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 Hawaii.
Hawaii 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 Hawaii. 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 didnt know rather than what I did. Because
I was not from California, I didnt 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, Hawaii
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 Carls 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 Hawaii, 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 Hawaii
still trudged on without me there. I was not quite a Californian,
and in some ways, not quite a Hawaiian anymore.