Category Archives: Student Posts

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My ASAA Story

So… how did I end up in Hawaii you ask?

Trudging to class in unplowed snow 2 feet high is highly overrated.

I remember so many days at Penn State last year when I honestly thought to myself, “This is college?” and looked outside at the dismal grey sky and feet of snow. Besides singing in my a cappella group, None of the Above, I knew I was missing some kind of experience… some kind of meaning. At that point, I made a decision. I was going to have something to “tell my grandkids about.”

Luckily, I was (and still am) dating a rather adventurous guy named Josh who goes to school here at UH Manoa. When he showed me the website for ASAA, I was really excited.

Arguments used on my Dad to persuade him about ASAA:

  1. “It’s cheaper than a semester at Penn State. And I can actually go outside without unintentionally ice skating in the winter.”
  2. “Dating Josh from 5,000 miles away is pretty agonizing.”
  3. “ALL my friends are going abroad in the spring. Do you want me to be alone at school in the cold snow? (sad face here)
  4. “I talked to my guidance counselor, and she said I didn’t have any classes left to take in Europe. So can I go to Hawaii now?”
  5. “I just got 5 classes approved through Penn State. Here’s the proof.”
  6. “So I talked to grandma, and she said I can go. Can I go now?”
  7. “Have you made a decision yet?”
  8. “Dad… I have everything set up. Can I go now?”
  9. “OK so I can go right?”

After a while of that kind of badgering, my Dad finally agreed to let my adventures in Hawaii begin. Reactions were mixed… especially from my guidance counselor who memorably and sarcastically stated, “So let me get this straight… you want to spend a semester in HAWAII….? Um…”

So what does this mean to you, Mr. (or Ms.) blog reader?

If you’re reading this blog, you’re either considering applying for the program or already in it (or running it). If you’re that first person thinking about coming here, do it. You can even use some of my lines for parents mentioned above. Oh, and don’t worry about people that give you funny looks when you tell them you’re studying abroad in Hawaii. They’re just bitter that they won’t be able to shovel their car out of the snow while you lay on the beach.

If you’re that second person, hopefully I amused you with my anecdote enough that you’ll want to read more of my posts.

Either way, I’m enjoying Hawaiian life. Stay tuned 😉

Truly happy. Photo by Whitney Grathwohl (also in ASAA)

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so i’ve been here in hawai’i for two (yes, twwwooooooo) semesters! i loved hawai’i so much that i had to stay. it has been very hard for me, since i’m S U P E R close to my family [who’s in california] but i feel like, if i didn’t stay when i had the chance, i would’ve regretted it. so now i am here.. and i don’t regret it one bit..               =]



this was taken fall2010 football season with last semester’s roommate, julia. =]

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H A W A I ‘ I =)

One of the MAAAANNYY reasons one should   come to Hawai’i. =]

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My experience in Hawai’i

My Semester in Hawai’i

This is a video highlighting my experience in Hawai’i. Hopefully it will be helpful to students trying to decide if they should join the program or give current students some ideas about what they could do while there.

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Pillbox Hiki In Lanikai!!

Tags :

Category : Nikki Walsh , Student Posts

Hey guys this is my first time posting! I just wanted to tell everyone that they should definitely do the Pillbox hike in Lanikai, it is gorgeous and it didn’t take that long.  At the top you have a beautiful view of lanikai beach and the two magic islands :). Also at the top are old world war 2 bunkers that are pretty neat!

Me on top of the bunker :)

I went this past sunday and after the hike I got a guacomole, bacon and cheeseburger from Teddy’s and a smoothie from Jamba Juice! After that I went to the Lanikai beach and layed out for a little, however, it started to rain s I had to head back home 🙂

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Final Hawaii Blog

I just spent 4 months in Hawaii. Right now it doesn’t quite register. Like how it doesn’t register that it’s snowing in Maryland and I’m about to step off the plane in shorts and a t-shirt (at least I’ll get to show off my tan).

Hawaii has been an amazing experience and I want to share my story with future ASH students so they can get a glimpse of the possibilities that await them in Hawaii.

My main concern with school was that I wanted to do as little of it as possible so I registered for only 3 classes and chose classes that were only held on Tuesday and Thursday. I definitely recommend this as it allows much frolick time. Working out this schedule with classes that would transfer credit back to UMD was a bit of a headeache though.

