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Serene Lau


Hometown: Kota Bharu, Malaysia


Major: Biology


Education Level: Undergraduate


Languages: Bahasa Malaysia, Mandarin, Cantonese, Taiwanese/Hokkien, English


Hobbies: Discovering new coffee shops, collecting a variety of succulents, scrapbooking, making little art projects, going on adventures


Biography: It was 12 years ago when I came across my favorite quote of all time and still live by it till now. “If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough,” from This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa’s First Women President by Ellen Johnson Sir Leaf.  


For me, studying abroad to the United States was the biggest dream of mine for many years when I was still attending school in Malaysia. Growing up from a middle class family made me understand that a ‘studying abroad in the United States” dream can only stay as a dream back then. But now, I am half way across the world, attending Portland State University, majoring in my favorite subject –Biology, and am one year away from graduating! What I learned from my experience is to not doubt on my own capability to do extraordinary things. I started my undergraduate degree at Portland Community College (PCC) with limited English proficiency but two years later, I proudly graduated from PCC with excellent result, volunteered in many organizations for various events including OHSU, OMSI, CHAP and DLNW, worked in a culturally diverse environment both as an international student orientation leader and an office assistant at the Office of International Education (OIE) and made uncountable life-time friends from all around the world.


I am from Kota Bharu, the state capital of Kelantan, on the east coast of peninsular Malaysia. Since Kelantan is located on the Malaysia-Thailand border, it acts as a buffer zone, combining a blend of Chinese, Indian, Thai, and Malay culture. Despite bing one of the most conservative regions of Malaysia, the Kelantanese people are very friendly and welcoming. 


Both growing up in a multicultural country and dedicating my college life to an international population here in Portland has educated me well on respecting different cultures. I am grateful to join ICSP, getting a chance to involve myself in cultural service again. I personally see cultural service as an important aspect because it’s not just about sharing and appreciating a variety of cultural beliefs, practices and values from every part of the world but also to focus on the common factors that bring us all together. Through ICSP, my next big dream is hoping to meet more great people, to learn more differences and commonalities in others as well as to grow stronger and more capable than I think I am. I also love bringing joy and being inspirational to others, by becoming an ICSP member, taking part in cultural service I feel I can accomplish that.


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