I see, approach and respond. So the change I came looking for was with myself.
I think that sooner than we know, many people we met here will be the leaders making decisions for our countries. And I hope when that time comes, we remember back to the days we spent together singing, laughing, sharing food, sitting around a table together, combatting cockroaches together, putting out a fire together, going through Hurricane Lane together, most importantly trusting one another and how we became ‘Ohana together.