If you’re interested in classes I took, then read the following:

HIST151 World History up to 1500 with Prof. Bentley (8/10 rating)

I like this class a lot because I felt like I needed to learn some history so I was interested and motivated to learn. Bentley is also a pretty good lecturer. He wrote the textbook for the class so it is a very organized and easy to follow class.

LLEA122 Greek and Roman Mythology (8/10)

I liked this class not because it was really boring (it was amazingly boring), but because it was really easy. I usually couldn’t bring myself to sit through this class but I faithfully attended every Exam Review session because the TA, Josh Hevert, tells you everything you need to know for the exams.

GEOG405 Water in the Environment with Prof. Tom Giambelluca (9/10)

First off Tom is awesome. Everyone calls him Tom and he is an extremely knowledgeable professor but also a great guy. Throughout the semester we worked ona research project involving the manoa stream watershed. We installed 2 weather stations, recorded all kind of data, and were like amateur scientists. It was actually pretty great.


I spent the first few days at a hostel on Seaside avenue called Hostel Aloha (right next to campus), to get my bearings with UH. Then I spent a few days in a hostel on Lemon st. in Waikiki to be close to the beach. I finally found a place in Waikiki on Craigslist and ended up staying there for September and October. My roomates were awesome: A 29 year old ex-mormon gay guy who had just quit working at Greenpeace and a 25 year old girl from Colorado who dropped out of UH pretty quickly. So with 2 unemployed roomates and my own open schedule we adventured often and camped out at North Shore almost every weekend.

After 2 months I got tired of living in the city so I moved up to North Shore. I had always wanted to be a WWOOFER (willing workers on organic farms) so I went to the farmers market in Haleiwa (Sundays 9AM-1PM) and talked to all the farmers about WOOFING on their farm. I ended up WOOFING on a chicken farm that was 200 yards from Chun’s Reef surf spot. In exchange for 10-20 hours of work a week I got to live in a little shack on their property. My responsibilities were to give the chickens food and water every day at sunrise and in the afternoon, as well as other tasks and projects. I also helped with the chicken production (catching, killing, de-feathering, cleaning), which was a little disturbing at first but eventually became normal. This was one of the coolest places I’ve ever lived. North Shore is an awesome place and has even better surf (at the right time of year). If you’re interested feel free to contact me.


The first couple weeks I took the Bus everywhere. The bus service is really good and it can take you almost anywhere on the island. After a few weeks I bought a van on Craig list and this opened up the island a lot. This sparked much more exploration, surfing, and camping trips. I got lucky too and got the van for real cheap and managed to sell it for more than I bought it. (If you’re interested in buying a vehicle there are many people that will sell for cheap because they are trying to leave the island).


Down to Earth Grocery store: on the corner of King and University. You might think its expensive since it a health food store but they have specials that are very reasonable. Plus, they have the best peanut butter! You grind it fresh

in the store yourself!

Bangkok Chef: Awesome Thai food. Almost fast food. Very large portions for cheap. I call it the Chipotle of Hawaii.


This is the best part. Lets start with the best…


I learned to surf here and got totally hooked.

Winter Season (Nov. – March): Large waves in North but small in South

Summer Season (March – Sept.): Generally flat in the north but good waves in the south

The windward side is more remote and unexplored for surfing so I don’t know much about it.

The south is a good spot but can be crowded since its so close to town.

White Plains on the West side is a good beginner spot. The leeward side is risky because they say you’ll get your car broken into there.

The north is one of the best surf spots in the world. Large swells hit the north about once a week in the winter and can produce VERY big waves…the biggest I saw were about 30 feet and people were surfing them!

Getting a board:

-rent in Waikiki (you can usually bargain with them there)


I found my board on Craigslist. This guy Patrick on the windward side rents/sells boards for a good price and will buy back the board he sells you for half the price when you leave the island.

The Leisure Center on campus does surf trips. I went on one but wasn’t too impressed.


Stairway to Heaven: Stairs leading to top of mountain. Best views I saw of the island.

Manoa falls: nice easy hike near campus


5:30 PM Sat. and Sun. at the field past the Hawaiian studies building on Date st.

5:30 PM Tues, Wed, Thurs, Sat. at Kapiolani Park at the Diamond Head end of the Park (furthest away from Waikiki). Caution: this group can get rough.

