Emelihter Kihleng

Emelihter follows her heart and what is meaningful to her, which has brought her all the way from Guam to Aotearoa, and to Victoria University of Wellington.

Emelihter Kihleng
Emelihter Kihleng

Degree: PhD Candidate in Pacific Studies, Wellington Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

'Oceania is my heart, beaten and bruised but full of hope for the future...'

I’m a true Pacific Islander in the sense that I grew up on three Pacific Islands: Hawai’i (Honolulu), Guam and Pohnpei. They are three very different Pacific Islands, but they are all home to me in different ways. Pohnpei because it's the culture I belong to and Pohnpeian is the language I speak. Guam is important because it’s where my parents live and where I was born. Hawai’i is where I lived the longest and did most of my schooling and university studies. I did my Bachelors and Masters at The University of Hawai’i (UH) in Manoa. I arrived here in September 2010 with my sixteen year old cousin. We are the only Pohnpeians here at the University.

I like to write poetry. It’s not like I was born writing or that I have a special gift. I took a poetry class at UH with Juliana Spahr and loved it. Juliana became my mentor. She is a fabulous teacher and super smart; she took me under her wing and encouraged me. I ended up doing my Masters in English but concentrating on creative writing. My first book of poems, My Urohs, evolved out of this.

I try to follow my heart and what’s meaningful to me. This has taken me all the way to Aotearoa, New Zealand and Victoria University of Wellington. I didn’t want to go to America; I wanted to stay in the Pacific. I heard a lot about this place; from people like Maualaivao Prof. Albert Wendt and Reina Whaitiri. They told me about the arts scene and the creativity here. This is where it’s at for Pacific Islanders. I knew of Dr Teresia Teaiwa at the University and I came to study under her.

My advice for niu students…? Don’t get involved in relationships when you’re not emotionally ready. It can be intense. Focus on your studies, not on relationships. There will always be relationships.