University: Hawaii Pacific University
Country: United States
Continent: North America
Field of study: Ethnology, English / American Studies
Study type: semester abroad
‘Ime ‘ike – to seek knowledge – was my goal when I set out into the distance. I wanted to experience new things up close and find knowledge, knowledge about myself, my field of study, overall contexts. What I hadn’t expected to be so strong was that a semester abroad would change – you, your own level of knowledge, your own and others’ perceptions, your view of the world. Check andyeducation.com to see Saint Marys University study abroad opportunities.
In any case, it is advisable to start preparing for the semester abroad in the USA one year before the planned start. When choosing the university, make sure that – if desired – the courses in Germany can be credited. There is also time to obtain the visa with a personal visit either to the American Embassy in Berlin or one of the American Consulates General, various other documents, a credit card, vaccinations, flight booking and, if applicable, the application for a scholarship abroad. You should take a leave of absence from your home university and not just worry about them Think about accommodation in the distance, but possibly find a subtenant for the German apartment.
The sooner you arrive, the more time you have to get used to your new surroundings and to find affordable accommodation in a suitable location before the start of the semester. I have already researched in Germany on craigslist.com and the homepage of the HPU and contacted them by phone. On site I then looked at the rooms temporarily living in the Plumeria Hostel. The Kalihi district is not recommended as it is not only shabby but also dangerous! I found a great room on the 29th floor at the Kukui Plaza downtown for $650. In the huge in-house park you could not only go jogging, but also go swimming in the dreamlike pool every day. It was important to me to live close to the university so that I didn’t lose any time commuting. Other international students prefer Waikiki for its proximity to the sea.
- Studying at the HPU
One difference to the German university system is that you have to spend a lot of money on books in the USA. Since there is no reader, you have to purchase the works in order to be able to follow what is happening in a meaningful way and to be able to pass the exams. However, there is the option to borrow the books from the HPU Bookstore until the end of the semester. I paid about $500 for it. I found working with the books, the various reviews, summaries and discussions about them particularly instructive, because you deal intensively with the thoughts of renowned researchers and are encouraged to think critically.
I had three history courses ( Living History of Hawai’i with Prof. Askman, US History from the Second World War to the Present with Prof. Davidann and US Military History with Prof. Price) and two anthropology courses ( Culture, Religion, and the Environment with Prof. Hasager and Medical Anthropology with Prof. Borofsky), each attended by about 20 students. History courses were held in the MP Building downtown, anthropology courses on the Loa campus. There is a free HPU shuttle busevery fifteen minutes to the Loa campus, where you can enjoy the densely overgrown mountains and the view of the sea during the approximately 20-minute drive. The course takes place either three times a week for 55 minutes each or once for 165 minutes.
The lecturers knew how to make the courses lively, interactive and varied and were always very helpful. The requirements per course seem enormous by German standards: one mid-term exam, one final exam, one presentation, two term papers (approx. eight pages) and book reviews to be submitted weekly must be expected per course. Added to this are a few hours of service learning designed to cultivate social responsibility and community engagement while at the same time gaining knowledge. For example, I worked at the ‘Iolani Palace and was involved in the environmental protection project Malama I Na Ahupua’aWith. To compensate for this workload, the level of difficulty will be reduced. In addition, you will receive possible essay questions in advance for preparation and you can take small notes with you into the exam. The American can-do attitude, optimism and confidence also turned out to be particularly performance-enhancing.
- People of O’ahu
“Basically, it’s always the connections with people that give life its value.” (Wilhelm von Humboldt)
For this reason I would like to begin this chapter with a brief description of the people of O’ahu. I would like to point out, however, that this is by no means intended as a reductive generalization. Every human being is individual and this short, crude treatise will never do justice to the diversity of reality. Nevertheless, I would like to point out special features and characteristics that caught my eye. Of course, my observation is shaped and shaped by my European and German horizon of experience. But it can help to adjust mentally to the new environment.
Typical for Hawai’i is a colorful mix of different cultures, one of my main reasons why I wanted to study there. Nowhere else can you find such a diversity of residents. What I didn’t expect is the majority of Asians. A particularly large number of Japanese, but also Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipinos, etc. characterize the cityscape, the cuisine and the way of life. Near the center is Chinatown, with stalls selling exotic fruits, but also bloody and smelly fish and freshly slaughtered pigs. For European hygienic conditions, Chinatown takes a lot of getting used to.
