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OC student shares culture internationally
Okanagan College Media Release

Dawna Hearl August 2019It was Dawna Hearl’s first time out of B.C. and only the second time she had flown on an airplane when she landed in Okayama, Japan this summer.

Hearl, an Associate of Arts student from Okanagan College’s Salmon Arm campus spent two weeks in Japan as part of the summer intensive program offered through the College’s mobility grant.

During these two exciting and challenging weeks, Hearl attended courses, explored the city, discovered local culture and established networks with people from around the world.

“Going to Japan has been a lifelong dream of mine,” says Hearl. “It was such an incredible experience. I learned a lot about the Japanese culture and even a bit of their language. What made it so special to me though, was being able to share my culture with them as well.”

Hearl, a Malahat First Nation from the Cowichan Valley, wanted to take a piece of her culture with her to Japan to share with the new people she was about to meet. Adrian Lewis, one of the cultural interpreters at the Quaaout Lodge where she works, made her two handmade hand drums to take with her.

“Hand drums are sacred across all Nations and represent the heartbeat of Mother Earth,” says Hearl. “They are considered to still contain the spirit of the animal and the wood they are made out of and represent the center of everything.”

Hearl gave out the hand drums as gifts to her teachers in Japan on Aboriginal Day.

“It’s so special to me because they can continue to share my culture with others, even after I’ve left,” adds Hearl.

Three other OC students joined Hearl at Kibi International University, a private university located in the city of Takahashi. Rich in history and tradition, Takahashi is nestled on a sheltered hillside overlooking the Takahashi River and the Bicchu Matsuyama castle.

"Everything was so pretty,” says Hearl. “We were so busy fitting everything we could into the two weeks that we were there. They took us to art museums and we got to dress up in kimonos. We were so spoiled - there was always so much food.”

“It brings tears to my eyes speaking about it, and about Dawna and how much this trip changed her,” says Caroline Chartier, Aboriginal Planner at the Salmon Arm campus.

“She has so much depth to her, so much respect to her culture and wanting to continue to share it with people. Her personality is much larger than it was, she was very quiet when she first came here. She’s such a good student, one of the best, and has worked so hard to come out of her shell. This trip really added to that.”

OC students can enrich their education with numerous study abroad opportunities at one of the College’s 23 partner institutions in 16 countries around the world.

“It really was a trip of a lifetime,” says Hearl. “I’m so grateful to OC for the opportunity to do this.”

Hearl is one of more than 1,800 Aboriginal students who attend Okanagan College.