Ultimate Frisbee:

Ask Maya or Isaac for info.

Rock climbing:

Small cliff at Makapu’u and larger, harder cliff at North Shore near Mokolueia. Sport climbing but very easy to set up for top rope too. Don’t need any static rope because its set up for you to drag the dynamic rope up through bolts at the top. Check out the Climb Aloha site for info.

Beaches: Oahu is one big beach. Explore, relax, enjoy.

Sailing: Check out Ala Wai Yacht club or Hawaii yacht club. One of them has friendly races on Friday afternoons that you supposedly can join if you ask nicely or bring some beer.

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Coming to a Close

Hello! Well, tomorrow is the start of December. It’s pretty crazy how fast we all went from thinking how unbelievable it was that we had already been in Hawaii for 2 weeks to almost having to say that we only have a little over 2 weeks left. This state has brought me an experience unlike any that I expected prior to landing at HNL almost 4 months ago. Scuba diving as been my favorite activity our here, and it’s a hobby that I’m very excited to take with me and continue back home–though the water won’t be nearly as warm and blue. My most recent dive was probably the best one yet because I got to see so much differing marine life, and some things that I hadn’t seen or done before (like spotted eagle rays or holding a sea urchin). Check out some pictures from the dive:

As the end of the semester is coming to a close, everyone seems to have the same split feelings. We all get more and more excited that we’re going to be able to see all our friends & family from home, but we have the completely opposite feeling towards leaving this paradise. November has gone by especially fast thanks to all the days that we had no classes. I have no idea how people can try to take in all that Hawaii has to offer in a week-long vacation, because even now I still find myself trying to squeeze in as much Hawaii into these last 2.5 weeks as I can. I’ll be making a trip to the Big Island this weekend. I’ll finally get to see Hawaii’s active volcano along with all of the other awesome sights that the island has to offer.

Looking forward to the rest of what I can get from this semester. Mahalo!


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The Journey Continues

Last time I posted, I mentioned I was going to Maui. Maui was awesome. We went there for a 3 day weekend and stayed in Lahaina. Lahaina was a really cool village. It reminded me of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. It used to be an old whaling town and now it has nice shops that line the street right next to the water. It had a very New Englandy feel which was interesting being in Hawaii and all.

One of our first stops was the Ocean Center which is Maui’s aquarium. One of the coolest parts was a tube you could you into where you were pretty much inside a tank and could see sharks and manta rays swim over you.

The next day, we were crazy and woke up at 3 AM and drove up to Mount Haleakala to a summit of 10,000 feet. Unfortunately, we were not prepared for this because it was freezing, about 50 degrees I think (I don’t know what I’m going to do when I go back to Massachusetts). We brought the blanket from our hotel but it wasn’t quiet enough to keep warm with the wind. However, we saw the sunrise over the clouds, which was quite breathtaking. Pictures really don’t do it justice.

From there, we continued on to the Hana Highway (which is a little misleading because you have to go about 25 MPH the whole way haha). The Hana highway is one of the most scenic routes in Maui littered with waterfalls and breathtaking views.

We purchased a cd that guided us along the Hana highway and told us where to stop along the way. We got to see a black sand beach, a lava tube, and a natural bridge. We stopped for lunch on the side of the road where a man was cooking chickens, as Anna recommended. I think that was the best chicken that I’ve ever had.

In the town of Hana, there is a red sand beach that was really cool. Can’t say I’ve ever seen anything like it. You have to hike a little ways to it, and its technically a nude beach as we found out when we arrived. We ended up snorkeling a little bit and saw some cool fish including a cornetfish.

At the end of the Hana highway we went on a 2 mile hike to a 400 foot waterfall which was really cool. The trail was covered with passion fruit trees so I was in my glory. I think I ate 6 passion fruits on the way to the waterfall. The waterfall was pretty amazing, I’ve never seen one that high before.

Again, pictures don’t do it justice. At the end of the highway, you can choose either to drive all the way back the way you came through winding roads and one land bridges, or drive straight through on an unpaved road that is shorter. We decided to drive straight through, which was very scary at night. But we made it back safe and sound and pretty much passed out at 8:00 at night. We spent the last day relaxing on the beach at the hotel which was very pretty. You could see Lanai and Molokai from the beach.