Another “group” form Polynesians. However, these are in the minority and mostly suffer from marginalization. Despite being the original inhabitants of Hawaii, Polynesians tend to be the people with the highest unemployment rates, lowest wages, highest obesity rates and lowest educational attainment. One reason that must be mentioned is the alienation from nature that has been driven forward by Europeanization and Americanization. Hawaiians have always been at one with nature.In the earlier Kapu belief system, people believed in gods who are at home in nature (e.g. Pele, the goddess of the volcano), offered flower necklaces and fruits as sacrifices on stone altars and combined natural beauty with the wisdom of the ancestors in the hula. The land was sustainably and environmentally divided into Ahupua’a, triangular sections from the volcanic mountains to the ocean, to make the best use of the different vegetation zones with impressive knowledge of plants and animals. Everything was shared, because not the one with the most possessions, but the one who gave the most was respected. With the Western idea of private property and property accumulation, there was no longer any room for the original form of solidarity.
There are also, of course, white Americans (of course, both of the aforementioned groups are also Americans, but I’ll draw an artificial line here for the sake of clarity) and European and Australian tourists, the latter of whom in particular are very nice and open-minded.
These different components result in a special way of life that is neither decidedly mainland-American nor solely Asian, European or Australian. Exactly this mixture creates the flair and cosmopolitanism of Hawaii. The people are very, very friendly and helpful. For example, if you ask for directions on the street, you pull out your iPhone and search for the information you want. Supermarkets have staff who pack the products in plastic bags. In stores, salespeople are very attentive.
In addition, the atmosphere in Hawai’i is extremely hospitable and relaxed. People are in a good mood and never really in a hurry. The relaxed attitude is also reflected in the casual clothing. Simple trousers and T-shirts with prints, flip-flops and, for men, a baseball cap and sunglasses casually lying on the back of the neck form the typical appearance of young people on O’ahu. Even at university, Americans don’t dress any differently.
American small talk is also typical. Strangers in the lift ask you about your nice scarf or great shoes, for example, and it is generally very easy to strike up a conversation, but it usually doesn’t get deep. Everyone asks you “How are you?” without actually being interested in the other person’s condition. However, I would not criticize this as superficial, which is often done, but rather as a culture-specific form of politeness, contact and greeting. It is best to ask the counter-question “How are you?”. As soon as you say you are from Germany, the other person always emphasizes how great that is. For other countries, the reaction is the same. Americans like to say who had any contact with the respective country and when or which German ancestors they had, for example. Unfortunately, sometimes the first reaction was to point to Germany’s National Socialist past. Incidentally, the end of small talk often seems very abrupt.
Nevertheless, due to the open nature of the Americans, you quickly get to know new people. Even strangers invited me to their home during a service for the subsequent Thanksgiving dinner! One of my wonderful professors and his family also gave me an incredibly warm welcome home for Thanksgiving. I was allowed to celebrate Christmas with the family of a nice fellow student. After a hike, another hiker just drove me home to Honolulu and showed me the staff-only parts of Pearl Harbor beforehand! So I’ve found Americans to be very helpful, an advantage that I gratefully accepted as a foreign student.
By German standards, Americans tend to exaggerate and nothing is ever criticized sharply or directly, that would be unfriendly, but the positive sides are always strongly emphasized. A lot is “awesome”. Overall, I like this optimistic and life-affirming attitude.
Another aspect is the penchant for interesting combinations and colourfulness. For example, I was able to experience a colorful Hawaiian-American Christmas. I found the palm trees decorated with fairy lights particularly beautiful. There was also an Electric City Lights Christmas parade with floats rocked by bands wearing Santa hats. Artificial Christmas trees decorated with paper fish, Japanese cartoon characters and flashing lights are set up annually in City Hall. Outside are brightly lit figures such as a giant white plastic snowman. On Christmas Eve, Santa Claus comes with a long beard and swimming trunks to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. The Christian aspect of Jesus’ birth combined with rest, reflection and modesty simply does not seem to exist. There are also no Christmas markets. When it comes to family, however, Americans are very conservative. Many of my fellow students are already married.
The diversity of cultures just mentioned is also reflected in the kitchen.In the Fort Street Mall, the pedestrian zone in front of the downtown campus, Asian restaurants in particular are lined up next to each other. Basically you can eat delicious, cheap and outdoors there, but some dishes are very fatty. We especially recommend fresh fruit smoothies made from exotic fruit, the refreshing acai bowl and garlic scampi with rice. Incidentally, a glass of water is served free of charge everywhere in the restaurants, but in my opinion it doesn’t taste good at all. Overall, you should be prepared for a lot of rice and white bread. 7/11 has canned rice, pre-packaged sandwiches and salads. If someone likes fast food, one can go to McDonald’s, Burger King and Subway. There is also a Starbucks near the university. I particularly liked the fact that there was take-away food everywhere, so that you could sit somewhere on the grass under a palm tree and have a picnic. In my opinion, however, the quality of the food is higher in Germany and the general hygienic conditions are better.
