Hawaiian in a snowstorm

Since I’m from Hawaii, whenever I meet someone new, they always seem to ask me the same exact question: “Why did you choose to come to Maine?” I usually offer up a snarky reply such as,  “I find negative degree weather relaxing,” or “I really like sitting on planes for 12+ hours.” But it was during the blizzard this week, while wading through waist-deep snow as the 50 mph wind shot sharp flecks of ice into my face with my only shelter being snow banks taller than I was, that I started to reconsider my life choices.

Although I was born an American and have lived all my life in this nation, I sometimes feel like a foreign student here on the mainland. While it is easy to feel a sense of community between states, Hawaii is so far removed from the rest of America that the mainland almost feels like an entirely different country. Although it may seem obvious or silly, it absolutely blew my mind when I realized people could drive from Boston to New York and back in a day. Where I come from, you can’t even see the whole state without hopping on an airplane. Everything is contained on our little island homes, so you never need to take more than a 45-minute car ride to get anywhere. When I came here, the vast stretches of land were strangely intimidating. For me there is something comforting about being surrounded by endless miles of ocean. It makes you feel secure, like everything you could possibly need is within arms reach.

Everything on the mainland is just so different than what I am accustomed to. We speak the same language, but not in the same way. Though mutually intelligible, Hawaiian pidgin is actually classified as an entirely different language. I like fries and potatoes, but warm fluffy rice is my choice of starch, and it’s strange not having it with every meal. And going off of that, it’s weird that no one here likes SPAM. Hawaiians eat about 7 million cans of the stuff a year, which is quite impressive for a population of 1.4 million. But the one thing that really got to me was the Massachusetts driving. See, I thought it was expected that you let people in and say thank you when someone does so. As it turns out, you are actually expected to cut people off, yell, and tailgate. It’s so bad that my mother actually forbade me from driving in Maine because people from Massachusetts sometimes come up here, and she didn’t want to risk me running into even one of them.

But despite all of that, if given the choice again, I would not want to be at any other college than Colby. That’s not just because of the caliber of education that is provided here. I have also made lasting friendships with people from all over the United States. Moreover, there is an entirely different culture with its own set of values and beliefs that I have been able to immerse myself in. However, the most valuable thing to me is the fact that by being here, I have proven to myself that I can survive in an environment that most people from my home state would avoid at all costs. I can survive being over five thousand miles from home. I can survive going months without tasting the food that I grew up with. And I can survive the dreaded Blizzard of February 13 and whatever else this artic hellscape can throw at me. And if I can survive all that, the challenges that lay before me don’t seem so bad. And that, to me, is the greatest benefit that Colby offers.

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