Surf’s Up and Studies Up in Hawaii

Sophomore Evan Moeller shares his experience studying abroad at the Chaminade University of Honolulu.

Evan Moeller | Contributing Writer

Hawaii is a place that people call paradise, and after three months of being on this island, I completely understand why. My time in Hawaii has been filled with consistently beautiful weather, a vibrant culture and plenty of opportunities to experience for the first time.

I wanted to study abroad in the first semester of my sophomore year because of my desire to maximize my college experience as early as possible. My older sister, senior Erika Moeller, was studying abroad at Chaminade University of Honolulu in the spring of 2021 when I was thinking about studying abroad myself. Originally, I applied to go to Australia, but this did not work out because of the pandemic. Although my options were limited, Hawaii seemed like a very similar and exciting opportunity that I was happy to do instead.

Photo of Father Chaminade statue in Honolulu | Moeller

A Marianist spirit, 4,000 miles away

Chaminade University of Honolulu is a beautiful campus and its front lawn welcomes you with an identical statue of Father Chaminade as the one in front of the Kennedy Union at UD. It became clear to me that the professors and students share the same sense of community and selfless love that one would experience at UD. Within two weeks, all my professors learned my name and I had friends in every class. 

My favorite class of the semester is a Marine Environmental Science course with a lab that explores the marine biology of animals native to Hawaii. This course also discusses conservation efforts that Hawaiians take to preserve the integrity of marine wildlife and the importance of such actions. This class is such a pleasure because of how much I learn about the island and the passion natives take towards protecting their ohana, a Hawaiian word for family.

Family is one of the most important values in Hawaiian culture, but the term extends further than just the immediate family. The reason people use reusable shopping bags, reef-safe sunscreen and wear face masks is to protect their ohana. The island of Oahu is very small compared to most of the mainland states. Oahu’s isolation as an island only strengthens the importance of its people working together to protect the land they love. There are some very strict mask mandates in Hawaii with most restaurants and indoor attractions even requiring proof of vaccination or a negative covid test to enter. The sense of unity, respect for others and respect for the island exemplifies what it means to be a part of the Hawaiian ohana.

Courtesy of Moeller

Learning outside of the classroom

The best parts of Hawaii have been the activities I have done outside of the classroom. I would be remiss if I did not mention that my lab activities for Marine Environmental Science have included field days where we have gone snorkeling and ridden a Polynesian wayfinding sailboat. Other than that, my favorite pastimes have been hiking and surfing. Every hike that I have gone on has its own unique and breathtaking scenery. Some have included climbing rocks to get to a pillbox and others have included long treks through the woods to reach the top of a mountain.

Only a month ago, I took my first surfing lesson at Waikiki Beach. This is a very popular surfing location for locals and tourists alike because there are waves to surf on all day and every day. To my surprise, my lesson instructor had me standing up and riding six waves during our first 45-minute lesson. It was hard to believe at the time that I had officially gone surfing in Honolulu, but I knew that this was a hobby that I could really learn to love. Since my lesson, I have gone surfing every morning of every weekend, which has added up to about 12 two-hour long surfing sessions. I understand why people find such joy in surfing when I am catching a wave that takes me all the way into the shore. This is a hobby that I will always have a love for and one that I will hopefully be able to revisit sometime in the future.

Courtesy of Moeller

If it was only for the surfing and hiking that I have done in Hawaii, I would say this semester has been more than worth it. I am grateful that I was able to take advantage of this opportunity, and I feel blessed that Dayton provides the Marianist Exchange Program. I would encourage anyone who is considering studying abroad to go for it because you may just discover something that you love.

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