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Dan at Sea

Inter-Island Sailing Adventure by Dan Mehrez

At Sea

My eyes open briefly to see the sails bellow with the wind. Ever so slightly though. The boat rocks in every direction as it dances with the waves. The boom and the ropes swing back and forth on every rock of the boat, creating a smack and keeping a steady tempo with the dance. I glance up at the dark sky and gaze at the spread of stars before my eyes, and then they close again. A few minutes later my eyes open again to the same scene. The lighthouse on the island of Lana’i looks no closer.

“At this rate we’ll get there next week” I think to myself. We left Ala Wai harbor in Waikiki just eight hours ago.

Down below sleeps Captain Charley, and above deck on the bench next to me are his two granddaughters Maggie and Alex. They’re practically sleeping on top of each other to share the narrow bench. Across from them on the other bench I sit, locked in a constant struggle to keep awake. A struggle that I lose every few minutes.

Eventually, after several slow hours of sailing, Charley stirs and comes up to join me.

“Where’s the wind go to?” he asks me.

“Not here Charley.”  But sure enough, as soon as those words leave my lips the sails are pushed out and the boat begins slicing through the water. I tell Charley he must be magical.

Captain Charley

Though I don’t really think he’s magical, Charley sure is an interesting character. Born in a very small town in Missouri, he left home at 18 to join the navy and has worked as a Navy Diver for over three decades, traveling the world and even working aboard a submarine for an entire month. As I write this on October 20th, Charley is somewhere in the middle of the ocean, sailing towards Guam and then on to the Philippines. I worry a little for him. Not because I think he’ll have any trouble, but because he won’t have any eardrums to fill with constant chatter. Charley is the single most talkative person I’ve ever met. And so I briskly slip down under the deck to get some sleep before I become captured by strings of run-on sentences.

Several hours later I awake to see the island of Lana’i off the port side of the boat. Nearly the entire side of the island drops hundreds of feet to the ocean below, where the waves crash and send pillars of white foam into the air. The land above is parched and brown.

A view of Lana‘i

We soon come to a break in the cliffs where the marina can be found and we motor in to a rickety old dock. The cleats are old and loose so we tie the ropes around the entire dock to be safe. After a nice cool shower we strut over to the fancy 5-star hotel and stroll through like we own the place, sampling some fresh lemonade on the way. At the front we catch the hotel bus up to town and celebrate our secret agent skills with some lunch.

The town is tiny. There is one small grocery store, a handful of small cafes, and a bank on the corner that looks just like a house (except for the sign in the yard reading “Bank”). After taking the grand tour we head back to the boat and I wander off to the beach to watch the surfers. I sleep on the beach that night under the stars.

The next morning we have a light breakfast and depart for Maui. It’s a short three hour cruise and we soon find ourselves in the boat channel, with surfers riding waves on either side of us. We dock at the gas station temporarily and let Charley loose to find us a slip for the night. Sure enough, within a half-hour Charley comes back and announces he’s found a slip for us. Sometimes it’s useful to have a motor mouth.


That day we roam around the town, enjoy some Maui ice cream, and I go for a sunset run on the beach. I pass an older man with long grey hair and funny spectacles standing on the beach with a drink in his hand. He smiles at me and says “Good evening.” I greet him back and notice in the yard behind him a dozen more old hippies with long grey hair sipping their brews.

“Only in Maui” I think to myself.

I sleep soundly on the gently rocking boat that evening and at the first crack of dawn I hear the engine start and Charley steers us out of the harbor. I go up and watch the sun rise behind the mountains of Maui. That day we sail from dawn until midnight. The wind is at our backs for the whole sail and the seas are huge. Occasionally a large swell overtakes us and we glide down the face of the wave as though we’re surfing it. A tugboat passes us going the other direction and we watch as it fights the swells, shooting up walls of water with every wave.

Soon we see the outline of Diamond Head, then the lights of Waikiki, and finally the channel markers guiding us home. We take down the sails, motor in to our slip, and drag ourselves off the boat. As I walk down the dock I feel like I’m still aboard the boat. I probably look drunk. I thank Charley for the amazing experience, say goodbye to Alex and Maggie, and with disheveled hair and salt crusted skin, begin my stumbling swagger back home to dream of waves and winds and the open seas.