Monday, February 8, 2010

Hawai'i: More than a beautiful chain of islands

*This will be broken up into multiple posts and pictures will be added ASAP =)*

Growing up, I remember being fascinated with Hawai'i. Whenever we put in a trade request through our timeshare, I'd always scream HAWAII at the top of my lungs. Of course, I had no concept of how expensive it was, and still is, to go there (from the Midwest, at least). I assumed I'd be one of the millions who chooses it as their honeymoon destination and that would be that. After all, my parents were in their 50's before they were able to go for their first time, when they celebrated their 25th anniversary.

Little did I know that when I chose to go the University of Dayton, my dream of going to Hawai'i would happen sooner than I could have ever imagined.

My first weekend there I was hanging out in my brother's room and met one of his friends who said he was going to Hawai'i in the spring semester. Obviously I asked 9 billion questions and HAD to know how the heck one goes about doing this. I COULD NOT contain my excitement. UD is one of three universities in the U.S. that was started by a catholic denomination of priests called the Marianist Brothers. The other two universities are St. Mary's College in Texas and Chaminade University of Honolulu in Hawai'i.

The geniuses at these three schools decided to set up exchange opportunities so that their students could experience a semester at one of the other two schools. Sorry, Texas, you were never even considered in this thought process. In December of 2005, I applied to the program and crossed my fingers that all would work out. I received my acceptance letter around Valentine's Day 2006 and tried to figure out a way to contain my excitement for the next 11 months.

January 10, 2007 was the first day of the BEST four months of my life. After a LONG day of traveling (I had to stop at both DFW and LAX), I finally landed in Oahu. It was night, so I couldn't really see the beauty of Hawai'i, but I knew I'd be able to soak it in in the morning. As the driver pulled Onto campus, I was stunned with how beautiful it was. E komo mai ('welcome' in Hawaiian) is what the sign read, as I stared at the gorgeous campus nestled in the mountains. When I woke up the next morning, I couldn't believe my view. Out my front door was heaven. To the left was Diamond Head, straight ahead was the gorgeous Pacific Ocean, and to the right was the skyline of downtown Honolulu. I was two miles from Waikiki Beach. I knew this would be an unforgettable opportunity, and one I thanked God for daily.

I'll touch on classes more in a later post, but suffice it to say, I often chose the beach over school. My grades from my semester there weren't factored into my GPA, so I was not about to let school get in the way of my time in paradise. I did have a job working in the career services office, but I still found a way to go to the beach 5 days a week. When you have one of the most famous beaches in the world two miles from your front door, it's pretty easy to walk past the professor for the class you're skipping and not feel guilty.

But it was more than just four months of fun in the sun. I LOVE everything about Hawai'i. I love the people, I love the culture, I love the language, the food, the history, the natural beauty, the music, EVERYTHING. Even though it is technically part of the U.S., Hawai'i is as Asian as Japan or China. The only thing American about Hawai'i is the currency, the government, and the common language. I really immersed myself in all that Hawai'i has to offer; I didn't want to be another ignorant tourist who thinks the land is all pineapples and lei. And you won't believe how beneficial that ended up being for me. I received SO much more respect from the locals. When you're willing to sit and talk story with natives and learn to history of the land, you become one of them. They appreciate you so much more and take you in as one of their own.

My love for Hawai'i goes above and beyond the beauty of the islands. It will forever be a part of my life and I would be honored to be able to go back and live there for a couple years. I have never had an experience quite so fulfilling in my (almost) 23 years of life and I will forever consider Hawai'i my second home.

Image is my own. Hibiscus blossom in Hawai'i

1 comment:

Miss Alaineous said...

girl, this makes me miss our lives there so freaking much! i just teared up while reading it. ugghhh. let's go back!!

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