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By Mark Brians. May 2, 2014 - 5:07 pm
It’s one of those squalid afternoons on Fort Street Mall. After the midday rains, hot air rises from the wet bricks as I make my way towards the group of students congregated on the portico of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace. A makeshift band plays a folksy instrumental tune, filling the heat in this square of downtown Honolulu with the concerted efforts of harmonica, cello and guitar.
Besides the band, the campus seems struck by a humming silence. Usually the passing hours between two and five are marked by the lively bustle of students, food service workers, artists and hurried professionals.
Now however, this last Friday before finals, the prospect seems vacant, save the band, a few late-lunchers, some homeless and the occasional student meandering between library and computer center.
One such student is Dominique, an International Business major, former tennis team member, and HPU golfer. She looks eagerly towards her summer which holds the prospect of new job opportunities and the ability to spend time at home with her family in New Jersey.
Though she leaves for the summer, her graduation is not her final farewell. She will be coming back to HPU next fall as a graduate student in the MBA program. During this time she will be working in the Athletic Department as a graduate assistant in their Campus recreation program.
It is with excitement that she anticipates her return in the Fall due to the glimmer of developments occurring within the University as we transition over the next few years to the Aloha Tower.
Dominique poses for a photograph, and leaves us with a nice smile, her blonde curls jouncing freely as she heads off in the direction of the Library.
Nearby Taylor leans against a cement pillar which supports the brick and snady-tile canopy above the cathedral porch. He is not graduating, but he will be going home for a week this summer.
“My mom and dad are renewing their vows,” he tells us. It’s their 20th anniversary and he is flying home to witness it.
“Maybe I’ll be a ring-bearer,” he jokes, grinning widely. He looks forward to returning to campus next year to see, “all the beautiful people.”
He loves watching how people grow and change over the summer. For him it is another level of knowing and understanding. Summer gives rise not only to a reunion with others, but a rediscovery and a renewed wonder as friends journey deeper into understanding the complexities and textures of our relationships.
A ways away from Taylor, we catch up to Michael, a TESOL Major who plans to move to Japan after he graduates this spring. His time at HPU has left a big impact on him:
“It’s not your traditional school,” he explains.
As he leaves he’ll be taking with him a deep sense of responsibility for the world in which he lives. He describes how when he came here he had the responsibilities and concerns that signify adolescence. He wanted to have a good time, gather experiences, and meet interesting people. This he has done.
But these sorts of experiences eventually lead to conclusions that lay demands upon oneself. Michael’s experiences have changed the way he approaches life. He feels the good, but often weighty, sense of duty to others, most particularly in his future vocation as a language educator.
His friend Kojiro joins us as I finish my questions. Kojiro is an international student from Japan who has come to HPU both to learn language education and to gain competency in English language and culture.
He’ll be going home this summer to spend time with friends and pursue internship possibilities. One of his top priorities however, is to enjoy authentic Japanese ramen from his favorite ramen stop back home.
Not everything about this summer or the prospect of graduating is easy, however. Kelly, a graduating International Studies major, plans to find a job locally, but plans on eventually leaving Hawaii for the mainland in the next year or so. This, she tells us with a kind but honest half-smile, is due to the difficulty of meeting the demands of living in Hawaii.
These demands are not unfamiliar to many of us. They are not only financial and economic concerns, though these do matter. Students in Hawaii also have to struggle with the distance from family and friends on the mainland, or Europe, or Asia.
As students graduate and build careers, many also plan on building families. For many, the idea of having a family already seems a daunting task. To add to it, the constraints of life in Hawaii only increase the cost of the task.
Hawaii Pacific University has spun our many disparate lives together in an intricate web of relationships, clubs, classes, parties, friendships, churches and athletics. Ours is an interesting community cast into the wide and deepening Pacific.
The cost of this community has been more difficult for some than for others. Less than two weeks from now, a portion of our community will be leaving us. They will become part of other stories, and others will come and join ours.
Photos: Maren Bjoergum