Teiterake Toabo Kabwaua, a senior from Kiribati, said she chose to be a Pacific Islands studies major so she can become an environmental activist in Oceania.
“I love how most of the cultures in the Pacific are similar. In this major, I get to connect with the classes, and it’s easy for me to get along because I know my culture both in heart and mind.”
“It’s easy for me to express myself more, because I can relate things to myself in most of the discussions.” Aside from the Pacific, Kabwaua said Pacific Islands studies also covers other cultures and they “discuss where our ancestors came from.”
Kabwaua said she hopes to attend graduate school and be an activist. “With my knowledge, I want to inform people about climate change. Most people know about climate change, but they don’t know about the ways to improve our environment through modern technology. I want to share my knowledge.”
Kabwaua said Brother Hiagi Wesley’s classes are her favorite. “My favorite class is PAIS 480R, a senior level class. In this class, we talk about the environment in the Pacific. The islands may be different, but they have common environmental issues. When I took it, we were just six in the class. So, it was easy to throw a joke because everyone understands it. Instead of beating around the bush or staring at each other, we’re always on the same page.”
“I’ve been taking Brother Wesley’s class and it is always exciting because a typical day involves presentations, Brother Wesley bringing food to class, and him teasing the island kids.”
There are currently 31 students with a declared major in Pacific Island Studies and another 49 students with the declared minor, according to Marilee Ching, the Pacific Island Studies academic advising manager.
“I know a lot about the Pacific Islands, so I don’t usually spend too much time studying. But I mostly spend 2-3 hours to prepare for class presentations. Most of the readings in class are familiar to me because I took Pacific Islands classes when I was in high school.”
She shared how class discussions get kind of awkward when there are Western people around. “They don’t really know the issues between the United States and the Pacific Islands. Most islands in the Pacific were used to test a bomb or to dispose waste. It’s hard for me because whenever I try to voice out my thoughts, they would defend the U.S.”
She added it’s hard to get in the Pacific Islands with her major. “You have to get a master’s because a lot of people are doing it and there’s a lot of competition.”
Kabwaua said one of the pros is the freedom to express yourself and it is easy to relate during class discussions especially for islanders. “It’s easy for me because I took classes in high school.”