As my semester in Hawai’i comes close to its end, I have a lot of experiences to reflect on. Coming into study away, I was nervous—more than I should have been. Even on my plane ride to the tropical islands, the worst-case scenarios were running through my head:
What if I get lost?
What if I make no friends?
What if I end up hating my new city?
What if there isn’t anything fun to do?
What if I get homesick?
What if I need help?
Each of these “what if” questions—and many others—managed to answer themselves throughout my time in Hawai’i, some boldly and blatantly, while others presented their answers subtly. Each case helped me to better understand and enjoy my time in Hawai’i through CIS Abroad.
Here are the top 6 questions that answered themselves throughout my time in study away.
1. “What if I Get Lost?”
I did get lost (more than once). Even though it was stressful in the moment, I still made it to the places I was trying to go, and back to my dorm room each night. I learned more about public transportation during my time here than I would have ever learned in my hometown. I also learned about myself in a capacity I have never noticed before. Even when I was stressed and scared, I was able to keep calm and solve the problem without getting myself too distraught to focus. Being put into these situations, I became a better problem solver.
Prior to coming to Honolulu, even minor inconveniences would seem to turn my world upside down. Being even five minutes late to an event would throw off my whole day. A slip in my schedule would appear to cause a domino effect until everything was back on schedule. It would be impractical for me to believe that everything would go perfectly during my study away experience, but I definitely was not expecting the inconveniences that did pop up to become such a key part of my development as a traveler and a student. My ability to “roll with the punches” has allowed me to make the most of every experience, even experiences that aren’t going as planned.
2. “What If I Make No Friends?”
This question ended up being a worry for no reason. I think even before getting on my plane I knew this was an unreasonable fear, but it was still in the back of my mind. The CIS Abroad group and Hawai’i Pacific University’s orientation make it nearly impossible to be lonely when spending your time in study away. There are excursions to go on, group bonding activities through CIS Abroad, and TONS of ways to be involved. I was able to join activities on campus, make friends, and get involved in the community of Honolulu.
It’s definitely scary to move halfway around the world by yourself, especially if you haven’t traveled much before.
However, it’s also important to remember that all of the people around you are doing the same thing—studying away. People tend to bond over shared significant events. Spending time in a foreign city for a semester is definitely an experience you will be able to share with others.
3. “What If I End Up Hating My New City?”
To be honest, I thought I would leave Honolulu never wanting to come back. I have always been a creature of habit, and have stuck to the age-old adage, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” Before boarding my flight, I expected I would find a schedule to keep, repeat it for the whole semester, and make it to the other side both unharmed and unimpressed. As the semester draws to an end and I start planning my trip back to my hometown, I am unharmed, but incredibly impressed. As cliché as it sounds, I have fallen in love with the city of Honolulu. While looking for flights back home, I find myself looking to book my flight back to the islands just as quickly. Assuming that Honolulu would be just another city is an assumption I wish I hadn’t made initially, but I am so thankful that it proved itself wrong.
4. “What If There Isn’t Anything Fun To Do?”
The fear of being bored was very real for me. Going through all the steps to study away made me seriously consider if coming to college in Hawai’i was actually going to be any different than my experience at my home college, and if all of the work would actually be worth it. The fear of wasting my experience away from home helped keep me from letting that happen. For starters, CIS Abroad plans exciting and enriching excursions, making it impossible to spend the entire semester doing the same things you do at home.
There are also so many things to do on the islands that I was able to explore and enjoy.
Simply googling “best (free) things to do in Hawai’i” gave me some great afternoon and weekend adventures to go on. All these events helped me feel as though I was taking full advantage of my time away from my hometown and college, without spending my entire budget.
5. “What If I Get Homesick?”
Initially, I was not worried at all about being homesick. I had successfully lived at my college away from my hometown for five semesters and had never felt like I missed my family or any aspect of my home. Coming to Hawai’i, I realized how real homesickness was. Once things began to become routine and the novelty of the island lifestyle started to wear off, there wasn’t much I wanted to do more than to see my friends, pet my dogs, and sleep in my own bed. Watching life continue in my hometown while I was so far away was a complicated feeling to process. I was still happy to be in Honolulu, but I was also sad to be away from the things happening at home.
I found that calling and talking to my family (despite the time difference) really helped me to realize that even though I was far away, there were people on the other side of the world cheering me on. While I am still looking forward to my own bed and seeing my family, the homesick feeling I had at the midway point has melted into disbelief that my semester is almost over.
6. “What If I Need Help?”
Thankfully, nothing went seriously wrong in my time in Hawai’i. Nothing major happened that made me have to reach out for help from anyone. Even so, after being in Hawai’i for a few hours, I was already given the answer to my scariest “what if” question. After we had all settled into our rooms and met our roommates, we met as a large group with our site coordinator. She gave us not only the basic information about the area we were in, but also her own phone number and the number of a former CIS Abroad participant that decided to move to Honolulu full time.
While I never had an emergency to utilize the numbers, it was proven over and over again throughout the semester that we had a great support system on the island.
Group dinners and outings always ended with a reminder that our site coordinator was always just a phone call away, and that she could (and would) help us with anything we needed, no matter if it was during daytime or at night. Even when we did not need help, the site coordinator would always reach out to ensure that we weren’t just too shy to ask. This immediate answer to arguably the most important question on my list made my entire semester away much less stressful than it would have been without the knowledge that there was someone on the island not only looking out for me, but helping whenever I needed as well.
My studying away has been one of the most incredible experiences I have had the opportunity to enjoy. I have grown as a person in ways that I’m not sure I have fully realized yet, and I will continue to use the experience as a way to reflect on the way I make choices, and the fears I have before tackling new adventures in the future. I am so thankful to CIS Abroad for giving me the opportunity and ability to participate in such a life-changing semester, and I can’t wait to see how it will continue to change my life even after I return to my hometown and college.
Interested in going to Hawai’i?