Yes, I Studied

Throughout my blog I’ve been talking about all the adventures during my time in Hawaii. What I haven’t mentioned yet is studying, the most important part. First of all, to study abroad your GPA must be a 3.0 or above just to apply. Browsing through other blogs I cam across one of my favorites, the ISA Study Abroad Student Blog who talks about the importance of the “study” in study abroad. This blog is so useful because it reminds us that studying is important no matter where you go.

When people come back from their study abroad trip most people will ask how was it, where’d you go, what’d you see, what kinds of food did you eat, and so fourth. Rarely do people ask about the school work. The myth about studying abroad is that we don’t do any work. This is extremely false. Speaking for myself; It’s just that school work wasn’t the highlight of my time in Hawaii, but it was still a major part. During my time in Hawaii I wrote a 25 page history paper on Alexander Hamilton, memorized 30 different kinds of rocks for my geology class, and wrote many essays for my Asian philosophy class. Work was done.

We can’t always be getting our tan on, we actually have to study. In “Don’t Forget the Study in Study Abroad” post from the blog ISA Study Abroad Student Blog; she talks about how midterms were stressful and that she was always in the library. My point is, yes have fun and take advantage of every adventure, but don’t forget that the classes can also be a rewarding experience. In my geology class I was able to go on field trips to lava lakes … how cool!!! So, go to class and make the best of it! Classes are short, there’s time for adventure after, I promise! Thank you to ISA Study Aboard Student Blog for reminding me of the importance of studying!

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Malama Kanaloa Festival

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When I attended the University of Hawaii at Hilo I was always late to class as the posters located in the middle of campus instantly caught my attention.  I was so eager to see what was happening in the area and gain new experiences!
The Ocean Day Malama Kanaloa Festival is one I highly recommend, especially for new students or new members of the island to engage in Hawaii’s culture. The purpose of Ocean Day is to learn the importance of protecting Hawaii’s coastal and ocean ecosystems.

Not yet sold? Well, it’s FREE! Dive into culture with Hawaiian music, food, hands-on activities, prizes and more. The atmosphere was so welcoming and learning about the ocean ecosystem was so interesting because I could relate to the topic as I spent almost everyday on the beach, just like the locals. Every single face there was smiling and I wish I was able to attend more festivals! Overall the festival was a heart warming experience with people all ages who cared about the enviroment and enjoyed each other’s company!

Rainbow Falls

Orientation for school started the day after I landed in Hilo. The bus was filled with twelve other international and first time Hawaiians that had smiles from ear to ear. We were ready to explore. The first stop on our adventure was Rainbow Falls.

We get out of the van in awe. The locals can tell we’re tourists due to our behavior. Cameras are in our hands snapping a mile a minute with sound effects coming from our mouths as we “oo and ah” at everything we see.

“This is by far the greatest thing I have ever seen,” is the first thing that came out of my mouth. Being from MA we do not have waterfalls or jungle like environment. I thought it was incredible.

What is so ironic about this story is that my first adventure to rainbow falls was so unbelievable that I did not think anything else could top it. I WAS WRONG. Every single trip I took throughout my time in Hawaii impressed me more than the last one. Hawaii left me speechless. The views I got to see were breath taking; from the sunsets, to the volcanoes, to the lava tubes, to the beaches, to the car rides surrounded by rainforest and ocean. Most of the car rides consisted of us looking for whales in the ocean – by the end of the trip I saw a total of six! I cannot even describe the happiness that these new environments put me in. I was over joyed. Honestly, I could not believe what was happening before my eyes. My time in Hawaii was surreal. It didn’t seem real because everything about it was PERFECT. This is what traveling is all about – appreciating the beauty of a different place!

If you want to be blown away, go to the Big Island of Hawaii.

The adventures are waiting for you.

P.S. What you should know about Rainbow Falls:
1) No fee – IT’S FREE!
2) Big parking lot, don’t worry about it being too busy because there are many places to get great pictures
3) There is a gift shop across the street
4) Can hike up the right side of the site – will see path way
5) After hiking up the right side you can also go into the woods area and cross a little river to play on the rocks that are behind the waterfall, up above – remember to be careful!
6) Do not hike with flip flops – I learned that the hard way
7) WARNING!! DO NOT JUMP IN THE WATER .. you will never be able to get out, plus you’ll probably die from that jump. Harsh but true.

University of Hawaii at Hilo Round Table

002Attending the University of Hawaii at Hilo was unlike any other education system I have ever been involved in. UHH treats their students as family, or as the Hawaiian’s say “ohana”.

