Going to school in Hawaii is one of those things that sounds amazing, but for most of us it is just a fantasy. Here, learn from someone who made the trip from Florida to Hawaii on his way to a PharmD!
I moved from Florida to Hawaii almost ten years ago. After a few years living on another island, I moved to the Big Island to the city of Hilo. There, at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, I completed my prerequisite classes and was fortunate enough to get accepted into The Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy (DKICP).
I’m now a fourth year student out on rotations (aka advanced pharmacy practice experiences, APPEs), and I get asked all the time about how my experience has been going to pharmacy school in Hawaii. While a lot of my experiences as a student pharmacist are similar to the other pharmacy school campuses, there are definitely a few BIG differences!
Here are a few expectations people commonly have about Hawaii and the truth about what it’s really like:
1. You are going to get ‘island fever’
Hawaii is one of the most isolated places in the world. We are almost 2,500 miles from California and nearly 4,000 miles from Japan. It’s understandable to think that you are going to feel trapped or claustrophobic.
In reality though, being a professional student means that for a good portion of your time you are going to be either in the classroom learning or off studying somewhere. If you manage your time well and have time to explore, the Big Island is… well… BIG!
It would take you about 7 hours to drive in a circle around this island, if you felt so inclined. There are opportunities for day trips, hikes to waterfalls, or cookouts on the beach in every direction. It’s hard to feel closed in when you have so many things you could do with your free time.
If that isn’t enough to ease your mind, you could always take a weekend trip to Oahu (the main island) or to one of the beautiful neighbor islands such as Kauai or Maui to go exploring. Every island is very different and offers its own unique experiences. Flights are about $200 USD round trip and many of the local banks offer frequent flier miles from credit card purchases that you can redeem for free trips.
2. I could never live so far away from home
Building off of the previous worry about feeling stuck on a rock in the middle of the Pacific, many incoming students expect that they are not going to be able to handle being so far away from their friends and family back home.
The reality for this one is much different; in four years I’ve made some of the closest friends of my life. Our classes progress as a cohort so we spend a lot of time with each other in class, on group projects, and in team-based learning exercises.
Our campus also hosts two fraternities, which exist to build an even closer relationship among your peers and to serve the community. For example, I joined the Phi Delta Chi Professional Pharmacy Fraternity in my first year, and the brotherhood we share has given me a family away from home that is just as close as the real thing.
With all of the opportunities to get involved on campus when you’re not studying, you are always going to have your new friends by your side. If you give it time, Hawaii will become a second home to you just as dear as your home on the mainland.
3. I bet all the professors are surfers
I hear this all the time from my friends back home. It always goes something along the lines of “I bet all your professors are gorgeous Hawaiian guys and girls who are at the beach every day before class!”
As it turns out, the teachers are a multinational, multicultural mix of professors who are at the top of their respective fields. We have teachers from Scotland, Thailand, China, Germany, Lebanon, and from all over the United States.
The campus is a little smaller than average, so students at the DKICP can get to know professors personally. The bond you can form with them helps to make you a better, more engaged student, which hopefully in the long-run will make you a better pharmacist.
I would not have become the person I am today without the mentorship I have received from so many faculty members here during my three didactic years. I would be remiss if I didn’t admit though, we do have a few professors who still find the time to surf on top of all their other duties.
4. I’m going to be Hawaiian!
This one is for my local friends out here in Hawaii, and it’s just a little thing I should point out for anyone visiting the state. Unlike how if you move to Florida so you’re called a Floridian, Hawaiians are an ethnicity of people with a vibrant history unlike any other American state. Living in Hawaii and calling yourself Hawaiian would be like moving to Japan and telling your friends back home you’re Japanese.
Hawaii is a melting pot of many different cultures and nationalities that makes going to school here a truly one-of-a-kind experience. Although poi (a local food) might not be for everyone, we have Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Thai, and Hawaiian restaurants all over town.
In 2014, the University of Hawaii at Hilo was ranked as the Most Diverse Four-Year Public Institution in the Chronicle of Higher Education, so going to school in Hawaii is going to give you exposure to cultures that you may not have otherwise known a thing about!
5. It’s always sunny in Hawaii
Say the word “Hawaii” to your friend and ask them what comes to mind. Undoubtedly it is a picture-perfect landscape of coconut palms swaying on the beach at sunset.
While this is true most of the time, we have a saying: “No rain, no rainbows.” The city of Hilo gets over 100 inches of rain a year, most of it between November and April. Sometimes it seems like it’s been raining for three weeks straight! On the bright side (no pun intended), you are usually inside studying during the rainiest parts of the year so the storms don’t seem so bad.
In stark contrast to the rainforest-level downpours we get in Hilo, the city of Kona about two hours away only gets around 18 inches of rain a year. This means that on weekends or during semester breaks, it is always sunny somewhere on the Big Island. You can drive to see the telescopes on the top of the 13,000ft Mauna Kea, go swimming in a lava-heated tide pool, or sink your toes into a black sand beach next to a group of sea turtles.
Going to pharmacy school in Hawaii isn’t always spent roasting marshmallows on active lava, but sometimes it is!
Attending school out here has been the best four years of my life, and I would not have had nearly as good of an experience had I gone anywhere else.
Roasting marshmallows over hot lava
If you liked this article, you may also like: