Kia Sebastian is a twenty-seven year old international student from the Philippines, studying at Northwood University. She is pursuing her second bachelor's degree, her first being in International Studies from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the second and current degree in Business Administration majoring in Management.
While at home in the Philippines, she is employed as a Marine Conservationist and often spends time swimming with her pet whales. Yes, you read that right. Sebastian has pet whales.
Q: Can you tell us where you hail from, and what your life is like there?
A: I come from an island called Cebu in the Philippines, and my life there is very relaxed. We follow the tides. I don't even look at the clock, I just look at the tides rising and falling. It's summer all year round!
Q: That sounds wonderful. What kind of work do you do in the Philippines?
A: I'm a marine conservationist and I patrol over 180 islands around the mainland, Cebu. I build artificial coral reefs, and I also survey the ones that already exist and are still living. I protect and preserve marine life, mostly whale sharks and sea turtles. Those are the main animals I work with. I also give seminars to youth ages 13-18 about conservation and sustainability, mostly in partnership with schools.
I really found my passion for conservation and sustainability while freediving in open water in the middle of the ocean. While down there, I saw almost no signs of flora & fauna or marine life. It led me to volunteer in different marine conservation programs until I had enough experience to work with whale sharks and other marine life.
Q: That is fascinating! What made you decide to move to Midland?
A: I had the opportunity to finish my senior year here in Midland at Northwood University and I did not hesitate to take that offer. I wanted to explore another side of the world and learn about the people and culture here.
Q: A business major is very different than your job back home. What were your motivations behind the change?
A: The reason why I study business is because I want to bring conservation and sustainability back to businesses in the Philippines where I live. This means I have to understand business and how it works. You have to have experiences working in businesses in order to understand both sides, and I want to do this in order to further sustainability practices back home.
Q: That's a very noble cause. After being in Midland for a month or so, what are your first impressions of the town?
A: It is very cold and very small! The isolation here brings me a lot of self-reflection time, and extreme weather is actually really fun! I enjoy it. Everyone else is done with it, but it's so new to me that I find it very fun.
Q: You have traveled extensively around the world. What drives you to experience new countries, and what has been your favorite so far?
A: I like experiencing new countries because it opens my mind. Every person I meet gives me a peek through their life. It drives me to experience more and more. I'm constantly evolving with every person I meet and each experience I have. My favorite place has been Hong Kong for sure. It's like a hot pot of melting cultures. Imagine there are one million foreigners to 7 million locals. If you think about it, that's a lot of cultures! Traveling to Hong Kong triggered my wanderlust and I have met so many different and wonderful people. That's why it will always have a special place in my heart.
Q: If you could see one change in the world, what would it be?
A: I would love to see world unity. Everyone identifies themselves differently, and I wish people could just accept how similar we are and unify together. Our differences will never change, but we can absolutely unify and come together more.
Q: Is there anything about American customs that you find to be strange?
A: Yes, I find it so strange that Americans say SOCCER! I have had a lot of debates with people about why American Football is called football when you're not kicking the ball? It is so strange to me how you name things completely different than the rest of the world.
The other way in which Americans boggle my mind is that everyone has things for things. I bought a rug recently, and it was sliding around. My American friend said I needed to get this additional piece that goes under the rug to stop it from sliding. The rest of the world doesn't do that. Things for things!