Iowa State student Leah Riese says while at UH Hilo she was immersed in the culture and took every opportunity she could to get involved: night diving with manta rays, dancing in the Merrie Monarch Festival, and cleaning up indigenous forest on the island of Lāna‘i.
Iowa State University student Leah Riese says coming to the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo through the National Student Exchange (NSE) program was a dream come true for her. A senior majoring in kinesiology and health, Riese had an obsession about coming to Hawai‘i since she was little. She says her decision to come to UH Hilo “was the best decision of my life.”
From the Iowa State Daily:
An NSE booth at freshman orientation is what drew Leah Riese, senior in kinesiology and health, to studying abroad through NSE.
“I really wanted to study abroad, and I heard about NSE and I was like ‘This is something I want to do,’” Riese said. “And I wanted to go my freshman year, but apparently you have to have an Iowa State transcript, so I went my sophomore year.”
Deciding where to go was an easy decision for Riese, as she had been obsessed with the state of Hawaii ever since she was little. The only tricky part for her came down to picking which specific school to attend in Hawaii.
“I wanted a more cultural-based experience and Hilo was more rural, small town kind of thing,” Riese said. “So that’s why I choose that [school], and it was the best decision of my life.”
Riese said she was immersed in the culture and took every opportunity she could to get involved, which included night diving with manta rays, dancing in the Merrie Monarch Festival (the largest hula festival in the world) and participating in a week-long service project to clean up indigenous dry forest on the island of Lanai.
“I gained an appreciation for culture, because coming from a place where there wasn’t much diversity — especially being from such a small town — it really gave me a perspective about how people feel about especially indigenous cultures,” Riese said. “Honestly, it taught me to be way more open-minded and just be okay with anything and be aware that not everybody has the same views as me and that things mean different things to different people.”
Riese plans to return to Hawaii in the future and even admits some part of her felt missing after departing the state.
For more info about student exchange, visit the UH Hilo National Student Exchange website.