College. A chance to escape the monotony of high school, explore new places, meet new people, learn new things, and recreate your social image. Some teenagers are accepted into their dream school. Some students go to institutions that offer a better chance at becoming successful. Somehow, I ended up at The University Of Hawai’i At Manoa. It has been one heck of a lifestyle transition but this unprepared California girl survived the first semester and so can you! Here is a list of things I wish I had known before attending UH.
1. You WILL have culture shock.
Moving to an island is an adjustment in itself. Getting used to the fusion of Asian and island culture is a completely different adjustment. Hawaii is big a blend of Asian, American, and Hawaiian cultures. English is the main language but many locals may speak with a slight accent and some are bilingual. There is even a local language or slang called “Pidgin” that is native to Hawaii. From my experience, seemingly mainstream things on the mainland, like the Kardashians, reality television, peanut butter sandwiches, and even politics, are not so mainstream here. The culture isn’t too different from that of the US mainland, but it might take you by surprise if you aren’t prepared for it.
2. Hawaii is FAR away from the US mainland.
To be blunt, Hawaii is a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Airfare to the continental US can cost anywhere from $350 to $2000. Ticket prices are fairly affordable if you purchase them months in advance. If you are on a budget, be prepared to stay here for the entire semester or for the majority of the semester. Even if you can afford to go home during Thanksgiving or spring break, the flight to California is roughly 5.5 hours. If you live north or east of California, you’re looking at a 6 to 14 hour plane flight, not including connecting flights. The distance can get to you sometimes so it is important to realize and accept that you are roughly 2,500 miles from the California coast.
3. We’re young, dumb, and VERY broke.
Everything from food to school supplies is shipped to the islands, so naturally the prices are a bit steep. The cost of most things are similar to those in major cities on the East and West coast. Students from less affluent areas of the US might struggle to accept Honolulu’s expensive price tags. The student dorms are somewhat costly and living off campus (with four roommates) will have you paying no less than $550 a month. Dining out averages to about $12-$15 per meal. This may sound discouraging, but there are thousands of students navigating the island prices. Socializing and making connections with other students can also save lots of money.
4. Go Greeks!
There are two fraternities and three sororities based on/near the Manoa campus. All of these organizations participate in a “Fall Rush,” and the fraternity, Kappa Sigma, and sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta, usually host a Spring Rush. Greek Life is not a huge part of campus life, but it is noticeable. They often host back-to-school beach parties and participate in charity events. There is no “greek row” but members of each organization, especially upperclassmen, tend to share housing arrangements. If you are a member, you also get to go to mixers, formals, and social events that are solely for admitted members.
5. Want to FaceTime tomorrow?
Here’s a big one. Some students at UH are in a long distance relationships and, let me tell you, it is not easy. Airfare is never cheap and the travel time is about 5.5 hours just to California. If you can’t bear to end things with your current sweetheart, then you two really need to sit down and talk about trust, communication, and the future. Prolonged separation is painful and many people, including myself, have spent entire weekends on the phone or waiting for a text. As a hopeless romantic, I believe maintaining a healthy long distance relationship is possible. Distance is no match for those who truly love each other, but it will be very, very difficult at times. There are also plenty of attractive, single-and-ready-to-mingle people at UH so the chances of meeting a special someone are reasonably high.
6. The adventure awaits!
For a little island, there is so much to do! There are hikes, beaches, caves, cliffs, shopping malls, and, of course, Waikiki. There are also bowling alleys, boat excursions, rock climbing facilities, movie theaters, yoga studios, religious sites, historical sites, tourist attractions and more. The opportunities are endless if you are willing to look for them. The best thing to do is make some local friends, which is inevitable, as they probably know about some activities that aren’t mentioned in the local activity guide.
7. Up next on F-R-I-E-N-D-S.
Dorm or apartment life can be your best friend and worst enemy when it comes to friendships. As lame as they seem, attending the late night programming activities can help you meet people. You might even meet your new best friends. People will float in and out of your life forever, but making friends that live down the hall is something that only happens during your college years. Of course this can become very problematic if it distracts you from your schoolwork, but ultimately it makes life away from home seem friendlier in every aspect. The freshman towers are round, which is architecturally cool but it makes socializing difficult. If you stay in your room, you probably won’t meet many new people or make many friends. If you make an attempt to join clubs, volunteer, or participate in student-based activities, you are bound to find someone with similar interests.
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8. I’m homesick in Hawaii 🙁
Homesickness is a college ritual. It typically strikes hardest during the first semester but it has been known to taunt upperclassmen as well. Hawaii’s isolation in the Pacific Ocean can make being homesick a hundred times worse. Many people will say, “How can you be homesick when you live in HAWAII”. It is very possible and it might seem like you are the only one suffering from it. The most important thing to remember is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Thousands of kids have gone through this and thousands are fighting through it at this very moment. Here is what you can do to ease the ache: visit the counseling center, talk to an upperclassman, stay busy, get outside, go to the gym, take some time (but not too much time) to yourself. Calling home also helps but calling home too often may prolong the homesickness ache. You lose a sense of familiarity when you move away from home, which is why it is so important to get out and do things to establish comfort and familiarity in your new college town.
9. School’s always first!
Classes at UH are fairly demanding. Lecture halls can seat over 300 students and smaller class rooms can seat about 30 people. Professors go through the material quickly but there are many opportunities to seek extra help. The attendance policy is strict and classes that count attendance as part of the grade allow a maximum of three unexcused absences. Some majors are more difficult than others. Some of the most academically demanding majors are nursing, engineering, business, law, and science/research based majors. And some of the most popular studies include marine biology, kinesiology, pre-med, business, communications, and foreign languages. B’s are fairly easy to earn but be prepared for some good ‘ole sit-down-and-study time if your goal is to earn A’s.
10. Just students supporting other students!
The great thing about going to school in Hawaii is the Aloha Spirit. UH is a thriving community that welcomes anyone with an appreciation for the aloha lifestyle. The recreation center hosts fitness classes, outdoor classes, stores rental beach gear, and holds intramural competitions. Campus center hosts a concert every semester and sells discount tickets for visiting or local celebrities and shows. Student housing creates “late-night programming” events like the Silent Disco and various courtyard fairs. The two resident dining halls celebrate holidays with special food and sometimes feature guest chefs and brand promoters. Every Thursday is premium night at Hale Aloha Café, which means everyone with a meal plan gets a choice of steak, vegetarian, or specialty items. At campus center, the Food Court boasts an assortment of fresh food and the farmers market is available a few times a week with fresh fruit and veggies. Starbucks, Jamba Juice, and Subway are great because they accept meal plans, dining dollars, and regular money.
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Leaving home to attend college is always going to test you, stress you, and excite you in ways that you never saw coming. In the long run, your college experience is what you make it. Prepare yourself for what you can and wing the rest! Cheers to the college years!
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Hi there! My name is Jasmine and I'm from the San Francisco Bay Area. I'm currently a freshman at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. I love being outside, traveling, writing, and adventuring. When I'm not studying, you can catch me at the beach or on a hike.