Grizzlies Going Places

Sarah BortisName: Sarah Bortis

Hometown: Lincoln City, Oregon

Year: Senior

Major: East Asian Studies

Minor: Chinese

Scholarship: Osher Reentry Scholarship

Why did you choose UM?

I’ve been living in Missoula all my adult life. Before I came back to school, I was working for Garden City Harvest directing the Orchard Gardens farm. I worked for them for 11 years.

Why did you decide to pursue East Asian Studies?

Despite being a non-traditional student, I took the semi-traditional path of changing my major a hundred times. I came with no expectation, really. I knew that I wanted to have the opportunity to learn and explore lots of different subjects, and through that process, I found Chinese language. And I love it. It’s a little bit hard to explain – it’s just a feeling, just a love. It’s really hard, and I think some part of me enjoys that. I love the writing system. It appeals to me from a linguistic point of view and as an art form.

I was in Taiwan for two months last summer. [An external scholarship, the Freeman Award for Study in Asia, funded her trip.] It was great. It was really hard, of course, but I had the wonderful opportunity to stay with two different host families. It was just a lovely experience. Probably my favorite person in Taipei is a seven-year-old girl who was in my host family.

Why is being a scholarship recipient meaningful to you?

The first year I was in school, I kept my full-time job at Garden City Harvest. I discovered that it was really challenging for me to focus fully and give either of those things the investment that I wanted to. Having scholarships has allowed me to focus on school, and be successful, I think. I’ve been supported by scholarships from the Osher Foundation for three years.

How has your UM education changed you so far?

It’s given me a lot of opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I’ve gone to Taiwan twice since I’ve been to school here. It has validated the risk-taking step of switching careers after being fixed in one place. The decision to do that was fairly terrifying, and my experience at this university has led me to believe I’m capable of rising to whatever challenges are presented.