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Connecting with places, connecting with people — Corbett scholar Cynthia Liu

Viewing Washington state from White Rock Pier. Photo credit: Cynthia Liu

April 21, 2021

Going on an exchange to gain different perspectives and form new friendships has been my dream ever since I was a high school senior. Yet with a full course load, extracurricular activities, and my hesitation of stepping out of my comfort zone, I was not able to do so before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Knowing the Gary & Consuelo Corbett Exchange Program was accepting more candidates, I was thrilled and grateful for the opportunity to gain more knowledge of the political, cultural, and ecological diversity in the Pacific Northwest as well as getting to know like-minded peers from UW, UVIC and UBC! Nevertheless, when filling out the application form for Corbett Virtual Exchange Program, I did not know what to expect as I would be staying at home instead of living and exploring Seattle for the virtual program. Through joining bi-weekly meetings and attending educational sessions with other students, I have realized that we share similar worldviews and passions, and have taken similar initiatives on broad issues such as climate change. In a way, we are just like the fish in the Salish Sea, with characteristics shaped by the different geological features and their relationship with other species, but not divided by a national border.

The wonderful workshops hosted by experts with diverse backgrounds have introduced me to various interdisciplinary issues relevant to British Columbia and the state of Washington, and I had numerous “aha!” moments which have contributed to the change in my perspectives and the lens I see the world through. The Salish Sea workshop presented by Natalie Baloy was one of the highlights of the spring term! Before attending the workshop, I had some knowledge of the unique aquatic ecosystem and the species utilizing the habitats. What I did not know was the complex history behind the naming of the Salish Sea and the complex governance jurisdiction. With discussion on the intersectionality with environmental science and decolonization gaining popularity in recent decades, decolonizing the name of “Costal Salish Sea” has been suggested. The workshop, along with a presentation I attended at UBC by Andrea Reid on Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Fisheries Management, have encouraged me to reflect on how societal perspectives translate into conservation regulations and how policies can be benefited from incorporating diverse perspectives.

The workshop warm-up activity was sharing our favourite location in the Salish Sea region and our story with the land. Surprisingly, most locations were selected because of the stories associated. I began to wonder about the connection between humans and land, and the connection among people. Childhood memories of spending time in nature or traveling adventures with friends and families were what made the places unique. Listening to others’ stories, I not only was only more aware of the beautiful sceneries in the Salish Sea but also were more connected with my peers virtually. It is needless to say that my travel list has expanded.

Besides the workshop, through filming my city tour video, I had the opportunity to form a deeper connection with the land I reside on while reflecting my stories with the land. In a way, the Corbett Virtual Exchange program has motivated me to explore my surroundings and continue to create stories with the land in the future, whether that would be Vancouver, Victoria, or Seattle.

The Corbett British Columbia-Washington International Exchange Program Fund provides an opportunity for undergraduate students at the University of Washington to spend two semesters at the University of British Columbia or University of Victoria; and for students from the University of British Columbia and University of Victoria to spend three quarters at the University of Washington.