Although she misses the calm pace of island life, business major Taimane Kekauoha-Chartrand is enjoying the personal and academic development she’s gaining out of her comfort zone in South Korea.
Having received two scholarships to study abroad, a business major at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo now studying management in South Korea encourages other students to follow their academic goals even if finances are a challenge.
Taimane Kekauoha-Chartrand is the recipient of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and the Freeman-ASIA Scholarship, both of which provide funding to students in need of financial support. She also is the recipient of a scholarship from Kamehameha Schools. With the support of this funding, she is a senior attending Chung Ang University in South Korea for the 2021-2022 school year.
The student traveler says that studying abroad has helped her both personally and professionally. “As a business major, studying abroad is a great way to make connections,” she says. Since arriving in South Korea she’s made friends with people from all over the globe, meeting both local and fellow international students through the program.
Kekauoha-Chartrand credits Carolina Lam, director of global education at the UH Hilo Center for Global Education and Exchange, for encouraging her to apply for the scholarships. Kekauoha-Chartrand started the application process in her sophomore year and then it was two years of planning for the opportunity in South Korea to come together for her.
The Gilman Scholarship Program is an esteemed program that provides funds to U.S. undergraduate students receiving a federal Pell Grant at a college or university. Similarly, the Freeman-ASIA Scholarship Program offers financial assistance to U.S. undergraduate students that demonstrate financial need. This particular scholarship is for students interested in studying in East or Southeast Asia. These scholarships have helped Kekauoha-Chartrand and dozens of others like her achieve their goal of studying abroad.
From Kealakehe to South Korea
While completing her high school education at Kealakehe High School, Kekauoha-Chartrand was unsure of her next steps.
“I considered going to school, joining the service, or going into the workforce,” she explains. After much thought, she decided UH Hilo was the pathway for her and in fall 2018 began her undergraduate studies.
She began as a pre-nursing major but felt it wasn’t the right fit for her. She switched majors her sophomore year to business administration with a focus in healthcare management and has never looked back. She enjoys the major’s unique role in the healthcare field.
“It’s interesting how you have to think of not only the individual components of healthcare but the system and teams as a whole,” she says. She is continuing with business management in South Korea with management courses approved by the UH Hilo business program.
Along with taking management courses, she also is using her time in South Korea to explore a culture she loves. “I’ve made it a goal to do something new at least once a week,” she says. Despite strict COVID-19 regulations in South Korea, she is exploring the country a little at a time. She recently visited the Lotte World Tower in Seoul, one of the architectural wonders of the world.
Seeing and experiencing East Asian culture first hand has been extremely rewarding for Kekauoha-Chartrand because it’s been an interest for years. Before her time abroad, she was treasurer for the Asian Cultural Association at UH Hilo. This association brings together people with similar interests in Asian entertainment such as music, anime, and games to connect with one another. While in South Korea she continues to attend meetings with the group via the internet.
Although she misses the calm pace of island life, she enjoys the personal development she’s gaining since living out of her comfort zone of the islands. She believes studying abroad can, “help you get out there, open up your mind, and grow as an individual.”
Sharing the journey, inspiring others, and looking to the future
Kekauoha-Chartrand plans to create a website encompassing her experience studying abroad. The aim of her project is to inspire others, specifically students of lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Growing up low-income, she hopes to be an example for students like her.
“I feel most people are afraid to try [studying abroad] because they don’t have the funds. I really had nothing, I am a student that depends on [federal eligibility for financial aid] and scholarships. It is possible!” She advises her fellow Vulcans that above all else, “do what makes you happiest, what is right for you.”
After her year in South Korea, she plans on coming back to UH Hilo to complete her degree and graduate in fall 2022.
Keeping her options open, she is excited for the sea of opportunities that await her post-graduation. In particular, she is harboring hopes to join the service or accept an internship in human resources to build her skills and aid in her growth as a healthcare worker and an individual.
By Elena Espinoza, an English major also earning a certificate in teaching English as a second language.