Josiah Trinidad

Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands


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“I chose international security specifically because I’ve always enjoyed meeting people of other cultures and sharing my culture with them. … And I have a tendency to pick up languages,” said Josiah Trinidad, a freshman at the University of Tennessee at Martin.


This “tendency” may be a bit of an understatement, however, considering he could speak four languages before starting kindergarten.


Trinidad is a native of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, specifically the island of Saipan, which is the largest in the 15-island chain. Saipan occupies approximately 44.5 square miles in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, almost 12,000 miles from Martin. Despite its remote location, however, the island nation is a commonwealth of the United States and its residents are considered U.S. citizens.


Trinidad could speak both native island languages and two Filipino dialects before enrolling in kindergarten, and this is not unusual among his countrymen. “A characteristic of islanders on Saipan is that most of us are bilingual or trilingual, depending on your native background,” he said.


However, Trinidad felt there were new challenges to be faced elsewhere in the world. While Saipan is home to a university offering both bachelor’s and master’s-level degrees, Trinidad took an opportunity to join his older brother in Jackson, Tenn., after finishing high school.


“I’ve always felt that, in order for me to do better in pursuit of my academic career, I needed to leave home and discover what I like as far as education goes and discover what it is like to live on my own,” he said. “College is that time when you’re taking steps to grow up and learn to be on your own and learn to handle your own business.”


Trinidad relocated to Tennessee in June 2016 and soon began working with the afterschool program at the University School of Jackson, allowing him to establish Tennessee residency at his brother’s home. He has attended classes at the UT Martin Jackson Center for the past year, a move which helped him acclimate to U.S. culture before striking out on his own.


“The staff and directors there (at the UT Martin Jackson Center) are friendly, so whenever I leave home I don’t feel like I’m going to school. I feel like I’m just going to another home where I am learning,” he said.


Trinidad plans to transfer to the main campus in Martin this fall to participate in the ROTC program. He ultimately hopes to become an officer in the United States Army and pursue a career in foreign affairs.

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