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How the Students of HPU Spent Their Summer

    By Marc Peraino. August 29, 2016 - 5:57 pm

Hawaii Pacific University is renowned for its multicultural student body. Students come from all over the United States and around the world, making it one of the most diverse schools in the country. But how do HPU students spend their summer vacations? The answers are about as diverse as the students themselves.


Fahad Alzahrani, a second-year graduate student in Mass Communications, spent the month of June in Lima, Peru, where he took Spanish classes and explored Peruvian life and culture. After a month in Lima, Alzahrani spent 10 days in the fabled city of Cuzco where he visited the famous Machu Picchu.

Alzahrani, who hails from Saudi Arabia, said that the beauty of Peru and the warmth of the people left a lasting impact on him.

“I met a lot of amazing people there,” he said. “They were welcoming and helpful. What I found was that Peruvian culture was almost like Arab culture. I wish I could go back there again.”Diving with sharks

Amanda Kowalski, a third-year student studying Mass Communication and Integrated Media, spent the month of June in South Africa on an underwater photography internship with Africa Media. By going diving every day, Kowalski saw and captured photos of hundreds of marine animals, which range from blacktip and ragged tooth sharks, to dolphins and humpback whales. She even saw a sardine run on the coast of East London. Some of the highlights from Kowalski’s trip include figuring out how to get the perfect shot of the shy ragged tooth shark and having close encounters with whales breaching next to her boat.

“It was a trip of a lifetime that none of us wanted to leave,” Kowalski said. “All of us interns bonded so well (that) we became one big family and still talk everyday.”

Another student who traveled abroad was Michelle Britt, a fourth-year Psychology student. However, her trip was a little different. Britt, along with a team of young adults, took a two-week mission trip to Ensenada, Mexico to help with the construction of Calvary Chapel Bible College. Britt oversaw a group of 16 young adults that helped put in a new septic system for the school. Some members of the group also helped with some painting and drywall work.

Britt in Mexico

“These kids gave up part of their summer break to go to Mexico and put in hard work,” Britt said of the mission team. “They couldn’t use their phones, they had to be up early and they got dirty. I’m not sure how many kids (or adults) would be willing to do that. This trip was definitely the highlight of my summer.”  

Britt’s favorite part of the trip was visiting El Reino de los Niños orphanage. In spite of the language barrier, the mission team was able to share the gospel with the orphans, as well as do crafts and games with them.

Some students, however, stayed on Oahu for the summer, including Fatma Taib, a second-year student who recently decided to study Mass Communications. While working two part-time jobs, Taib spent her downtime reading, relaxing and finding some clarity concerning her degree plan at HPU. During the summer Taib read Haruki Murakami’s “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” along with Anthony Doerr’s “All The Light We Cannot See.” Taib then watched the Japanese manga-based drama “Happy Marriage” and “The Flash.”

Watching “The Flash” sparked an idea for her to change her major from Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) to Mass Communications because she realized that her passion lies with journalism. Even though people told Taib that journalism is dying out and that she won’t get a good job, Taib drew inspiration by watching the main character on the show.

“Watching this female character on ‘The Flash’ reminded me to take the risk and go for my dream to be a journalist,” she said. “So I switched my program at HPU from TESOL to Mass Communications after six years of fumbling from program to program. I think it’s the best decision I’ve made thus far.”

Braeger at Rich FarmCamile Braeger, a second-year Marine Biology student, also worked over the summer. After returning home to Southern California, Braeger took a job at an ice cream parlor, Rich Farm, and scooped ice cream every day. Braeger says it’s a task that requires more upper arm strength than one might expect.

Although having to commute through traffic to work each day wasn’t enjoyable, Braeger had the chance to unwind at Disneyland, where she danced with princesses, raced with Lightning McQueen and partied at the parades.

Last but not least, some students went home for the summer and simply enjoyed time with family and friends, including Caleb Joseph, a third-year Computer Science student. Joseph traveled back to his hometown of Majuro in the Marshall Islands where bicycling is a popular activity. Joseph enjoyed riding his bike with friends along the whole length of the Majuro atoll, passing by familiar faces and kids waiting to receive a high-five from anyone cycling by.Bicycling in Majuro

Barbecuing, snorkeling among the coral reefs, and visiting other atolls occupied Joseph’s time and gave him an opportunity to see areas he had never visited before. The beauty of the Marshall Islands made for some great sightseeing. “It was a blessing to do all of these and more with family and friends, and I look forward to returning home to do the same adventurous things all over again,” says Joseph.

Photos courtesy of Fatma Taib, Fahad Alzahrani, Michelle Brit, Amanda Kowalski, Camile Braeger and Caleb Joseph.

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