After growing up in four different countries and dedicating her life to helping others, it's clear that Leia Kagawa is not your average twenty-something UL student. recently caught up with Leia to get her story.

Where are you from?

It's a little bit complicated to answer where I'm from. My dad is a computer scientist, he works in project managing and consulting. With his job, we moved around a whole lot. My family is from Hawaii, I was born in Korea, I lived there for eight years, then I spend about 3 years in Belgium.

I loved Belgium, its a similar feel to here, very low key, friendly, people like to know their neighbors, it's a fun place and a great place to grow up. Then I spent 3½ years in Arizona, and I graduated high school in Germany.

I lived in the southern part of Germany in Stuttgart. Germany was great, I didn't have to learn how to drive because the transit system was so good. I'm regretting that now, though. I still don't have my driver's license.

So you can speak Korean, French, English and German?

I wish. I have a sad memory capacity for languages. I can only remember 1½ languages at a time. When I learn something new it pushes something else out. I'm taking German lessons right now. In Belgium they spoke both French and Dutch. I can understand Dutch well.

What was it like growing up in so many different places?

It's given me a hard time to answer "Where are you from?" that's for sure.

I feel like the main thing my experiences have given me is the ability to compare different places. When people visit different places they only see the highlights, either the best or the worst. I think travelling has allowed me to determine why I live in a certain place and not just live in a place by default. So many people live where they live because that's where they were born and that's where they grew up. Most people live in the same place their whole life, and though they like it there, they aren't adventurous to see other places and determine if they will like other places more. I feel empowered to choose where I want to live.

Why did you join Americorps?

I joined Americorps and the Civilian Conservation Corps because I wanted to understand more about my culture and where I'm from. I wanted to know more about America. When I was overseas, people would always ask me about America. They would want to know why I considered myself American.

My father actually did a little bit of research and found out about Americorps for me. Originally, I wanted to do a year in Mongolia to teach English. My mother didn't want me to do that because she thought it was dangerous. I also thought about joining the military, but again my mother thought it would be too dangerous. My mom wanted me to find something where I could both serve my country and be around family who could be close enough to help me in case something happened.

What did you do with Americorps?

I was based in Denver, CO. We had four projects during my ten-month service. My first service was here in Lafayette doing Habitat for Humanity. I came back in the Spring because I enjoyed it so much. I helped build three houses on Peppermill Drive off of Willow. They were for Hurricane Katrina victims. Then we worked on two other houses on East Gillman, those were for local residents in Lafayette.

For me a house is very important. My family never owned a house; because we moved around so much we always rented. Owning a house is something permanent. You have a place where your family can grow and you can establish your roots. It's nice to be a small part that helps give those people who were transplanted by Katrina an opportunity to have that.

It's hard for me to imagine not having a home or a place to live, a place that's comfortable where there is enough room for everyone. Being in Americorps and living in a three-bedroom house with ten people, I was able to appreciate what its like living in a place without enough room for everyone. A house shouldn't be a luxury, people should have places where they feel comfortable. Especially for families with kids.

Then I went to Arizona and did two months of tax preparation for low income families. I really enjoyed that project. I got to work with a lot of different people everyday. I enjoyed it because with the Habitat for Humanity, you are only affecting a couple of people. With the taxes project, we were able to help many, many people every day.

Helping people save money was very rewarding. When people learned that they were saving money, they would be excited and say, "I can buy my kids shoes, or we can go out to eat for once," things that most people would take for granted, but these people were very excited about.

Finally, I went to Big Bend National Park in southwest Texas. We did trail maintenance which was about minimizing erosion. The park is in the desert and erosion is very prevalent. We also built part of a new trail going up to the peak. It was a lot of shoveling, picking and breaking rocks with hammers, hands-on physical work like that. We got to camp for two months, but it was very hot.

This was probably my least favorite project because there was little interaction between our group and the people we were helping. We didn't get much feedback so it wasn't quite the same. However, being able to hike and camp I learned a lot about myself. It was a great opportunity.