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Fitting in: Going away to college
by Kristine Miyamura, staff writer

During the first day of “Welcome Week” at the University of California at Irvine, a week where incoming freshman are encouraged to attend the activities put on by the student government, I roamed aimlessly through what seemed like a never-ending crowd of nameless faces passing out political, fraternal, and club pamphlets. I wanted out of this crowd as fast as I could get out.I returned to what would substitute as my “home”: my dorm suite – six rooms and a bath I shared with a dozen girls. They were all from California and all different ethnicities, religions, and races.

hey were amazed at the fact that I was from Hawai‘i.

Hawai‘i residents traveling outside of the state often find themselves adapting to a new geography, new climate, and, most of all, new attitudes. Unlike tourists, we do not tolerate the differences we experience, but adapt to them. Hopefully, students new to HPU will find the transition easier and, perhaps, details of my experience will help.

My suite mates, friends, and classmates all seemed curious about life in Hawai‘i. Their questions always seemed odd to me, and sometimes funny. The most common of their questions are: “Is the weather nice?” (Usually.) “Is everyone as friendly and nice as you are?” (Of course.) “Do you guys always have luaus and eat poi?” (Occasionally.) “Do you surf?” (No.) “Are you Hawaiian?” (Yes.) “Do you dance the hula?” (No.) “Why would you want to come to college in California when you could go to college in paradise?” (To experience something new.) “Are all the girls/guys all tanned and good looking?” (Definitely.) More negatively, I have gotten remarks about my use of pidgin English; a few rude students commented that I sounded dumb and/or slow.

As someone new to the mainland, I was regularly compartmentalized by what I didn’t know rather than what I did. Because I was not from California, I didn’t know the freeway system, the distinct four seasons, and the fast food places that everyone else knows because they grew up there. I was thrust into a new place with no family, no support from friends, and only a vague idea of how to “survive.” Yet, as Morgan Cross, a Kamehameha Schools graduate who attends Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, Calif. says, “Hawai‘i is an excuse for everything.” What I did not know was excusable because I was the “island girl.” As much as this has saved me from embarrassment many times, it has nonetheless flagged me as nonlocal.

I began dressing in less colorful clothes and opted for more bland and neutral colors. I learned which combo numbers were the best at Del Taco and Carl’s Jr. and began ordering by the numbers with the rest of them. I lost my pidgin slang and began to speak in “haole” rhythms. Most of all, I began enjoying life in Southern California and feeling sad when the school year came to a close.

This summer, I came back to Hawai‘i, as I did when I went to UCI three years ago, a different person. I learned I could adapt to California life and that life in Hawai‘i still trudged on without me there. I was not quite a Californian, and in some ways, not quite a Hawaiian anymore.


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