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 (http://www.cbiworld.org/index.htm), 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: http://liquidadventureskayakschool.org/mexico-advanced-trip-dec-09-by-dan-mehrez/.
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.