Every day of my semester abroad in Hawai’i began with an “Aloha!”
Even as a high school graduate I dreamed, like many other pupils and students, of eventually studying for a semester in Hawai’i as part of a degree. Before it came to that, however, I had often asked myself whether you can really live in paradise and study at the same time ?! After exploring and preparing for the semester abroad, nothing stood in the way of me. Today, when I review my time in Hawai’i, I can say with full joy that a dream has come true! At this point I would like to express my thanks for the financial support and the DAAD scholarship that gave me this valuable opportunity.
In this experience report I would like to take you on a journey full of experiences and memories that I will take in the period from 08/21/2014 to 01/20/2015… and step by step.
- Preparation / planning
The first question that family, friends and acquaintances asked me about my planned semester abroad was always:
“Why actually in Hawai’i?”
Well, there were several reasons for this: First of all, it should be mentioned that I am attending an international course (International Industrial Engineering – Industrial and Business Systems) in Germany at the Emden / Leer University of Applied Sciences. Since the semester abroad is a compulsory part of this course, it was clear from the start that I would have to or would do a semester abroad. Although the semester abroad of this degree program is planned for the fourth or fifth semester, right at the beginning of my studies I thought about where I was going and whether I could make a semester in Hawai’i possible. Several factors played a decisive role in this. Above all, it was important to me to get to know people from different cultural, religious, ethnic and social backgrounds. I knew from Hawai’i Pacific University (HPU) that it attracts a large number of international students from all over the world and that the courses take place in very small groups. This enabled me to quickly come into contact with the students at the university and make connections. This aspect was of great importance to me because I am an open person and like to communicate with people. Another big reason I chose the HPU was the location. I wanted to get to know the nature and culture in Hawai’i, to be more precise, I just wanted to study in paradise! Sun, beaches, surfing and hiking in the mountains should be part of my everyday life beyond studying. Get more student review on Hawaii Pacific University on maternityetchic.
Of course, there were still a few questions to be clarified in advance of the final decision-making, such as: Is the HPU a partner university? Which courses can I take and how are they converted ? Are the courses compatible? What kind of financing options are there? Etc..
Since the HPU is not a partner university of the University of Applied Sciences Emden / Leer, I had to organize and plan the trip as a “free mover”, that is, independently and independently of cooperation agreements with my own university. Thanks to an information event organized by the International Office, I found out that there are advisory services (intermediaries) on the Internet. In my case, I applied to the HPU with the support of one of these intermediaries, called MicroEDU. It should be mentioned that these advice centers can be used free of charge. At this point, too, a big thank you to the MicroEDU!
Before I decided to spend a semester in Hawai’i and went to the semester abroad, I got intensive and thorough information and information about the prices on site in order to find out whether I could even raise the financial resources. Especially on an island like Hawaii is living extremely expensive: Very high tuition, high rents, high prices of food and very expensive activities for which I was interested and I wanted to also exercise on site. I quickly realized that in addition to BAföG abroad, I might also be looking for a scholarship would be dependent. In the end, I successfully applied for BAföG abroad and the DAAD PROMOS scholarship.
Financial security is extremely important because the US Department of Homeland Security requires all people who want to study in the US to submit proof of sufficient financial means to study and live in the US in advance. I had this so-called confirmation statement issued to me by my bank.
Usually in the USA you also have to present a language certificate, for example you have to take a TOEFL test. In my case, a letter of recommendation from one of my lecturers at my home university was sufficient for the HPU, stating sufficient English language skills for studying in the USA.
In addition, I had to send the host university a transcript or an overview of my achievements in order to give them an overview of my current status of studies.
The HPU also asked for proof that I had been vaccinated or immune to measles, mumps and rubella. I had my family doctor confirm this in a letter in English.
In addition, it is important to have good coverage with a foreign health insurance. In the USA, costs are already due for a visit to the doctor (for a general examination). The costs are around $ 100 – $ 300, so they are relatively high.
In order to be allowed to enter the states, you need a visa. Of course, that means that you also have to have a passport. However, I had to wait for the host university to accept. With the acceptance I was sent an I-20 form, which is used to confirm the student traffic jams and to go to the US embassies with it.
Before I looked for apartments on the Internet, I booked a room in a hostel in Germany for ten days in order to look for apartments on site and to visit them.
- Accommodation (on site)
After my arrival in Hawai’i, I first looked for two to four potential roommates in the hostel. Coincidentally, there were two other HPU students with whom I got along well in the same room in the hostel and with whom I then went looking for an apartment together. The easiest way was to look for apartments on websites such as Craigslist or Vacation Rentals and to contact the landlord for an appointment. After about seven days we finally found what we were looking for and moved in together from September until the end of the semester, until mid-December. Since I wanted to stay on Hawai’i for a month and a half after my semester and explore the other islands, I had to look for a new place to stay for the last few weekslook around. I was allowed to spend three weeks with a good friend – whom I had already contacted on Facebook before my trip and with whom I also attended some courses at the HPU – after we had explored the other islands. After three weeks my friend flew back to Denmark and I spent the last three days in a hostel again.
