For most MU students, the semester is already well underway; however, science and agricultural journalism junior Erica Overfelt’s semester is just beginning — and thousands of miles away from MU’s campus, too.
From February 2019 to July 2019, Erica will serve as a science communication fellow for the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) in Okinawa, Japan. OIST is a graduate school that offers a five-year Ph.D. program in science. While there, Erica will write stories and press releases on research for the OIST website and assist in other written content for public relations and event materials.
“I think that putting yourself in unfamiliar situations is where you grow the most as a person and I think this fellowship will teach me so many things about journalism, but also a lot of things about who I am as a journalist and person,” Erica said.
Erica learned about the fellowship last February while attending the American Association for the Advancement of Science internship fair.
“It was just really inspiring because the person I talked to went to MU for graduate school,” Erica said. “I really was inspired to reach beyond the limits that I had set for myself in journalism and internships.”
Growing up with a step-mom from China, Erica said she felt a connection to the fellowship since she had always been interested in Asian culture.
This will be Erica’s first trip to Japan; however, she has spent time abroad in China, France, Italy, Germany, Austria and Tanzania. Those experiences have taught her about becoming immersed in other cultures.
“One thing in overcoming cultural differences is to be really open to your mistakes,” Erica said. “Always make it open that you want to learn and that you’re here to grow and become a more knowledgeable person when it comes to their culture.”
Erica submitted an online application that consisted of examples of her work, a resume and cover letter, before receiving an interview. She was at lunch with her grandma when she learned the good news.
Erica said the fellowship is exactly what she hopes to do after graduation.
“Science communication is something that more people need to do because it’s so vital to society,” Erica said.
Erica has been preparing by learning about Okinawa and its history. She’s learned that since Okinawa is an island, the institute is very environmentally conscious. Because of this, she’s only bringing things that she can reuse.
“I am excited to see what a real-world experience is like, but it is a bit scary to take a semester off school,” Erica said.
Erica is the daughter of David Overfelt and Kris Simms and is from Jefferson City, Missouri.