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Maren at HPU: Sometimes I ask myself if this is this even real

Maren With Friends On A Boat

Maren discovered her dream life in Hawaii

Picture this: It's summer 2021 and you're about to start your master's degree. The cold months are approaching fast, so what are you going to do? You board the plane to Hawaii and take your master's degree in the perfect tropical surroundings of course. Well, that's what Maren chose at least and she has not regretted it ever since. Here's her story from Hawaii Pacific University!

Why Hawaii in the first place?

The answer seems obvious since Hawaii is exotic, warm and famous for it's chill lifestyle. Those were also part of Maren's "must have criteria" for her next study destination when she decided to apply for her master's degree at HPU where she studies Organizational Development & Change. 

"I was actually supposed to go to Australia, but since it closed down, I decided to go to Hawaii in the pursuit of something warm and tropical where I could experience something completely different. I read about studying in Hawaii on KILROY’s website, and now I am here and it’s really cool!", she says and follows up:

"I think I’ve always felt that while I am young and studying I don’t want to just stay in Norway. I want to do something fun, do something different and experience something new. So in High School I lived for one year in England and on my Bachelor I did one year in Spain, and then now I thought that I wanted to do something further away and more exotic than Europe. But basically I just love to travel and live other places and experience other cultures and new languages and Hawaii is perfect for that since it’s very multicultural."

Did you go all by yourself?

"Yeah, I went all by myself, so I didn’t know anyone when I was coming here. That was actually a crazy experience, going from not knowing anyone to now where we are maybe 60-70 Scandinavians hanging out all the time. There’s a lot of foreign students here."

I’ve rented an apartment with 2 other Norwegians and I think we’re probably just a 5 min walk from Waikiki Beach so it’s very central. But I think we were very lucky because it’s very expensive in Hawaii and most people pay like 1000 USD to share a room but I pay 1000 USD to have my own room."

Did you decide on an apartment before you arrived?

"Actually no, because I thought it was a bit difficult to organize beforehand, there’s a lot of scams and weird things on Craigslist, and I didn’t really want to pay anything in advance before I was able to see it. So none of the people that I know here found anything beforehand, so it was just when we got here. I stayed at a hostel for the first couple of days, just to land properly and figure things out."

What kind of expectations did you build up before arriving in Hawaii and have they been met?

"When you go abroad, you never really know what to expect, because it’s not just a vacation, it’s actually going to be your home, so naturally you have a lot of expectations but also a lot of thoughts like “Will I get a lot of friends”, “Am I going to get a nice place to live” but I would say, that based on my travel experience it always sort of works out in the end, but Hawaii was a little different since it’s so far away and I don’t even know anyone who has been here before – so I didn’t really know what to expect but so far it has definitely exceeded all expectations that I have had.

First of all I’ve met so many nice people already, but also just the nature and the scenery is probably the craziest I have ever seen. It’s insane. And I say that even though I am from Norway. Here it’s all green and all about mountains, and you can go hiking and go to tide pools and waterfalls and it’s an insane life. Sometimes I ask myself, is this even real?"

"Here it’s all green and all about mountains, and you can go hiking and go to tide pools and waterfalls and it’s an insane life. Sometimes I ask myself, is this even real?"

Maren, studying at HPU

How was the first weeks at HPU, and how did they make you feel welcome?

"The first week was introductory week and more about Corona than socializing, so we had to start with getting tested, show proof of vaccination etc. just to get registered.

There’s way more students on bachelor level than master’s students, so I feel they did a bit more for them in the beginning where they were split into groups and did a lot of social activities, whereas we didn’t do much of that. Basically, we just had an introduction day but it was more about the school and those things.

I am now working on the school as a graduate assistant and one of the first things I suggested was that we also did more social stuff for master’s students. One of the reasons could be that many master’s students in the US take the degree besides work and they are a bit older, so it’s perhaps not that interesting for the students to take out days to socialize in teambuilding events."

How is the daily life in Hawaii?

"I have 3 courses each semester, so I am attending school Monday, Tuesday and Friday for about 3 hours each day. And when I am not in school I just travel around the island, snorkeling with dolphins, going on boat trips and I also hike a lot. It’s a lot of fun and social and to be honest it’s not super hard in school so far, but it’s a good balance.

In general I would say that I spend less time on the academic stuff than back home, because to get an A in Norway you have to study a lot and really put in an effort and exam periods had up to 7 exams and it was just super tough. It’s way more chill here."

What are you doing when you're not studying?

"There’s a lot of different sports clubs at HPU such as football, soccer etc. but I have been playing handball for 13 years and it’s really my thing, but USA is not really great at that and almost no one knows what it is, so I just go to the gym a lot and then I go hiking.

We have also been to 2 of the other islands. We went to see the erupting volcano on Big Island and then we also went to Kawaii, which is a proper Hawaiian island. Even though it’s very green and tropical around Honolulu it still also a big city with skyscrapers and big buildings, where Kawaii is just very authentic and reflects much more what you think Hawaii is going to be."

I have to ask you about surfing. Are you into that?

"Yes. It’s getting better with the surfing but it depends on the waves. When we first got here in August it was really easy waves here at Waikiki Beach, but now it’s winter, and the waves are more on the north shore and it’s where the best surfers in the world meet up, so it can get quite heavy with the waves. So currently I am not surfing that much. I went there for a competition and it’s just so crazy. The waves a 5-6 meters high, and they just ride it like it’s nothing. But when you’re here, you can really tell that surfing is a big part of the culture and the life here. It’s just so chill, and not everyone is on time because we run with “Aloha-time”.

You have been there for half a year now, what would you say have made the biggest impact so far?

"I think just being so far away from home means that I need to fix everything myself, and if there’s any issues or problems, you have to adapt a mindset that says “okay, I’ll work this out myself”. And all the friends and people you meet also plays a big role and is one of the main reasons I wanted to go because you grow a lot personally."

If someone was reading this and it was their first time abroad by themselves, what would be your best advice?

"Be openminded and not be afraid to get yourself out there and meet new people, because everyone who comes here is in the same situation and has the same mindset. Everyone is a bit nervous in the beginning, but I have NEVER met anyone who went to study abroad and didn’t love it. Even though it might not turn out how you expected it to be whether it’s school wise or social wise it’s always a learning experience and something you will remember for the rest of your life. So I would say just do it!"

What is your dream when you’re done studying?

"I did international marketing on my bachelor, which is quite broad and now I am doing a masters in Organizational development & Change which is also broad, so I can use it for a lot of different things. But my dream is probably to work with events, and actually the masters I was supposed to do in Australia was Event Management, but they don’t have many event master degrees other places than in Australia, so I figured that if I went for a Masters’ that quite broad, I can still use it for a lot of different things especially combined with my bachelors degree in marketing."

Are you also dreaming about an adventure like this?

It's hard not to fall in love with the idea of spending a semester or even a full degree in tropical Hawaii! If you are want to know more about this opportunity or just want to know more about studying abroad in general, just hit the orange button below and get in touch!

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