- Studies at the “Hawai’i Pacific University”
In principle, the course at the HPU is structured differently than here in Emden / Leer. It is more similar to the school system in Germany. The final grade of a course is not decided by a single exam. Instead, the grade consisted of several achievements: attendance, homework, presentations, quizzes and exams. Attendance makes up approx. 20% – 70% (weighting varies from course to course) of the overall grade. That is why it was very important to me personally to attend every lecture. So you always had to stay on the ball and always do something for the university. Since I had exhausted the maximum number of courses for one semester ( 5 courses ), I had at least one lecture every day from Monday to Friday. From Monday to Wednesday I even had to stay at the university until 8 p.m. I also had to prepare at least one presentation every two weeks. In one of our courses, we students even had to prepare and hold one to three lectures per semester. This of course included the meeting of all group members, the preparation of a Power Point presentation PPP and an elaboration of the lecture. In some courses, a quiz on a chapter of a book that we covered in the last lecture was carried out every or every other week. There were also exams, the so-called midterms, which were written in the middle of the semester, and final exams, which, as the name suggests, were written at the end of the semester or on the last days of the semester. As a rule, the midterms and the final exams had almost the same weighting (each 20% of the overall grade). Although studying in the USA is very time-consuming and stressful, i.e. the workload is very high, However, the level is not as high as expected in Germany. The tasks were – for the most part – easy to do. As already mentioned, however, I had to invest a lot of time in preparing for lectures, as the tasks had to be answered very extensively.
- Everyday life and leisure
Before the semester began, I flew to the Big Island for five days with four other students, on the largest island in Hawai’i. Together we rented a car and a beach house. With the Lonely Planet we found out about the most beautiful and worth seeing corners. Since our time was limited, we tried to take as much as possible with us in the shortest possible time. So we looked for the most beautiful beaches and landscapes to hike. The highlight of this island was the volcano and the hike around the extraordinary volcanic mountains. Right at the beach house you could snorkel in unforgettable crystal clear water. The best snorkeling spot I’ve seen in all of Hawai’i. After five days we flew back to Honolulu, where my everyday life mainly consisted of studying. But I was lucky that the first lecture didn’t start until 1 p.m. So I had the whole morning for any activities. Since Hawai’i has a lot of paradisiacal palm-tree beaches, we drove to different beaches in the morning. Depending on which activity – surfing, snorkeling, boogie boarding, swimming or just relaxing – was on the agenda. In addition,Hawai’i offers a variety of options for the most beautiful mountain hikes. One hike was nicer than the other, because at the end of the hike you usually have a breathtaking view of the island, the mountains and the ocean or you come to a wonderful waterfall. However, we were mostly more active on weekends. Although we had a semester ticket with which we could go anywhere, we often rented a car from Thursday to Monday at a special price, because we would have been traveling by bus at least twice as long. In addition, five of you could rent a car for five days, including insurance, for only $ 35 per person: a bargain! This gave us more time to explore the islands and we were able to camp on certain beaches every now and then. The nightlife, on the other hand, is a little different than in Germany. What many do not know before they fly in the USA is that you are only allowed to visit the clubs from the age of 21. The consumption of alcohol in public is also forbidden and most clubs close at two in the morning. So you go to the clubs earlier to dance and come back home earlier. Every Tuesday, most of the students went to Moose McGillycuddy’s, which has drinks for just $ 1. Beer, mixed drinks and shorts are available from $ 1, otherwise the drinks in most clubs are relatively expensive.
After the semester, I had five weeks of free time. Immediately during the semester break we flew with six men to Kauai, to the so-called garden island with one of the world’s most beautiful bathing opportunities in the Queen’s Bath. For six days we explored the most beautiful views, waterfalls, mountains and hikes. This island offers unique paradisiacal bathing beaches, incredible landscapes and natural wonders. More nature is not possible. Afterwards I flew to Maui with my Danish roommate. Six days were planned on Maui Since we liked this island so much, we rebooked our flights and stayed on Maui for another four days. For me, Maui has the most beautiful beaches. This island is more suitable for young people. I found the people on this island to be particularly friendly and open. Highlights of this island are the so-called Road to Hana with the most beautiful waterfalls and hikes, and the Haleakala National Park, which was at an altitude of 10,023 feet (3,055 meters). The temperature changes from 40 degrees Celsius to 7 degrees Celsius. The sunrise and sunset were indescribably beautiful at 3,055 meters above sea level. After ten unforgettable days on Maui, we flew back to Oahu or Honolulu to celebrate the New Year in the capital. On New Year’s Eve, the clubs charge a relatively expensive entry fee of at least $ 80, which may include a welcome drink. I was with a large group of fellow students at Fort DeRussy Beach, where you could watch a great fireworks display. Then we spent the night in a club. For the past two to three weeks I’ve been to the beach every day, snorkeling, surfing, and swimming. That made my vacation perfect. J
My goal with the semester abroad was not only to improve my English skills, but also to get to know another country and another culture. Looking back, I can say that Hawai’i was the best experience of my life!
Studying in Honolulu was an unforgettable experience that shaped me. I was able to improve my language skills and fluency, promote my intercultural communication and gain further qualifications. Since the HPU attracts a lot of international students from all over the world, I not only got to know the typical Hawaiian culture, but also people from all over the world, which in turn means that I was able to get to know the culture of other nations. You learn to understand and respect the customs of other nations.
The people of Hawai’i are generally very friendly and open. It was nice to go out every day and greet people with a friendly “Aloha”. Life in Hawai’i is very relaxed and serene.
Studying at an international university abroad has helped me become more independent and the island has forced me to find a balance between studying and free time due to the paradisiacal environment, i.e. to better structure my day and set priorities. The diversity of the different islands, the weather, the mountains, the beaches, the sunrises and sunsets, etc.. Everything was fantastic. This time in Hawai’i will remain unforgettable for me and it is difficult for me to describe the beautiful memories in pictures or in words. That’s why I would recommend to every other student to do at least one or two semesters abroad, preferably in Hawai’i.