Monthly Archives: September 2010

  • 0

STUDENT SPOTLIGHT II: Maida Besic and Dan Mehrez

Maida and Dan enjoying the red ginger

STUDENT SPOTLIGHT II:  Maida Besic and Dan Mehrez

Senior year sometimes brings much more uncertainty than freshman year.  What to do once the degree is in hand?   Maida Besic and Dan Mehrez, both seniors spending part of their last college year at UH, seem to take it all in stride.  Neither has decided exactly what will happen next semester, but their spirits are hardly dampened by the uncertainty.  In fact, just the opposite seems true.  To them, the world is open with possibility.

Before coming to UH, Maida attended Oakland University, a large commuter school in the suburbs of Detroit.  She always worked while taking classes.  Her jobs varied from pretzel baker to real estate agent to leasing consultant.  She will graduate in December, and it’s been wonderful NOT to work this semester, she says.  Her days are filled with studying, kayaking, snorkeling, hiking, and her list of Hawai‘i to-do items includes surfing, sailing, scuba diving, and horseback riding.  Life wasn’t always so leisurely, though.  Maida and her family lived in Bosnia when the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina began in the early 1990s, and they spent some time in a concentration camp.  After release, the family moved several times, living in Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Chicago, finally settling in Michigan when she was in second grade.

In August of this year, Maida enrolled at UH and the ASH program, taking 6 courses, including Arabic and physics.  Through Oakland University she is also taking an online religion class and is studying aikido in Honolulu. She beams when speaking of her UH Hawaiian Studies class, describing the teacher, Lilikala Kame‘eleihiwa, as “amazing”, and one of the best instructors she’s ever had.  “Her teaching is like telling a story,” and every day as class begins, the students gather outside to chant in Hawaiian, asking permission to learn.

Maida, always poised and articulate, is involved with the Common Bond Institute (, an organization that sponsors conflict resolution and transformation among different races, cultures, and religions.  She is considering how her new contacts here in Hawai‘i can become involved with the organization.  Maida always planned to continue her studies at graduate school immediately after graduation, but now she is considering some travel first.  Perhaps travel would be more valuable, considering her interest in social psychology and world issues of conflict and resolution.

Traveling and being on the move seem to be where Dan is most at home.  He has a bit of a restless spirit, spending a lot of his time outdoors. Somehow he’s managed to fit college in between all his ramblings, and a semester in Hawai‘i meshes perfectly with his adventurous nature.  His interests include rock climbing, kayaking, and hiking, to name a few, and he’s been a trip leader for excursions to Norway. He even speaks a little Norwegian and understands Hebrew.  Dan spent time in Lake Tahoe as a snowboard instructor and afterwards rode a motorcycle across the country, back home to Maryland.  The bike at some point began to break down and eventually required a screwdriver to start, which just added to the experience.  All this Jack Kerouac style cavorting might seem to point to a rough personality, but Dan is always gracious, soft spoken, and fun.

To read about one of his excursions in Mexico, check out this site:

A geography major, Dan enjoys the physical openness of UH’s architecture and the green surroundings, which makes sense, given his affinity with the outdoors. He is especially enjoying his class, “Water in the Environment” and professor Tom Giambelluca, who Dan says is experienced and passionate about the subject, but laid back at the same time.  Dan is also planning an independent study with one of his professors back at the University of Maryland, possibly involving organic farming here on O‘ahu.

Other plans while in Hawai‘i are to revisit surfing and to crew on a sailboat, which will include a 5-day trip to the outer islands.  Dan has one more semester after fall, and then graduation, but he’s considering traveling to Mexico before finishing school, or perhaps staying in Hawai‘i.  Who knows?  There’s plenty of time to decide.

Even though Maida and Dan have different backgrounds and interests, a semester in Hawai‘i offers both a place to continue their pursuits and ponder the next step.  We’ll have to check in with them at the end of the semester to see what future they choose.

  • 3


Aloha! Maya here, Haverford College class of 2012 and Semester in Hawai’i student for fall 2010! We’ve only been here three weeks or so, but Hawai’i already feels like home. Every day has been a new adventure, and it has been such a gift to live in such a beautiful place. An example of a great adventure:

Last night was the premiere of the re-make of “Hawaii Five-O,” screened in Kapiolani Park on Waikiki Beach. And yes, this picture is real:

That’s right! That IS me with Daniel Dae Kim, STAR of “Hawaii Five-0” and “Lost” AND Haverford College class of 1990!! Haverford, being a school of only 1200, is very proud of our small number of celebrities, and so I simply had to get a picture with him at this premiere!