The professors at the university are welcoming and easy to talk to. You would think they were all guidance counselors, they’re so nice! The professors take the time to get to know every student and are always offering a helping hand to make sure you feel comfortable. On my first day, my history professor noticed my Boston accent and asked how my flight was knowing that it was a long exhausting trip. He spent ten minutes of class time giving me tips on how to be more comfortable when flying. He wrote down the names of medicine I should try. He truly cared about my safety and my comfort level. He was pleased to have me in class, and what’s even better is that he treated every student like this. No favorites, just a genuine heart from a genuine person.

Yes, I mentioned History class, but don’t let that fool you. UHH offers classes that will teach you about the amazing Hawaiian culture. I wish I was able fit Hula Dancing in my class schedule. Thanks to the Hawaiian EDventure team I was able to see the techniques up close and personal after they performed at the university. The team dances to honor Pele, the goddess of the volcanoes. Every where I turned on campus I was enriched with culture.

The teachers and students even wore the culture! What I mean is, if you have a flower print skirt, or for a men; an Hawaiian shirt then you will fit right in. The ladies’ basketball team embraced the fashion memo. Usually one would think female athletes as being tom boys, but in Hawaii fashion is so easy and fun to dress for the warm weather and follow the school’s vibrant and welcoming atmosphere.

Heading outside the classroom, there was so much to explore! The school offered trips around the Big Island every weekend. The island even has their own exotic zoo. My five other girlfriends and I felt like we were in the jungle visiting the Hilo Zoo  surrounded by huge trees, bamboo, different colored flowers, and hearing all unique animal sounds.

If we got hungry there were plenty of fun options around Hilo to try. My favorite place to go was the Hilo Farmers Market.  The Big Island Food Blog recommends the Hilo Farmers Market as your only place you need to shop. You couldn’t get the fresh taste or the fun experience anywhere else. The vendors there are always pushing new excited food your way. I have learned how to open a coconut, make homemade guava slushes, and taste baked coconut; all from the Hilo Farmers Market.

All exchange students would agree that the experience at the University of Hawaii at Hilo was unforgettable. I was there for a short five months yet felt part of the school’s family. I involved myself in new cultural activities and experienced a more relaxing way of life that I hope to continue. Do as the Hawaiians do. Jessica, another NSE student; National Student Exchange, said that the experience exceeded all of her expectations.

UHH is a small school to 3,500 students. The professors are able to know each student on a personal level through the small class sizes, a low faculty-to-student ratio that provide opportunities for research and hands-on-learning. It was the BEST experience of my life. Other reviews, blogs, and websites I have researched have positive reviews to back up my opinion that UHH is an extraordinary college.

Go Big or Go Home (First Time Traveling to the Big Island)

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Waking up at 6am for the flight, I couldn’t believe the day was finally here where I get to travel to paradise.

The trip consists of me and four other girls.

Sarah – The over packer

Jenna – The positive one

Shannon – The smart one

Carole – The calm one

As we wave our final goodbyes to our parents, Jenna and I begin to lead the way to our gate. Ten minutes later Shannon realizes we’re going in the wrong direction. With five minutes to spare we run around Logan Airport to find our gate.

Freaking out that we won’t make our flight, Jenna looks on the positive side saying, “one day we’ll look back and laugh.”

No one liked that comment. We’ve been waiting over a year for this day.

Sarah had three carry ons that somehow ended up in other people’s hands from helping her carry them. As we’re running, we mimic an all girl track team switching off the baton (Sarah’s personal items). Not to mention, her suit case was way over the 50 pound limit. We tipped the guy who weighed the suitcase ten dollars so he let the suitcase go through with no charge.

Struggling was an understatement at that point.

While we were frantically running to our zone; worry, fear, and Sarah’s things flying everywhere occupied our time.

Finally, we made it! We sigh in relief as we are the last people to board. We look over at Carole who said, “Secretly I knew we were going to make it, ya’ll worry too much.”

On the plane we try to get comfy. Shannon is sitting next to what it looks like a three hundred pound woman. She was squished beyond compare, but sucks it up as we remind her that we’ll soon be on a warm beach.

I start feeling sick from the turbulence and don’t know if I’ll make it. I spent about twenty minutes in the bathroom trying to get myself together.

Carole gets a bloody nose which makes me sicker from seeing the blood.

After seventeen grueling hours of travel, we land in Hilo, Hawaii.

Wanting to kiss the ground, and give our thanks to God that we’re alive, we all become silent.

The Hawaiian air hit us like a slap in the face.

The air is warm and welcoming. Our first acquaintance with Hawaii is a moment we will never forget. The air is easy to breathe and feels great on our skin. We take that moment to finally break the silence and jump for joy!