There is a Catholic church right in the Fort Street Mall, and there is also a Catholic church on Waikiki Beach near the memorial house for the missionaries Father Damien and Mother Marianne, who worked on Moloka’i among lepers. Furthermore, you will find a variety of free Christian churches – Methodists, Baptists, etc. – but also Buddhist temples. Due to the diversity of the residents, the religious life is also colorfully mixed.
- The unexpected
One would assume that there is not much to say about the weather in Hawaii. However, this is not the case, because in my opinion there are also differences between summer and winter in Hawai’i, although not as serious as at home in Germany. When I arrived in August, the temperature was around 30 degrees and it was always sunny. In October and November it was autumn in the Hawaiian sense: it was often windy and rained more often, albeit for a short time and in the form of very fine droplets. In December the temperature was only about 20 degrees at night, so you should definitely pack a light jacket. It was also often cloudy. At least once a week you could admire a magnificent rainbow.
Of course, when you go to a foreign country, you are open and receptive to everything new. With respect, friendliness and interest you will quickly find your way around. It is normal that sometimes unfamiliar things “nerve” you. You actually go through the following phases: At first you find everything exciting and great and can’t experience enough. After that, a little disillusionment sets in and everyday life catches up with you. However, this is soon accepted and initially it is difficult to reintegrate into the social structure at home. However, many suffer from island fever after a certain time, so they want to leave the islands despite their beauty.
What else you should be prepared for: The hygienic standard in apartments and restaurants is higher in Germany. And even though Hawai’i claims to have the best bus system in the USA, you need good nerves for it. There is no timetable at the stops and the map on the internet serves as a very, very rough guide. Sometimes you wait half an hour, sometimes just five minutes for the bus, which is filled with strange characters. There are no buses after midnight. If you ride the bus often, you can buy a monthly pass for $60 in 7/11. A single ride costs $2.50, which you have to pay exactly as there is no change.
When shopping in the huge Safeway supermarket and the drugstore Long’s Drugs, but also in the classrooms, the air conditioning is running at full speed (risk of catching a cold). In the supermarkets, the selection of frozen ready meals is impressive – in a positive or negative sense, depending on your point of view. The sales volumes are generally larger than in Germany. At the checkout, it is common for another person to pack the products in tons of plastic bags next to the cashier.
What particularly shocked me is the endless number of homeless people in Honolulu. You can find them lying on boxes in almost every street.
- Free time
Recreational opportunities on O’ahu revolve primarily around outdoor activities, sports and nature. Various white beaches on the azure water and exciting hiking trails through densely overgrown jungle past waterfalls on green volcanic mountains want to be discovered, surfboards and kayaks tried out. Other attractions include the snorkeling paradise of Hanauma Bay, fascinating botanical gardens, the Dole Plantation (pineapples), the Kualoa Ranch (location of famous films and starting point for jungle tours by jeep), Pearl Harbor, the Bishop Museum and the Polynesian Culture Center. The latter inform about the Polynesian culture of the Hawaiians. Its important pillars are ‘Aina, the country and the people’s connection to it, ‘Ohana, the extended family, and the commandment to share, as well as Aloha, love.Not only feeling the Aloha spirit, but also passing it on is the successful concept of Hawaiian charm.
For night owls, there are cinemas, beach walks, The M club and Moose McGillycuddy’s bar. However, nightclubs close at 2 a.m., people under the age of 21 are rarely admitted and alcohol is only available in supermarkets on presentation of ID.
- New York
I spent a few days in New York City to get to know another facet of the USA. The contrast between the hectic, consumer-oriented and materialistic city and the Hawaiian jungle, beach and reggae couldn’t have been greater.
My vacation on O’ahu was the best time of my life so far. I can now say: I experienced paradise and now I know what happiness really is. No matter where I will be in the future, this experience always guarantees me strength, optimism and perseverance and the sun of Hawaii will never set in my heart. I was looking for knowledge and found myself.
I would like to take this opportunity to say a very, very big thank you to the MicroEdu team, who made a decisive contribution to making this dream come true thanks to their professional, extremely friendly and reliable advice. Mahalo!!!
I am happy to offer my help to anyone who is interested. I am always available for more information and networking. I wrote a very detailed report of 37 pages to provide more informed insights. If you are interested, just ask MicroEdu for my email address – I look forward to it.