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Emma DeBenedictis
March 20, 2023
  • Emma DeBenedictis

Emma DeBenedictis, a senior from Saint Charles, Illinois, is majoring in Environmental Earth Science at UH Mānoa and the recipient of the Ocean Conservation Award from the Global High Seas Marine Preserve.

I chose UH Mānoa for the people, professors and opportunities. This campus offers opportunities I could find nowhere else in the country. I work with the Hanauma Bay Education Program to promote marine stewardship to thousands of people who visit the bay each day. I am extremely lucky to be part of such a great program.

After college, I plan to pursue graduate school for environmental management and policy. I currently intern for STEMworks, a non-profit organization providing professional development for K-12 students. I hope to pursue a career with more non-profit organizations in the future.

Life and studies in Mānoa Valley

As a college student it is hard to overlook the constant stress of our future, although the Pixar movie Soul does a phenomenal job at depicting the true meaning of one’s life. This movie is my go-to at times of stress, reminding me to take a step back and treasure the little moments life has to offer as well as following your true passions.

If I were to give a college student advice, it would be to prioritize sleep. All-nighters are not worth it and sleep is truly the most important thing for everyone.

UH Mānoa has offered me amazing opportunities, friends, experiences and education. The professors are truly gifted in their studies and it is an honor to be able to learn from the best.

Something that may surprise prospective UH Mānoa students is the unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the rich cultural history of Hawai‘i and the Pacific. Prior to moving 4,000 miles from my home in Illinois, I had little to no knowledge about Hawaiian culture. UH Mānoa has many cultural centers such as the Hawaiian Studies Program and the Center for Pacific Islands Studies. By attending UH Mānoa, you will be certain to experience new perspectives that will impact you positively. 

Savoring the final moments

I believe I have grown tremendously since my freshman year. I am in the last semester of my undergraduate years, and it has been very hectic juggling school, work and my social life. My goal for this semester is to try and savor the last moments with the friends I have been with these past four years.

Academic growth is a given during college, although my attitude for academics has changed greatly. The first year of college is a time for exploration and adjustments. I was very confused and had no set plans for life after college. I did my assignments, went to class and kind of just went through the motion of school.

As the years continued, I started to really enjoy what I was learning. The classes were getting more interesting, and I was getting more inspired. I got to meet other students who shared the same passions as me. This really made me excited for the future, rather than scared.

Eager to learn more; grateful for assistance

I would like to thank the Global High Seas Marine Preserve for the 2022-2023 Ocean Conservation Award. I truly appreciate the recognition of my work. With this award, I aim to promote marine stewardship to visitors all over the world. This award reassures me of my purpose to protect our natural environment.

I am currently in my last year of undergrad, but I am still eager to learn more about our world’s complex systems. I plan to attend graduate school after college to expand my knowledge. Freshman year Emma did not even consider graduate school. I am very grateful for access to my education and the opportunities it has provided me. 

UH Mānoa has allowed me to explore new ideas and adventures while learning and embracing the Native cultures of the islands. Studying at the university truly changed my perspective after living the first 18 years of my life in an Illinois suburban town. I am grateful to have attended college in a literal paradise filled with rich geologic and cultural history. My college experience will be forever remembered.

If you would like to learn how you can support UH students and programs like this, please contact us at 808 376-7800 or send us a message.