With its sparkling beaches, laid back lifestyle and buzzing cultural scene, Hawaii is often portrayed as the perfect beach getaway and may not be a typical study abroad destination. Yet, why not combine both work and play? With its unique cultures and beautiful scenery, Hawaii has been gaining popularity as a study abroad destination as students search for authentic experiences that are unavailable back home.
In order to have the best study abroad experience possible, it is vital that you have a clear idea of what you want so that you can choose the program that is most suited for you. Below are some factors that you should consider, and conduct further research, so that you can make an informed decision. Afterall, studying abroad is often one of the best college memories one can have, and you certainly want to do it right!
Academic Life: In Hawaii, books, bachelor’s degrees and classes happily coexist alongside beaches, boats and bikinis. While most of the 25 plus colleges in Hawaii are found in Honolulu on the island of Oahu, the rest of the 8 main islands have community colleges and schools and universities as well. The University of Hawaii System oversees three universities – 2 on Oahu and one on the Big Island. The group also serves as the State Board for Career and Technical Education as well. Private universities of Hawaii include Brigham Young University, Hawaii, University of the Nations and Chaminade University of Honolulu. Hawaii Pacific University and University of Hawaii, Manoa are two top ranked public schools in Hawaii, having been named among the top colleges in the West. Hawaii’s colleges pride themselves on the wide range of courses/programs offered, from Environment Studies to Business Administration. With Hawaii’s spectacular natural environment however, it should not be surprising that most colleges’ strengths tend to lie within its Environmental and Cultural areas.
Language: A piece of good news is that most students who choose to enrol at university need not spend extra time learning a foreign language before initiating their studies. English is spoken in Hawaii, and this will certainly make adjusting to life and school there easier.
If you were hoping to pick up another language, Hawaiian is also spoken in Hawaii (duh!). Together with English, Hawaiian is one of Hawaii’s official langauges. Although English is dominant in schools, there has been a gradual increase in attention paid to the conservation of the Hawaiian language. Be it taking a new language class in school or simply conversing with locals in the marketplace, there will be ample opportunities for you to brush up on your language abilities!
Student Visas: If you are a US citizen or permanent resident, congratulations, you need not obtain a student visa to study in Hawaii! Hawaii is considered to be part of the United States of America, so student visas are not required. If you are not, however, you will need to apply for either the F-1 or J-1 student visa, and you can do so at the US Embassy in your home country.
Social Life and Student Culture: Studying in Hawaii means that you will often find yourself whiling days away on the beach and exploring Hawaii’s natural wonders. From the famous Waikiki Beach in Honolulu to Waimea Canyon on Kauai, it is no surprise that the Hawaii’s natural wonders appeal to both students and locals alike. Feeling active? Hike through the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii, or experience an adrenaline rush with shark snorkel dives in cages in Oahu. When fatigue sets in, you can look forward to strengthening friendships while chilling on glistening sandy beaches and picking up hula.
From dress-to-the-nines wine bars to barefoot-in-the-sand beach bars, Hawaii also offers a distinctive party scene that will spice up a sedentary school week. Oahu is the epicentre of nightlife in Hawaii, and these clubs are popular amongst students. The Yard House in the Waikiki Beach Walk and RumFire in the Sheraton Waikiki are popular spots for locals and visitors, and adventurous bar-hoppers will also find Chinatown’s underground venues fascinating.
Housing: Accommodation is often included in the costs of whichever program you select, and can take the form of home-stay, apartments or hotels. Some universities have university housing that exchange students like you can be privy to as well. However, the type of accommodation you have ultimately depends on the specific guidelines of your program/university, and can very differ greatly.
The Hawaiian Island chain may be made up of hundreds of islands, but there is no doubt that Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital, is the cultural, economic and education hub of Hawaii. Most of the 25 plus colleges in Hawaii are found in Honolulu on the island of Oahu. The top 2 colleges in Hawaii - University of Hawaii, Manoa and Hawaii Pacific University – are located in Honolulu and offer the opportunity to excel academically amidst gorgeous weather and unique opportunities like yacht racing and wind surfing. Whatever your interest, you can be sure to find a program that interests from Hawaii’s diverse range of offerings. The University of Hawaii, Manoa, in particular, has over 200 programs available, and is particularly strong in Asian Studies, Marine Biology and Earth Science.
Home to Bishop Museum and Iolani Palace, Honolulu has a rich culture and heritage that would especially delight students interested in historical and cultural studies. Venture away from the touristy area of Waikiki and immerse yourself in local culture in the Kapahulu area instead. Needless to say, Honolulu is home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and rainforests (Diamond Head and Waikiki Beach are must-sees!). However, it is intensely urban as well, packed with hot clubs, museums and elegant restaurants – all this with a laid-back casual spirit and fringed by aquamarine waters. What better way is there to spend a hectic school semester?
Study abroad is about gaining new experiences and exposing yourself to a whole new world, lifestyle and culture – and Hawaii offers just that. The diversity and vibrance of the region is incredible, and if you are not afraid to step out of your comfort zone, you will find Hawaii to be perfect for you.
Scholarships: There are a number of scholarship opportunities available in Hawaii, although it is notably less than other regions such as Asia. General scholarship and financial aid providers include the Fulbright Scholarships and Gilman Scholarships. There are plenty of other Study Abroad Grants and Scholarships out there to check out as well so don’t be discouraged.