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Charlotte Reader / Her Campus
Life > Experiences

Things I’ve Learned After Living Away from Home

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Hawaii chapter.

I first moved to Hawai’i from California in August of 2020. Prior to that, I had never had roommates, never lived apart from my family, and had never left the bubble that is the San Francisco Bay Area for longer than 2 weeks. I really had a baptism-by-fire kind of experience: I moved during the pandemic, I knew nobody in the entire state, and I was sharing my living space with three other people immediately. Fast forward a year, I moved in with a friend in a new apartment, so I then just had one roomie. Flash forward to now, and I’ve been living by myself for almost a year. I have learned so much in these past few years of living here.

One of the biggest things that I have learned (especially on my own) is that nobody is going to help you clean and you may be the only one who will. I’ve had varying levels of cleanliness and helpfulness from roommates, and now it’s just me who will clean (because I live alone). It’s not easy to keep on top of all the cleaning. Even though I live in a relatively small, finite space, it seems like the cleaning just piles up. I still haven’t gotten the hang of a “cleaning schedule” of sorts, but hopefully someday soon it will just click and I’ll be on top of all of it, all of the time.

Another thing that I have learned is that keeping your blinds shut all the time CAN have a negative effect on your mental health. Not seeing the sun constantly can really bum you out. It bummed me out MAJORLY. I was in a really sad space for a while when I moved out here, and constantly had the blinds shut. It did not help at all. My therapist told me to open them and keep them open during daylight hours, and it did actually lift my spirits a bit! Pretty surprising what the sun can do for you.

One of the suckier things that I have learned is that all-nighters are somewhat inevitable and really hard to bounce back from. You will forget that an assignment exists, and you will stay up until 6AM to finish it before class. You might stay up all night studying for a midterm. It will happen. The lack of sleep is the biggest twist in the gut, though. Sometimes when I pull an all-nighter, my sleep is messed up for days. It can be really hard to catch up on the missed sleep sometimes. 

I have learned some good things, too. One of which is that humane societies are super cool about letting you go visit their dogs. The local humane society is by the UH campus. I was having kind of a sucky week, and I called and asked if I could walk in and meet and play with some of the dogs. They said yes! It made my day instantly better. It’s super great for us humans and it is good for the dogs, too. There are also a few cat cafes around Honolulu, which is another great place to visit when I’m feeling pretty down.

Another good thing I learned is that my university has some really amazing resources available for alumni. Obviously, there are many resources available for current students, but I also learned that resources, like UH’s Career Center, are actually available to me five years post-grad! This is a really amazing resource for recent graduates, as you’ll have help available to you as you start your career!

All of the previously listed lessons have a bit of an explanation behind them, but I also have some little tips that I learned while out here!

  1. If you don’t have RAID spray or roach killer on you, fabric softener can work in a pinch. If you don’t have fabric softener, I have found that stain remover (specifically ZOUT brand) works well, too.
  2. Even if you are told that your building doesn’t get roaches, you should still lay out roach traps and bait. Even if nothing comes of them, it is still better to be prepared.
  3. Any opportunity for free food is an opportunity you should take. If your campus safety office announces an evening talk that comes with free dinner, you should go. The talk may be boring, but at least you won’t have to make or buy dinner that night.
  4. It can be really easy or really hard to make friends. Joining clubs or interest groups will definitely make this easier and it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.
  5. Sometimes people are friends for just a season, and not a lifetime. People can grow apart, and that’s okay.
  6. You will never know the absolute BLESSING that having a dishwasher is until you don’t have one. Similarly, you will not know the blessing it is to have a washer and dryer until you have to pay gobs of money to just wash and dry your clothes.
  7. Line-drying or hang-drying your clothes does take longer, but it is FREE and can be better for your clothes in the long run.
  8. There is such a thing as too many clothes. You will discover this once you are doing all of your laundry all of the time.
  9. If your friends help you move, you must buy them dinner (and maybe a drink or two. ESPECIALLY if they help you move into a multi-story building with no working elevator). 
  10. It is super important to MAKE TIME for your friends back home. I personally keep Snap Streaks with a bunch of friends and try to video chat friends. Time Zones can complicate things, but it is so worth it to maintain connections.
  11. Have your campus security, your building security (or management), and your city’s non-emergency line on speed dial. It saves you LOADS of time searching for these numbers each time you need them. Also have a fake phone number to give out to creepy people who won’t take no for an answer. The fake phone number I use is 760-706-7425 and when you call it, it will Rick Roll you. 
  12. If you like going to bars or clubs, a Nightcap Hair Tie is a MUST-HAVE. It helps protect your drink from being tampered with. That said, never leave your drink unattended or out of your sight. If you leave it, get a new one. Not getting drugged is worth however much money it costs to buy a new drink.
  13. Save all of your assignments and discussion posts. Type them up in a word processor or in a Google Drive (or something similar). You may need to reference them for a senior portfolio project (like I need to) or you may want to use them to study for tests.
  14. Learn to love your own company. It can be hard at first, but it is really essential.
  15. If your friends get weird vibes (or bad vibes) from anybody that you’re dating, listen to them. It can save you a lot of pain and hardship in the future.
  16. Knowing two or more languages is a gift of immeasurable value. It does not matter what languages you know, it is a HUGE asset and skill.

This obviously isn’t everything that I’ve learned, but it is a pretty good idea of some of the most important things that I have learned. It has been a heck of a ride while being on my own out here in the middle of the Pacific, but these past few years have been the experience of a lifetime and I am so blessed to have had this opportunity and I am so, so thankful for my time that I have spent out here.

Shae Walker

Hawaii '23

Shae currently studies Communications at the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa and is the Campus Correspondent for HCHawai'i. In her spare time, Shae likes to listen to music, hike, and cook.