I can’t say it was easy to get to this point. We were already running late when we missed our no. 4 bus to Waikiki. I was sitting at the bus with the other Haverford kids (Rudy, Isaac and Aubrey), feeling sad that we had to wait for the next one, when we get a call from the one and only ANNA WOMACK, program director of A Semester in Hawai’i and woman extraordinaire! She had just driven by our sad faces at the bus stop, and was now offering us a ride! Honestly, and I’m not just saying this because this is the program blog, but Anna is REALLY the best.

By the time we got to the premiere, every man, woman, child and tourist on the island of O’ahu was on that beach, trying to get a good spot to watch the premiere. I ended up watching behind the screen where there was more room, and where I knew the VIPs and celebrities had to pass to make their way out. After the show, (which was AWESOME, by the way), I yelled out to Daniel Dae Kim saying “DANIEL! I’m a Haverford Student! Please can I get a picture with you?” He was nice enough to stop and say cheese.

Overall, it was a great night and a wonderful experience! And what a catchy theme song!

  • 1

STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Keith Doucot, Kenny Ermann, and Daren Swenson

This entry marks the first in ASH’s “Student Spotlight” series, a set of interviews with current students in our program. One of the pleasures of meeting the students is appreciating the differences and similarities in their backgrounds and getting a glimpse of their life here in Honolulu.

Student Spotlight I

Daren Swenson, Kenny Ermann, Keith Doucot

Pristine campus, 3rd best college dining experience in the country, picturesque ocean front town, really nice dorms: University of Hawaii? Actually that’s how Keith Doucot, Kenny Ermann, and Daren Swenson describe their home college, Roger Williams University in Rhode Island. Yet they left all that behind to come to UH for a semester. Kenny found out about the ASH program on Facebook and invited his cohorts to come along. When asked how he persuaded them to apply, Daren and Keith agreed it didn’t take too much to convince them.

Kenny said the ASH program is a great way to experience one of the many diverse regions in the United States and a chance to enjoy a tropical climate. Last year he ventured to the deep south, to Valdosta, Georgia, with Habitat for Humanity, building homes and experiencing firsthand that famed Southern hospitality and cooking. Hawai‘i adds another dimension to his “See America” endeavor. French speaker and marketing major Daren has traveled more broadly, visiting France, Belgium, Austria, and the Caribbean. When asked why he decided to come to UH in the ASH program he replied, “Well…it’s Hawai‘i,” a statement that’s simple, but loaded with meaning. This semester is Keith’s very first foray out of New England (excluding a Disney World trip), and his eyes brightened up when asked about being away. His expression at that moment spoke more than his words.

These three guys have been in school at UH for 3 weeks, but their list of completed outings is already impressive:  picturesque Waimea Bay, secluded Halona Beach Cove, refreshing Wa‘ahila Ridge Trail, snorkeling at nearby Magic Island, the popular Honolulu Flea Market, a weekend trip to the island of Kauai, to name a few. Keith has already finished his scuba diving certification, and Daren and Kenny plan to get certified later in the semester. They’ve also purchased season tickets to the Polynesian Cultural Center and are planning a trip to the Big Island in December.

But a semester in Hawai‘i is more than beaches and sunsets. These students do all the adventures, and they have part time jobs and take full class loads (or overloads). Keith explained that it was overwhelming to sift through the huge UH course catalog and decide what to take, but his diligence paid off. One of his classes, “The Ocean Economy”, a course not offered at Roger Williams, is specific and specialized, but satisfies requirements for both of his minors, sustainability and economics. Keith’s major is construction management. Kenny has loaded up with 18 credits (6 more than a full load), and his schedule of 6 classes also includes “The Ocean Economy”. Kenny explained how he’s learned about isolationism in an environment like Hawai‘i and its potential for sustainability. His major is also construction management with an interest in environmental sciences. Daren is cruising through senior year with classes in French, anthropology and photography. He’s also an RA at one of the residence halls and maintains a very high GPA. Whoever said young people are not what they used to be hasn’t met these guys. They are polite and motivated. They work hard, get out there, and crave to do more. “It’s all what you make it,” Kenny says, which seems pretty wise for someone just 19 years old.