Thinking of going to college in Hawaii?


Jessica Eliot

Surfers in Oahu

Kaiya Shivers, Staff Writer

Living in Hawaii would be a dream. It’s a classic vacation destination and a paradise on earth with the gorgeous ocean, luaus, hikes, sunsets, sunny weather, flowers and acai bowls! When I found out my brother’s best friend was going to college in Honolulu, tanning on the beach while I was stuck in a cold Portland lockdown, I was extremely jealous. I may have even gotten carried away and applied to a Hawaiian university just for fun. But what do we really know about living in Hawaii as a college student? Is the experience really surfing and going to the beach every day? Well I intend to find out the truth so I rounded up some past Wildcat’s to interview them about their college experiences in Oahu, so if you’re planning on applying to some island universities pay attention to these vital tips, secrets and insights! My interviewees included Summer Wille and Jessica Eliot who have both attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa and are from the Wildcat graduating class of 2017 and from our latest class of 2020 there’s Julia Huchler, who attends Hawaii Pacific University, and Ryan McCord, who attends Chaminade University of Honolulu. 

Question #1 “What was the ultimate factor for deciding why you wanted to go to your Hawaiian University?”

Many of these students said that their choice was highly influenced by wanting to move to Hawaii and have a different college experience. As Ryan McCord put it, “I decided to go to CUH so I would be able to play soccer in paradise.” Wille explained, “Participating in the Western Undergraduate Exchange allowed me to save more money and tipped the scales for my schooling in Hawaii.”

Question #2 “What is some advice you wish you had known before going to a Hawaiian college?”

Across the board advice was to “Go with the flow and enjoy your time but also keep yourself accountable”and Huchler added, “I wish I knew how hard it was to not be able to see everyone back home or have the ability to drive back to Wilsonville for holidays or weekends.” Wille acknowledged, “It’s way too easy to get distracted by everything else this wonderful island has to offer and not do school, but it’s important to remember why you came here in the first place. Also, do some reading about the local culture and oppression the native Hawaiian people and other Polynesians and Micronesians have dealt with that has led to you being able to enjoy going to school here.” 

Question #3 “What is your favorite thing about living in Hawaii?”

I wasn’t surprised to find that most of the answers to this question involved the sunny weather and beaches, especially compared to our rainy Oregon weather. Wille boasted, “Definitely the weather, outside adventures and accessibility of playing in nature. I left Oregon because I wanted a change in weather and to live in sunshine all year around.” Eliot expressed, “My favorite thing about living here is surfing every day and being around like minded people.”

Question #4 “What is your favorite place you’ve visited on the island?”

Each student had super cool favorite spots, so If you’re planning a trip to Oahu for spring break I advise you to write these answers down! Huchler and Eliot agreed “anywhere on the North Shore” was amazing and Huchler highlighted the little food carts there, as well as “The town of Haleiwa.” McCord said that Sandy’s Beach is his favorite spot, “Sandy’s is where all my buds and I hang out the most but a close second is the Tantalus lookout.” Wille gushed, “There are too many favorites to pick just one. The whole island is a marvel!”

Question #5 “What is a new skill you’ve learned living in Hawaii?”

In college, everyone learns new things no matter where they end up but moving to an island definitely helps you add a few unique tricks up your sleeve.  Many of these students shared their new-found ability to surf, “I can surf, snorkel, scuba, I’ve picked up some Pidgin and can understand what’s being said around me, I’ve also learned how to ride motorcycles and rock climb,” Wille spilled.

Question #6 “How is quarantine and corona situation on your Hawaiian campus?”

Everyone has been affected in different ways due to the pandemic but it was interesting to learn what was going on in Oahu. As student athletes, Huchler and McCord had similar experiences when starting their freshman year.  At HPU Huchler explained, “We had to arrive 14 days earlier than our original start date for classes and the quarantine was very strict, we had to stay in the dorms at all times besides to grab food at the designated hours. Each morning before going to class you must complete a health questionnaire and get your temperature scanned. Student athletes also get randomly tested every two weeks and classes have been split into half online and half in person.” McCord added, “We have to wear masks and be as careful as possible but none of the rules felt too crazy.” Wille sorrowfully announced, “Campus is shut down and most classes are being offered online.”

Question #7 “What is a new food that you fell in love with while in Hawaii?”

On a happier note, let’s take a look at some new cuisine these students have tried in Hawaii! Most of the students agreed that all of the fresh local produce was to die for, we already know the fruit in Hawaii is the best, and Wille exclaimed, “Poke of course should be a given favorite.” McCord continued, admitting he had become addicted to Boba tea and Eliot chimed in, “Most people who try it hate it, but I really like poi!”

Question #8 “What is your favorite beach or hike you’ve gone to?”

Although some of these spots are too special to share, when asked what her favorite hike was Wille responded, “It’s a secret.” Some of the students have graciously let us in on their favorite beaches and hikes in Oahu. Huchler emphasized that her favorite beach she’s visited is “Waimea Bay in North shore” and her and McCord’s go to hikes were both “Manawilli Falls and Koko Head Trail.” One of McCord’s favorite beaches is Banzai beach and Eliot’s is Makua Beach with her favorite hike being Lanikai Pilbox. At last Wille let us in on her favorite beach, she confided, “I really like Bellows, but for a quick trip Kaimanas is pretty good too, plus the sunsets are spectacular!”

Question #9 “What is some new lingo you’ve picked up from living in Hawaii?”

Lingo has become an important thing to be aware of when moving to a different environment and learning a few common slangs ahead of time could really help you in communicating with the locals. Wille expressed, “There’s so much colloquial speech here it’s hard not to pick up something. I find myself saying ‘choke’ a lot, which ironically means ‘a lot’ or ‘many’.” McCord revealed, “A common goodbye is, shoots,” and Huchler told me that she tends to say Brudah and Auntie a lot more than she ever has. 

Question #10 “What do you miss about home the most when you’re in Hawaii?”

When you move away it’s natural to be homesick, especially if you move to an island in the middle of the ocean with a 6-hour flight between you and your family. I was curious to know what these students missed most when they were feeling homesick. McCord admitted, “I miss the A/C and my friends but there isn’t much to complain about in Hawaii. It’s truly an amazing place and has changed my life.” Wille raved, “The seasons. This is my third ‘autumn’ in Hawaii not seeing the changing colors of Oregon. It’s funny I miss the cold and rain which are the very same reasons I left in the first place!” Huchler mentioned, “I miss seeing familiar faces when I go out,” but Eliot laughed, “The only thing I miss is my family but Hawaii’s my permanent home now and they come to visit plenty!”