Debunking the myths about going to college in Hawaii


Amber Manuel

The beach is so close, yet so far.

By Amber Manuel, Staff Writer

Anyone who lives in the mainland but goes to college in Hawaii can relate to the reactions of amazement and excitement of friends or loved ones when they hear the phrase, “I go to school in Hawaii.”

Hawaii is known around the world as one of the best places to go for vacation. The breath-taking scenery, white sandy beaches, picturesque sunsets make for quite the exotic destination. This is the version of Hawaii that comes to mind rather than a college campus. The Hollywood version of Hawaii, for example, “Baywatch Hawaii,” “Blue Hawaii” and “Lilo and Stitch,” may also come to mind.

Nevertheless, these ideas are inaccurate. Aside from the beautiful scenery and beaches that surround the island and can be seen anywhere, attending college in paradise is different than the idealistic paradise that is commonly assumed.

The first comment that Hawaii college students hear is that “you go to the beach every day.” This is the thought and hope of every new student as well, but then reality quickly hits. Between attending classes, doing homework and working, finding the time to hangout at the beach is difficult. It seems so simple to run down the road and take a quick dip in the ocean before homework. The same can be said for the locals here. With the hustle and bustle of daily life, time for the beach is limited. It is like asking someone who lives in southern California if they go to Disneyland every day; it is far from the daily norm.

In addition, getting to the beach sometimes is quite the trek. For example, to go to the nicer, less crowded beaches on the North Shore while living in town (Honolulu) will take about three hours by bus and maybe an hour by car, depending on traffic. With this in mind, it is easily understandable why the thought that “you go to the beach every day” is false.

Another popular belief about students attending school in Hawaii is that “you know how to surf.” Simply living in Hawaii does not constitute the talent of surfing. Even many locals who were born and raised here don’t know how to surf, despite their love for the beach. However, finding a surf school in Waikiki to learn is effortless.

Also, being a newcomer to Hawaii, surfing is dangerous. Even for the professional surfers who come here, the waves and rip currents are some of the biggest and strongest in the world. As tempting as the clear blue ocean looks on a sunny North Shore day, it’s strength can sweep unsuspecting swimmers out to sea in a blink of an eye. Therefore, it is advisable to be knowledgeable about Hawaiian waters and waves before thinking about surfing or even swimming.

Milk in the mainland is half the price of that in Hawaii.
Amber Manuel
Milk in the mainland is half the price of that in Hawaii.

The most outrageous comment though is that “there is nothing to worry about because you’re in Hawaii.” Many think that going to school here is like a worry-free vacation every day. It is far from that. The price of living here is shocking while its minimum wage ($8.50) is one of the lowest in the country. To rent a small one- to two-bedroom apartment in Honolulu, and even the outskirts, will costs the upward of $1,500 a month. Since much of Hawaii’s food is shipped from the mainland, prices are very high. A gallon of milk at the local grocery store will cost around $7 to $8. Simple groceries, like eggs and cereal, which would be a quick and cheap pick up in the mainland turn into a carefully planned and expensive trip. So trying to afford the cost of living here as a college student who is already accumulating student loans in addition to going to school, is tough.

College in Hawaii is a unique experience and learning environment. Being able to go to school in one of the most beautiful places in the world and seeing the ocean from your classroom window is truly a blessing. However, there is the price of paradise to pay. Hanging out at the beach and surfing after class every day like it is a vacation is unrealistic. There are student and adult responsibilities to take care of, like homework and work, before fun and games. Still at the end of the day, attending college in Hawaii is an enjoyable and once-in-a-lifetime experience.