Learning, sharing and balancing: Park University’s only Samoan student shares experiences

Victoria Olaleye, Reporter

Taufagulape Vee showcasing the Samoan culture at her booth during the 2018 international festival.

Despite living in Parkville Missouri for years, Taufagalupe Vee carries a special part of her culture and this is reflected in the traditional flower she wears on her ear from time to time. Vee said, “The flower on my ear right now, it is called the Sei, it emphasizes the fact that I’m a true, true true, true teine (girl) Samoa.” Vee said she wears it every day to remind herself of where she is from and how to present herself.
Taufagalupe Vee is the only Samoan student at Park University. She has been at the school for three years said she was one of the few to attend the military in the United States from Samoa through the recruiting processes and after her first year at the military academy, when it was time to recruit scholars, she was sent to Park university.
Vee said she ended up at Park because she was specific on what she was looking for based on the questions she was asked. She said she wanted a small school in order to have a better relationship with her teachers.
Compared to schools back in Samoa, which are mostly elementary and high schools, Vee said Park is a big school. She said in a class back home there were about 20 to 25 students, which is almost the same with the class size at Park. However, the structure was something that stood out to Vee. Although things are changing now, Vee said back in Samoa, the classes were held in one building.
“I came here, you know on a campus visit, like it was so new seeing all these buildings and all these campuses,” she said “…here it was like oh, like a whole science department building, a whole criminal justice building, a whole nursing… It was just fascinating.”
Being an international student and the only Samoan student at Park, Vee said she found it easy to relate to other international students who share the same struggle of adapting to a new culture and being far away from home.
Vee said, “It’s kind of lonely sometimes, you know, not having the same culture as your friends, and sometimes it’s kind of hard to explain the way you are to your friends.”
However, she said she enjoys sharing her tradition and culture. She said she sometimes feels like it is an accomplishment being the only Samoan at Park.
She also said she loves sharing her culture with people as it fills the gap of loneliness. Vee has performed twice at the International Festival in 2018 and 2019. She also said she enjoyed displaying cultural traditions at the booth during the festivals.
Vee speaks six languages: Samoan, English, Hawaiian, Tongan, Fijian and Tuvalu, most of which are languages from different islands.
Vee, who is a senior in Pre-law at Park University, said she is excited to finish her undergraduate program but also feels scared that she is going into the real world as well as looking forward to it.
“I’m ready to use what I’ve learned from Park and be able to use it as a tool to move on with the future,” she said.