On the Rise: Emi Oshima – Intention from the Heart

By Justin Ho

“I want to be an aunt to my brother’s children!” she bursted out laughing. I had asked her the million dollar question that every student is questioned in their last years of college: “What do you have planned for the future?” Instead of the expected drawn out sigh, over repeated spiel, or “I don’t know”, she immediately brightened up the conversation and gushed about the idea of nephews and nieces (even if it’s a ways away).

Emi Oshima is currently a student at UCI with a double major in dance and public health science. She continued to answer my question revealing her aspirations to attain a Master’s Degree in Public Health and become a Doctor of Medicine. She wants to combine the two disciplines and work in developing countries.

“I feel that society constantly focuses on how are we going to fix problems, not on how are we are going to prevent them.”

“I try to positively impact the people I meet. I don’t necessarily want to change people, but I want to affect them. I’d like for a person to walk away with a smile or a hug with them feeling better than when they first meet me. I want them to understand that they are not alone in their struggle and that they have an ally to help them through tough times.”

Her current involvement parallels this notion. Emi co-founded the Students Together Aiding Refugees Today (Fresh S.T.A.R.T.) program at UCI with Soraya Azzawi (Dalai Lama Scholar) and Aimee Le, UCI student. Teaming up with the TIYYA Foundation, Fresh START focuses on human rights and public service to mentor refugee and displaced American families. TIYYA is an organization that aims to provide basic necessities for these families. Emi helped open up the Irvine region through collaboration with the UCI Public Health Department. The nonprofit Irvine organization works in the greater OC area including Irvine, Anaheim, and Westminster. Volunteers help refugee families seeking refuge from war, political asylum, and religious purposes. Coming from countries in South East Asia and Africa, Iraq, and Iran these families seek a new life in the US. TIYYA and START help them get back on their feet and equip them with the basic necessities they lack when moving into an American community. As of recent, the Irvine sector of TIYYA moved their meetings to the Irvine Center for Living Peace. There they also host different programs to help give the children opportunities to participate in recreational activities. These programs include activities with art and storytelling. Additionally they have established a soccer league for refugee families.

What’s awesome is that Fresh START isn’t the only thing she’s involved in (see affiliations). I began to wonder where she finds time to spend with each organization. She admitted that there is a considerable amount of stress with all of her responsibilities, but she relied on three things to keep her afloat: meditation, talking to people closest to her, and the beach.

Meditation. Meditation is a process in which an individual enters a state of deep reflection and thought. As an advocate of alternative medicine, she uses meditation to help clear her head at times of stress. It gives her mind a second to breathe and think about nothing. This short resting period helps her, as it could help you, take on the day’s challenges and frustrations.

“My mom always told me that there are 3 types of people in the world: those who give bread, those who do not take the bread, and those who steal the bread. I surround myself with those who give bread.”

Her close ones. These are her home base group of individuals, whether it be family or best friends. What I found unique was that when she goes to them, she doesn’t seek advice.

“I hardly ever ask for advice. I firmly believe that the answers can be found within and that every person knows oneself best.”

So when she talks to her friends and family, they vent and share stories of their own encounters with success and struggle, all the while focusing on and promoting a positive perspective.

Emi Oshima Dance

The beach. Emi in Japanese means beautiful river. She told me that for some strange and ironic reason, she feels grounded by water. She is enamored with the wholeness of water, its integral part in every aspect of life and how it manages to carve its own path wherever it travels. Water has the ability to take the form of whatever container it falls into, yet if there is a hole it can instantly find a way out of the container. This is why she goes to the beach whenever she can to clear her mind and connect with the element.

With these 3, she maintains a positive state of mind and continues to excel in the many involvements she’s apart of. Throughout difficult times in her life she has stuck to those principles to carry her through.  Perspective is the key component in everyday situations. Emi rarely doubts her actions because she knows her intentions are from her heart. Actions based in fear, she said, normally ends up damaging more than mending or doing anything positive.

“I maintain a positive state of mind by understanding that my intentions are purely from a place of love. “

Since earlier she told me that she only takes advice from herself, I asked her what she would tell herself if she could meet freshman Emi entering college.  Ending on a great note, she began by saying that she has told herself this as far back as she can remember.

“Remain true to who you are and do not forget that you are that person for a reason. It’s great to know that you want to help the world, but you cannot forget yourself. There needs to be a balance between those 2 universes.”

She quoted Mahatma Gandhi:

“[True] happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”


Affiliations & Involvements:

– Fresh Students Together Aiding Refugees Today (Fresh S.T.A.R.T.) partnered with the TIYYA Foundation and Dalai Lama Scholarship

– Received the UCI Distinguished Anteater Award for 2012-2013

– Community Engagement and Leadership Program @ UCI

– UCI Student Parent Orientation Program 2013

– nominated for CCC Legacy Award

– UCI Outreach Clinic

– UCI Medical Center scribe

– UCI Public Health Association President

– Undergraduate research with Doctor Zuzana Bic on smoking cessation

– UCI Dance Department faculty advising board

– Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP): went to Spain on Scholarship for the UCI Dance Department

– China Scholarship Ambassador: partnered with University of Communication in Beijing apart of the Legends of China program

– Summer Multi-Cultural Research Institute (SMLI) participant and staffer

– REACH (reaffirming ethnic and community harmony) co-coordinator and intern

– Alternative Break Intern for winter and spring trips


Do you know someone who has an UnParalleled perspective who inspires you to become better?  Email us your suggestions and reasons for upcoming interviews!

Pictures Sources: Emi Oshima

2 thoughts on “On the Rise: Emi Oshima – Intention from the Heart

  1. Pingback: Carpe Omnia | The UP Lab

  2. Pingback: The UP Lab’s Half-Year mark reviewing 8 UnParalleled Individuals | The UP Lab

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