Taylor Asao

Taylor graduated from a small, all-girls high school, where she knew everyone and they all knew her. She was one of the few who left the island of Oahu to go to college, and still remembers her first trip home after starting at Evergreen.

“Everything at home was the same, but I was different,” she says. “It was nice to go back to that—to know that I have the comfort zone of my friends and family back home. I really love it there, but I knew I had to leave. I can't live with the same 40 girls all my life.”

Taylor Asao Student

Honolulu, Hawaii

But after growing up in Hawaii, her first visit to Olympia was a bit of a shock. “When I came to visit, it was snowing!” she says. “I thought I'd come at the worst time, but as soon as I got on campus I thought ‘This is amazing.’ I could see myself coming here. I sat in on a seminar and I wanted to start talking even though I wasn't in the class. I'm glad I visited because the people were so nice and made me feel comfortable. I could tell they wanted me to be here.”

And after a year at Evergreen, studying environmental policy and sustainability, playing volleyball, learning photography, and looking forward to maybe participating in the Semester at Sea program, Taylor feels like she has changed for the better. “There are so many people, perspectives and strong opinions here—it has an effect on you,” she says. “You'll start to think differently and look at the world with a different perspective. My parents even noticed how much I'd grown up since I left home. At college the world is big, and you start to see there's so much more to be doing.”

But that doesn't mean she doesn't indulge sometimes. She loves hitting the Wednesday night dance co-op dance parties, and she and her roommates and have standing nights for movies—especially musicals. “One of our favorites is ‘Pitch Perfect,’” she laughs. “But it's great sometimes to relax with an old favorite.”

At the same time, she and her friends are serious about their education, and for that reason, Taylor is glad she chose Evergreen. “I know I'm getting a completely different college experience than anyone else,” she says. “At other schools, no one gets to study right off the bat what they want to study. I have control over what I want to do, which professors I want to study with. And because environmental studies is such a big thing here it was just a perfect fit.”

During the summer, she has an internship with Kupu, a conservation organization that provides hands-on service learning programs for youth and young adults in Hawaii, where she can connect with other conservation professionals and prepare for a career in the environmental field.

“Since I've been at Evergreen, I've really realized how much you put in is how much you get out,” she says. “The times when I've done just what I had to, I found that I wasn't fulfilled. Now I really have to be engaged in what I'm learning, force myself to talk with people about what's going on in the world. I feel like I'm being educated in a really intimate way.”