Senior from University of South Carolina wins national award for experience as exchange student at UH Hilo

Hannah Bauer, a senior from the University of South Carolina, received the National Student Exchange Wendel Wickland Student Achievement Award for her time well spent at UH Hilo.

Hannah Bauer, Waipio Valley in background
Hannah Bauer at Waipio Valley.

A student from the University of South Carolina, who spent time at the University of Hawaii at Hilo as an exchange student, has received a national award for demonstrating the best use of her study-away exchange participation.

UofSC has announced that Hannah Bauer received the National Student Exchange Wendel Wickland Student Achievement Award for her time well spent at UH Hilo. She is currently a senior in the South Carolina Honors College majoring in English and history and minoring in anthropology. Her interests in indigenous history are what led her to venture beyond UofSC when she spent her spring 2019 semester at UH Hilo through the National Student Exchange program.

Hannah Bauer’s time at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo was full of the experiences you’d expect from semester on the big island. She saw black, white and green sand beaches and of course, ate lots of poke.

However, Bauer went beyond the typical experiences of a student exchange program by taking full advantage of several opportunities to immerse herself into Hawaiian culture.

Although Hilo was special to Bauer for many reasons, one experience really stuck out to her.

Attending the 56th annual Merrie Monarch Festival that showcases Hawaiian culture and the best hula performances from hula schools around the world was an experience Bauer will never forget.

Tickets for the festival are very exclusive, but Bauer had the opportunity to volunteer as an usher through the university and attended all four nights.

“It was unforgettable to not only get to witness this event which perpetuates traditional Hawaiian culture, but support it and be a part of it,” says Bauer. “By the last night, everyone who sat in my section knew my name. All of the aunties brought me snacks and a little boy in my section gave me his Kukui nut lei which he made himself from the tree in his yard. When I say it was magical, I’m not exaggerating.”

Bauer was also a research assistant while at UH Hilo, and collaborated with a graduate student to create a piece of interactive sculpture that illustrates the relationship between Native American Removal Policy and generational trauma. She also participated in the Nā Ala ‘Ike Hawai‘i program for exchange students, where she gained further knowledge of Hawaiian culture through an introductory Hawaiian Studies class that offered experiential-learning opportunities such as restoring an ancient fishpond at Kaloko-Honokohau National Park in Kona.

“It was an incredible privilege to take part in that kind of cultural revival and be a part of an ancient practice,” says Bauer. “Ultimately, in this era where climate change is rapidly accelerating, we should be looking to indigenous communities to understand sustainable practices.”

Read the full story at University of South Carolina’s website.