East West College attracts students from around the globe. No matter what their homeland, they share a common goal: Earning a massage therapy license with the state of Oregon. Today we’re introducing first year East West College student Abbey Mark, who chose to come to our school all the way from Phuket, Thailand.

The Road to East West College of the Healing Arts

Abbey’s journey to our Oregon massage school has been winding. Growing up between Japan and Thailand, Abbey always knew that she wanted to help heal people. While attending an international high school, Abbey was also engaged in her own independent studies: Learning from local Thai massage therapists near her mom’s home in Thailand. In this informal teaching arrangement, Abbey would receive a massage, and the therapist would explain what she was doing. Soon, Abbey began practicing Thai massage on friends and family.

A problem emerged: Abbey discovered she was “energetically sensitive.” She found herself taking on the pain, negative energy, and other emotions of those she massaged. For a while, she took a break with massage and turned her attention in a new direction. “I’ve always been the type of person that likes helping people,” Abbey explains, “So I went to Bangkok to become a personal trainer.”

While she was working as a trainer in Bangkok, one of her clients introduced her to Reiki. Abbey credits Reiki for teaching her “detachment” from her massage clients. Prior to that, she recalls, “I was kind of scared, because, well, what if I’m massaging a client, and all of their pains and injuries are reflected onto by body? So I didn’t massage for a while. But then with Reiki, I learned separation.”

As her gap year after high school came to a close, Abbey began researching college options. Oregon was a natural area of focus, since her family had long sustained close friendships in the Portland area. Indeed, Abbey’s family came to visit Portland annually. That’s one reason Abbey didn’t research, say, massage schools in Indiana—she knew she would benefit from the support network her family had cultivated in the Beaver State. With the Rose City in mind, Abbey turned her attention to Portland massage programs.

Choosing East West College

Abbey tells the next part of her story this way: “We were looking into colleges in Oregon. My Dad said, ‘I know one of the best [massage] colleges throughout the states (East West College) is in Oregon.’” Moreover, Abbey’s family friend who has been a practicing Portland massage therapist for the past twenty-six years attended East West College. “She was actually our connection to the school,” Abbey explains. “East West sounded like a good fit to where I was in my life at that time, having had the Reiki background, and also opening a new chapter in a different place, halfway around the world.”

Life as an East West College Massage Student: Support on All Sides
It’s not easy to be so far from home. But Abbey has found the support she needs to thrive as an East West College Student. “Having the family friends around has made it easier,” explains Abbey. “Also, my classmates are really supportive. They’re like, ‘We’re all going to make it through Kines (Kinesiology). We’re all going to make it through term two.’ So we have our little study groups, and the study groups are very comfortable, very supportive of each other. Like if somebody doesn’t know the answer, we’re not scowling at each other. Of course, when I have my personal time, I do miss home. But that’s part of growing and learning. If I were to stay in my comfort zone, I don’t think I would learn as much.”

Beyond the supportive student body at East West College, Abbey finds the school very helpful, explaining, “The school supports me in the sense where they’re very enthusiastic and they’re very motivating. They’re non-judgmental, at all. And if you don’t understand something, they’re always coming up with different ways to show you what they mean. The teachers have a variety ways of saying things and showing things, and that helps, because some students are visual, and others aren’t. The teachers teach to all the different learning styles. Having the hands-on teaching has really helped me, because you get a feel for it, and you get to see the teacher demonstrating.”

Abbey is happy to be learning at East West College, where our well-rounded massage program teaches the science of massage, massage techniques, “therapeutic relations, the business of massage… It gives me a better understanding of how I can start my own practice, and how I can help people to the fullest,” says Abbey.

What’s Abbey’s next step? After she graduates from East West College, she envisions opening her own practice where she will provide Reiki, Thai massage, Shiatsu, and other styles of massage. With a massage license, her strong vision, and her dedication as a student, it’s a good bet that Abbey will realize her dreams.