Author Archives: jserra

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A Semester in Paradise

North Shore Skydive

If you asked me a year ago, as I was patiently waiting for the mounds of Rhode Island snow to melt, if I could imagine going to school in paradise for a semester, I would have most likely laughed and trudged away.  Little did I know what the second half of my junior year would turn into.  I’ve never truly believed that I belong in the area I was born and raised in; for someone who lives for the four months out of the year when I can walk to the beach from my house, snow and frigid temperatures have never appealed to me.

I live for the beach, surfing and the sand.  I am an active musician who enjoys playing mellow, acoustic music for visiting tourists on the seawall in Watch Hill, Rhode Island; what was I doing buried in snow?  The beautiful, lush environment of Hawaii has always been my calling, and it is where I have always belonged.

North Shore Sunset

In the weeks before enrolling at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, I had literally no idea what to expect.  I had never been to Hawaii, and I really had not heard much about the school.  Luckily, a few friends from my home university of Roger Williams in Bristol, Rhode Island had attended the previous semester.  They aided me with the many questions I had about the application process and the school in general, ultimately finalizing my decision to study “almost” abroad in paradise.

I have already accomplished many experiences during my short time here in Honolulu, but a few have drastically stood out among others.  One of the most prominent was my skydiving experience over the coast of the North Shore.  It was definitely one of the most surreal moments of my life, and a day that I will remember always.  My tandem partner told me how amazing the drop zones in Hawaii were; in fact, that was the reason he moved to Hawaii from the mainland.  I know how luck I am that my first skydiving experience was over one of the world’s most beautiful shorelines.

Flying with Aloha

The reality of jumping out of a plane 14,000 feet above the Pacific did not truly hit until I was hanging out of the tiny airplane, waiting for the three second countdown to end.  Gliding through the warm Hawaiian sky and clouds was simply amazing; accomplishing a feet humans really aren’t meant to accomplish is truly an indescribable experience.  Following the release of the parachute was a relaxing, astonishing glide down to land.  Floating safely over the water to the airfield just past the shoreline was a “flight” I won’t soon forget.  My mother understands my appetite for adventure, however my father just could not fathom why I wanted to jump out of a plane thousands of feet above land.  That experience is why.

One professor in particular made my experience at the University of Hawaii at Manoa a much more memorable experience.  Professor Jon Osorio, professor of Hawaiian Studies, is one of the most caring and passionate individuals I have ever met.  He is an expert on true Hawaiian history and genealogy, and he is also very politically involved Hawaiian politics.  Osorio cares deeply about his Hawaiian ancestry, and this is one of the many emotions you leave his class feeling deep inside.

Osorio has taught many original and loving ideas of the Hawaiian people, including the concepts of  ‘ohana, the lolli’, and ‘aina.  ‘Ohana is the concept of how important family is to the Hawaiian culture.  The principal organizing unit in ancient Hawaiian society was the family, and the more family a person had, the better their life was to live.  As someone whose family is the number one priority in their life, I can personally relate to this Hawaiian ideology.  In this class we also visited the lolli’ which is located right next to campus.  The lolli’ is an area of fishponds and taro cultivation.  Because Hawaiians once had a limited amount of resources on their island, the natives would care for the island like it was their child.  If Hawaiians did not go out and clean their lolli’s taros, then they did not have clean water to drink.  One quote stood out to me; “the land itself is the backbone of the people.”  If more people brought back this type of ideology today, as the Hawaiians are attempting to do, this world would be a much happier place.  The final concept is the ‘aina, which goes hand in hand with the lolli’.  The concept of ‘aina is caring for the land, and reimbursing the nourishment that it has provided to you.  Replant the trees that are cut down, clean the water that is drank, respect the land and it will keep on providing.  In a world where our most beautiful rainforests are being demolished and our majestic animals are being killed for profit, individuals need to recognize the importance of the ‘aina.

Manoa Falls... Part of the 'Aina


Just recently, my roommate and I took an island-wide road trip after renting a brand new 2012 Ford Mustang convertible.  We made many stops throughout the day, including Waikiki, Sandy’s Beach, the Dole Plantation, and the North Shore.  Driving through the North Shore pineapple fields with the wind blowing through my hair will be an experience I will always remember.  This trip was a ton of fun, and I felt feelings that I am sure are only felt on these islands.

Oahu Roadtrip

To conclude, my experience at UH will be a four-month experience I can safely say I will never forget.  Another safe bet is that I will come back to this island, whether it be in a month, a year or a decade, I’ll be back.  Pieces of the Hawaiian culture will forever be apart of me now, and I am thrilled to spread that love to my friends and family back on the east coast.  Even though Rhode Island will always truly be home for me, Oahu has become my home away from home.

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