International Women’s Day: UH Hilo women from around the world present panel discussion

In observance of International Women’s Day, a panel of international students at UH Hilo presented a Zoom discussion about their homelands and their experience at UH Hilo.

By Kirsten Aoyagi.

In observance of International Women’s Day earlier this month, a panel of international students at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo presented a Zoom discussion about their journeys, experiences, challenges, and triumphs.

Jim Mellon, director of UH Hilo International Student Services and Intercultural Education, organized the event.

The women on the panel hail from Japan, Kenya, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Romania, South Korea, and Vanuatu, and reflect a remarkable diversity of geographic regions represented at UH Hilo.

The panel:

      • Sandra Dafincescu: Romania, Business Administration, Senior.
      • Sofia Ferreira: Paraguay, Marine Science, Senior.
      • Hyung Won Jeon: South Korea, Computer Science, Senior, Exchange Student.
      • Mio Kamioka: Papua New Guinea and Japan, Tropical Conservation and Environmental Science, Graduate Student.
      • Chloe Molou: Vanuatu, Marine Science, Junior.
      • Setsuko Ned: Marshall Islands, Political Science, Senior.
      • Minneh Oyas: Kenya, PharmD graduate 2021.

Screenshot of full panel.
Screenshot of panel and attendees of the International Women’s Day virtual event.

Those who attended were able to hear firsthand how others, especially women, live outside the U.S.

Sandra Dafincescu, a senior majoring in business administration, is from Romania, which shares a border with Ukraine. She talks about the current events happening between Russia and Ukraine.

“We support Ukraine and we are helping them, we have hundreds of thousands of refugees that we got in our country,” she says. “And while this is a good thing, it’s also a bad thing because Russia threatens all the countries that help Ukraine.”

“But this whole thing about this war started from something really dumb,” she continues. “Putin mentions that he feels threatened by Ukraine and he treats this war as a special military operation trying to achieve the purpose of demilitarization and denazification. These are all false statements.”

“Many are uncertain about the future,” she says. “No one wants this, and we don’t know what’s going to happen, no one knows.”

Minneh Oyas from Kenya, a 2021 pharmacy graduate, shared what women in her culture go through.

“There are more women out doing things,” she says. “And yes, you are still fighting against the patriarchal society, since the people at the top have not changed their view on men being in control of the household and company. But women are striving for more, which is seeing a shift of sorts.”

Mio Kamioka, a graduate student in the tropical conservation biology and environmental science graduate program who hails from Papua New Guinea and Japan, shares the differences in education in her country.

“The biggest thing for me was the student-to-teacher interaction,” she says. “The relationship is a lot more casual, a lot of teachers don’t mind going by their first names. Which is something that wouldn’t happen in Japan. There are definitely a lot more opportunities in the United States compared to Papua New Guinea.”

The women took turns sharing their experiences of attending UH Hilo.

“It’s definitely the best it could’ve been, it’s a very welcoming environment,” says Sophia Ferreira, a senior from Paraguay majoring in Marine Science. “Throughout my whole five years here, I never felt like I didn’t have a person to go to.”

Story and video by Kirsten Aoyagi, a communication major at UH Hilo.

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