Small Town, Big Dreams
Growing up in a small rural town, I never imagined getting the opportunity to leave my small town to study away in Hawai’i or anywhere else. In fact, I never pictured myself leaving my home state for an extended period of time, much less packing up my entire life and living on an island in the Pacific for five months.
As I type this from the beauty of the Hawai’ian Islands, I am so thankful that I managed to out-do my own imagination and take on an adventure my younger self would have never believed to be possible. Growing up in a town as small as mine (just 300 people) has made my study abroad experience not only an even bigger change than it would have been if I’d come from a major city, but has also made even minor pieces of my day something to talk about and celebrate.
One of my biggest fears coming to a city as big as Honolulu was navigating public transportation. Until moving here, I had no experience with public transportation. I had never had to read a timetable before, and when I wanted to go somewhere, I simply got into my own car and went. I took my first “taxi” after missing CISabroad’s airport pickup shuttle, and successfully made it to my housing accommodation. I won’t lie: I was proud of myself for that.
The next week, however, was a humbling one. Our first bus trip was guided by our site director, but after that initial trip, we were left to our own devices in downtown Honolulu. As a group, we were able to navigate back to our housing without any issues.
My first solo bus trip did not go as well. In fact, on my first day of classes at my new school, I was 5 minutes late. Thankfully, the concept of “island time” is real, and there isn’t a rigid expectation to be on time to things like the one that exists on the mainland.
While I can’t say I have perfected navigating the bus system (honestly, I’ve accepted that I probably won’t), I have definitely come a long way. I do still make mistakes, but what better place to be lost than Honolulu, Hawai’i?!
A Bustling Metropolis
Aside from public transportation, there are undoubtedly other major differences between my small town and a city with 1,000 times its population. There are obvious differences, like the amount of traffic present in the city, or the sheer number of people present at any given time.
There are other differences, however, that I had not considered before arriving in Honolulu. One of the biggest (and admittedly best) differences is how close things are to my housing.
A 20-minute bus ride can take you to nearly anything. Shopping centers, hiking trails, tourist attractions, festivals, the beach, and anything else a person could possibly want or need is all a quick walk or bus ride away. This is a far cry from the hour-long car rides at home just to get to the first major city nearby. This convenience is a blessing and a curse: on one hand, anything I could ever want is right outside my door, but on the other, I do have a budget to stick to while I am here.
A new experience every day
With each new day here, I experience something that I never have in the 21 years spent in my hometown. So far, this experience has helped me to realize my own strength, and my ability to adapt to new surroundings without the help and comfort of home. Going from cows and cornfields, to cabs and corner stores was not a transition made without a few bumps and mistakes. However, using each as a learning opportunity has led me to places I never expected to end up (and sometimes places I never meant to end up). In each case, I know this—study away in Hawai’i is exactly where I’m supposed to be.