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What I Learned From My First Week in Hawai’i

I arrived in Hawai’i on January 7th, 2021 to complete a domestic exchange during my junior year of college. I tried to learn about the culture, as well as the island of O’ahu before arriving, but there is so much that no one tells you. Here’s what I’ve learned since my arrival:

There are no squirrels or snakes on the island.

I’m not sure why, but one of my first thoughts when I landed was if there are squirrels on the island. I soon learned that there aren’t any, but instead there are cute little creatures called mongooses. I’ve seen two since getting here, and man are they weird. They have long tails and are quite unapproachable. 

I also learned while on a hike with friends that there are no native snakes, and thank goodness for that. If I was climbing up Crouching Lion and came across a snake, I most definitely would’ve gone tumbling down the mountain.

You may not see a rainbow on your trip to the Rainbow State.

Family members told me to look forward to all the rainbows I would see, but unfortunately, that has yet to have happened. I did see one in a crashing wave on the North Shore, but it feels artificial because there wasn’t any rain. It has rained since my arrival, and I’ve been on the lookout, but nothing yet.

No shoes, no shirt – you still get service!

Residents love to be barefoot here. You’ll find people wearing no socks and no shoes in grocery stores, street corners, elevators – really just about anywhere on the island. I even saw a girl run barefoot on a treadmill. 

There is a mysterious “green flash” at sunset.

I got in an Uber on my second day here to head to a beach for sunset. The Uber driver started asking me about something called the “green flash.” I told him I didn’t know what that was, and he proceeded to tell me that he had only seen it one time in his many years on the island. He said that right as the sun is about to dip into the water, if you look very closely, you may be able to see a glimpse of green. Luckily, every sunset is magnificent here, whether or not you see the green.

You can’t go a day without spending money.

I knew that this might be true before I got here, but it’s a million times worse than I thought. Whether you live here or are just on vacation, there is always something going on, and to be a part of it usually costs money. Yes, sitting on the beach or going on a hike is free, but the way there, the sun screen, the bug spray, all cost money. Maybe I’ll write an article on budgeting in Hawai’i soon because otherwise my trip might be cut short.

I’ve only been here for a little more than a week now, and I’ve learned so much already. I’m looking forward to experiencing more of this incredible rock in the middle of the ocean because this adventure is truly once in a lifetime.

Arete is currently a junior at UMass Amherst majoring in Hospitality and Tourism Management. She is on domestic exchange at the University of Hawai'i Manoa for the Spring 2022 semester. In addition to Her Campus, she is part of the Community Scholars Program and Women in Business club. In her free time, she loves to make playlists, play games, and watch Wheel of Fortune!
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