UH Hilo Dorrance Scholar is first in program to study abroad

“I believe that studying abroad opens up your eyes to a greater world,” says Ishael Shaw-De Mello about her academic adventure in Korea.

By Susan Enright.

Ishael gives the shaka while standing in front of temple.
Ishael at Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul, Korea.
Group at table in restaurant.
Ishael at a restaurant in Seoul with new friends, learning a taste for Korean food.

Ishael Shaw-De Mello, a 2012 graduate of Waiākea High School and now a full scholarship recipient at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, is studying abroad in Korea this semester, stretching her wings, making new international friends, learning a taste for Korean food, and exploring Seoul. She is the first in the history of the Dorrance Merit Scholarship Program to study abroad.

The Dorrance Family Foundation, based in Arizona, awards up to 10 scholarships a year to Hawai‘i Island first-generation college students bound for UH Hilo.

Shaw-De Mello credits the ease of her cultural transition to trips to the U.S. mainland she took with her Dorrance cohort over the summer.

“If it was not for all of our summer trips, I would not be as comfortable here (in Korea),” she says. “For example, to travel around, one of the options for transportation is to take a subway. By going to the mainland and having to catch subways in New York and Washington DC I have an idea of how to go about finding my way through the subway stations. Also, by experiencing college life in Arizona, it feels normal to have shops and restaurants so near to the campus as if the university has its own town or city.”

Here, in her owns words, is Dorrance Scholar Ishael Shaw-De Mello sharing her background and academic adventure in Korea:

I graduated from Waiākea High School in 2012. Before attending the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, I participated in Running Start and began receiving college credits at the Hawaiʻi Community College as a high school senior. I then started at UH Hilo in 2012 upon graduation from high school. I expect to graduate in 2016 with my Bachelors in History. After I complete my undergraduate studies, I plan to further my education and go into UH Hilo’s Masters of Education Program. After receiving all of my degrees and schooling I want to go into the education field with the hopes of becoming a teacher.

Ishael and her Papa stand in front of greenery and a low rock wall, posing for photo.
Ishael and her Papa at Hilo International Airport on the day she left for Korea.

It is important to me to point out that I would not have been as successful as I am today if it was not for my Dorrance Scholarship Family. If it was not for this scholarship program, I would have had much more difficulty in doing all of the pre-departure things that are required for study abroad. I am thankful for my scholarship program coordinator, Maria Martin, as well as scholarship executive director, Jim Hensley, for all that they do for the program. I also am thankful for my scholarship cohort for supporting me in every step of my venture. Lastly, I am thankful for my ‘ohana, especially my Papa, for believing in me and being there every step of the way in everything I do. The picture I included is a picture of my Papa and me the day I went abroad.

So far, I’ve been having a fantastic time here in Korea. I have made a lot of new international friends and expect to make many more. I believe that studying abroad opens up your eyes to a greater world. I will admit, I was very afraid before departing Hawai‘i. I was afraid of living in a totally new environment, and afraid of the language barrier that I would be faced with. But after being here for the past two weeks I am glad to be here. All of my worries and preconceptions have disappeared after arriving here.

Making lots of new friends has helped me out a lot while being in Korea. I have had a lot of new experiences thus far, and am excited to make many more. I also believe that by studying abroad I am not only learning about new cultures from around the world, but also showcasing certain aspects of not only specifically Hawaiian culture, but Hawai‘i culture. I guess you could say I’m trying to spread a little aloha around the world.

The Dorrance Merit Scholarship was established by Bennett and Jacquie Dorrance at the Arizona Community Foundation in June of 1999. The original gift supported 10 Arizona public university students. In 2011, the Dorrance Family Foundation established a need-based scholarship to provide academic and financial support to Hawai‘i Island first-generation college students.

The foundation awards up to ten scholarships annually to incoming freshmen at UH Hilo. The total educational value of each scholarship is estimated at more than $60,000. The award is renewable for up to three years, a total of eight semesters of full-time undergraduate study. Scholarships are renewed based on academic standing and participation in program events, activities and volunteer service projects. Recipients of the Dorrance Scholarship are among the most fortunate students in Hawai‘i: the scholarship’s value and program components afford opportunities not readily available to most college students.


About the writer of this story: Susan Enright is a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.