Loud, obnoxious, over excited teen-age girls running around the airport looking for the exit door to go out and explore. This behavior made us stick out.

We had an old woman take our picture as she gave us insight on what beaches we should go to first.

We quickly got our luggage and waited for a taxi. These boys in the parking lot offered to give us a ride in their truck. At first, we said no because we had no idea where our school was, plus they were strangers. Jenna and Sarah said yes, Shannon and Carole said no. We huddled for a quick second and decided that it’s a free ride, and if they kidnap us we’ll just jump out. We gave them the official answer, yes. We all sat in the back of the truck having the fresh Hawaiian air blow against our faces. The drive was less than ten minutes. When we said our “goodbyes” they stopped us. They handed us a handful of freshly grown weed. They said it was our welcome present. None of us smoke, so we nicely said thank you and gave it our neighbor in the dorms, who couldn’t have been happier. Such an overwhelming first day we had. Although we almost didn’t make it, it will always be a day we will never forget.

That night our parents called asking how the trip was. We told them the taxi guy was very nice.

One’s Paradise

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First day of class at UHH, 90 degrees out. I was in a new atmosphere trying to adapt to a different way of life. Waking up, getting ready for school; I put on my new sandals, new outfit, and of course grabbed a rain coat for those everyday unexpected ten minute rain falls. Walking to class I noticed that some students are barefoot. This is normal!? People walk around barefoot because, why not? I’m not one to judge, but I quickly thought about germs. I was surprised that the barefoot people were not getting “double looks.” The perfectly dry ground, no liter, nothing to hurt their feet, I realized it’s okay to be barefoot. Hawaiians are so relaxed, they don’t worry about little things, they’re in paradise.

After passing, what it felt like, “the no shoe zone,” I finally made it to class. The girl next to me is wearing UGGS. How can the spectrum be so different, bare feet to UGGS? UGGS are not meant for Hawaii. She said her parents mocked her for ordering them because she would never actually need them in the warm weather out here. We talked a little more and I found out right away that she’s attached to her phone. She loved showing me pictures of her new outfits and where she likes to shop. She was thrilled that I was from Boston. She told me that she’s fascinated with the mainland, especially Boston and New York City. She dreams to visit. All on her phone, she adds me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Suddenly, I realized why she bought the UGGS. It’s because social media is buzzing about them. UGGS are extremely popular and she wanted to be part of the trend, even though they would suffocate her feet in the warm Hawaiian air.

A girl dreaming of the hustle and bustle crazy city life is just itching to get out of where most people want to get in. It’s so funny because I never thought of people wanting to leave Hawaii. I guess if you’re sick of the bare feet you can explore the mainland with crazy heels, boots, and more. Packing for Hawaii all I needed were flip-flop and sneakers. Flip flops and sneakers weren’t enough for this girl. She really wanted to see the world. The young girl couldn’t wait to explore and travel to the mainland as I felt the same way about her hometown; Hilo, Hawaii.

We should have just switched places. She wanted to see New York City so badly as she always asked me questions about it. She couldn’t get over the fact that my High School went on a trip to NYC for three days. She thought I was living the dream, and I thought the same about her. Two different girls wanting each others life.

When I was in paradise, laying on the beach, sun in my face, I just couldn’t understand why she would want to leave this place. I came to a conclusion that the night life in Hilo was not that extravagant, and this girl was ready to party. In Hawaii the weather was perfect, the people were friendly, school was a breeze, there was absolutely no stress. I could have lived there forever in pure bliss.

Boston and New York City are remarkable places with so much culture wrapped together. The girl’s only stories about those cities are from social media and the internet. Sitting next to this girl for a whole semester was delightful because she taught me quite a lot. I shouldn’t take my hometown, Boston, for granted because it is such a well known city that people would love to visit.

I explored the ins and outs and all over Hilo, I could point out where everything is, give directions, and so fourth. She taught me that I should start doing the same with Boston. I should love my hometown just as much as I love Hilo, Hawaii.

She also taught me that social media and the internet is where people can go on to dream. She’s dreaming of making it big in fashion. I know she will. Such a driven and outgoing girl. Following celebrities on Instagram in New York City was her favorite.

In the end, after a long semester I invited her to come up and visit. I also told her to bring her UGGS. She couldn’t have been more excited. Since she brought me around Hilo and taught me about her culture, I thought it was only fair I should do the same. She’s planning to come up in January to hopefully see snow for the first time. Her dreams of visiting the city will finally be fulfilled. I hope when she visits she’ll see that Hawaii is an even more “dream destination” for everyone up here, it’ll make her feel special.

We both live in each other’s paradise. Funny, right?