2018 Hawai‘i College Guide
(Sponsored) Application to Acceptance: How to find the right college, the money to pay for it, and sushi rice on the Mainland. Plus, tips from local students on everything from campus visits to going Greek.
(page 15 of 17)
Bright Lights, Big City
Here’s what it was like for a born-and-raised Hawai‘i girl to move to the Mainland for college.
By Ashley Mizuo
Photo: Courtesy of Ashley Mizuo
Far away and few Hawai‘i people: That’s what I told my college counselor about what kind of college I was looking for. I thought I would go to college on the Mainland and never look back. I thought Hawai‘i would just become a place I lived, a conversation starter. In August 2014, I left Hawai‘i to attend Loyola University Chicago.
I moved into Mertz Hall, the most infamous dorm on campus. It was 19 floors of college freshmen reeking of excitement, nervousness and newfound freedom. The dorm even had the catch phrase, “Mertz till it hurtz.” I chose to let the university randomly match me with a roommate based on a survey. When my roommate and I met, we both quickly realized we had very little in common. It was as if the university saw our surveys and matched us because we were opposites. She was impeccably neat, quiet, woke up early and slept early. I woke up late. I slept late. I could be pretty loud and I was (am) on the messier side. Let’s just say, we didn’t have a lot to talk about.
When my parents left, I could feel my heart sinking, realizing I got exactly what I wanted: I was alone in a big city. I never felt lonelier standing at the curb, holding a box of leftover deep-dish pizza, watching my family drive away in a black rental car.
When I walked back to my floor, I noticed that a room two doors down from mine was open. I thought, I have no friends anyway. So I walked to the open door and said hi to the two girls who lived there. We decided to join a cluster of people playing Cards Against Humanity in the lobby. The next day, a bunch of us went to the dining hall for dinner together. Of those people, five of them became my best friends in college and probably my best friends for life.
I was busiest my sophomore year of college. At that time, I played for the club Ultimate Frisbee Team, joined a sorority, wrote for my school paper, was the online editor of the school’s social justice magazine, worked at the library 12 hours a week and took 18 credit hours. Working at the library was the best because I could study at the same time. To say I was stressed was an understatement.
I studied abroad in Rome the first semester of junior year. It was a magical time. I had very few responsibilities and the whole world (at least most of Europe) was available to me. I felt happy and free. When I returned to Chicago, I decided to quit playing Frisbee, writing for the paper and working at the library. Instead, I began my first paid internship. Not only did I realize that I completely overextended myself the year before, I realized that it wasn’t about how many things I was involved in. It was about how much effort I put into them.
I’m beginning my senior year of college and I can’t help but feel nostalgic. The past three years have been the best time of my life: the friends, the opportunities, the stress, all of it. Surprise, I miss home every single day. I miss the looming green mountains, the scorching sunlight and the quiet of my small Kāne‘ohe neighborhood. Home is not a place you can leave behind. It’s OK to miss it. Chicago became a second home and my friends became my second family, but there’s no place like Hawai‘i. One of my roommates is from Hawai‘i. We talk about home every day and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I may not come home right after college, but Hawai‘i is not just a place I lived. It is not just a conversation starter. It is my home. It just took me moving 4,000 miles away to realize it.