Before the semester abroad starts, there are of course some preparations to be made. Especially for things like visa appointment at the embassy and flight booking you should take enough time. The appointment at the Consulate General in Munich had to be reserved in advance and I had to wait about 2 weeks until something was available again. After a long research, I booked my flights about 3 months before departure (both outward and return flights). You should also think about where you will spend the first few nights when you arrive (unless you are lucky enough to find a permanent apartment in advance). Here I have 10 days at the Waikiki Beachside Hostel. For further requirements such as proof of vaccination, course selection, etc., the information from example.com is absolutely sufficient.
Departure and arrival in Hawaii
The F1 visa allows entry to the USA 30 days before the start of the program (I definitely recommend using this option!), Which is why I traveled from Munich to Chicago at the beginning of August and spent another week there on vacation. From there I went to Honolulu, where I arrived in the middle of the night and after a night at the Waikiki Grand Hotel I moved to the Waikiki Beachside Hostel. From the middle of August onwards, many international students from the HPU and UH romp here and you get to know your future friends very quickly . In addition, almost everyone is looking for an apartment so that they can get together.
The house hunting is a real “pain-in-the-ass”. Together with two fellow students I met in the hostel, I searched for about a week using Craigslist, Google, signs on buildings in Waikiki, etc., and kept going to view apartments. An American mobile phone contract is particularly important here because the agents don’t reply to emails and pretty much everything is done via cell phone. As a location, I can recommend limiting yourself to Waikiki and Ala Moana, as life takes place here and you want to experience something outside of the university during your semester abroad. The apartments are generally quite expensive and there are mainly 1 and 2-room apartments or studios, especially in Waikiki. Expect $ 2,000- $ 3,000 a month. That is why many students live in groups in one room to share the costs . But after we had found the apartment and paid the first rent plus deposit (with us it was in cash) we were able to move from the hostel into the apartment the next day.The three of us had two rooms and a kitchen including a living room , which we shared with each other (two had their own room and one roommate slept in the living room). Our apartment, like many other student apartments, was on Kaiulani Ave, only two blocks from Waikiki Beach. In the case of the apartment, you should make sure that you have understood the rental agreement and that you get a signed copy! It is also advisable to pay the rent in cash, as some landlords simply debit additional amounts from a stored credit card.
My courses ( Accounting for Managers , Investment Analysis and International Finance ) all took place on the HPU Downtown Campus , which is about 30 minutes by bus from Waikiki. The courses were very interesting and the classes were small . However, the workload during the semester was higher (homework, presentations, quizzes) than I am used to in Germany. The Downtown Campus is very nicely located near the Aloha Tower and offers many catering options as well as a WalMart for spontaneous shopping. Before the beginning of the semester, there was a one-week Welcome Week in which the campus and university life were presented and you could get to know many other students. Participation is highly recommended. Whether and how the achievements at the HPU are then recognized at the home university must be clarified with the responsible supervisor at the home university. One more note: it’s incredibly cold at university – so definitely take a sweater with you. Check iamaccepted to see more reviews from current students.
Hawaii is of course surfing, ocean, nature and great weather . Therefore, outdoor activities are very useful. Even before I came to Hawaii I was a passionate surfer and one of the first purchases was of course a surfboard. You can either find one via Craigslist or search one of the numerous surf shops. In the summer, the waves in Waikiki are phenomenal and it’s a lot of fun to go sun set surfing with new friends in the evenings. In the water you get to know a lot of friendly and funny people and you can make new friends. For someone who has never surfed before, however, I recommend taking a professional surf instructor to get to know the basics, surfing etiquette and the peculiarities of the surf spots. Offers can be found everywhere in Waikiki!
In addition to surfing, Oahu offers a lot of opportunities for hikes with incredible views and waterfalls . From simple hikes like Diamond Head or Deaman’s Catwalk (warning illegal!) To demanding hikes like Three Peaks, everything is included. For hiking you should exchange the flip-flops for a fixed school as an exception;)!
In Waikiki, of course, the nightlife is not to be neglected. In addition to numerous bars in the hotels, there are also a few clubs. Our weekly highlight was every Tuesday evening at Moose McGillicuddies ($ 1 drinks until 2 a.m.). Pretty much all HPU students who like parties could be found here. In addition, every Friday in the Rumfire is until 9p.m. Free admission.
Otherwise there are of course many possibilities for house parties with the numerous international students.
Outside Honolulu, especially at Kailua or on the North Shore, there are unbelievably great beaches, which are best explored by car (e.g. from the Alamo) and sometimes take a little time to snorkel or surf / bodyboard.
Excursions to the other islands
In addition to the main island of Oahu, Hawaii consists of seven other larger islands, five of which can be visited.There are flights with Hawaiian and Mokulele from Honolulu for around $ 100 to $ 200 round trips. On the other islands, however, a rental car is definitely necessary, as there is either no or only a very limited bus network. As an accommodation, the three of us bought a tent right at the beginning, which we used on Oahu as well as on the other islands – it is the cheapest and most fun option. Campsites can be found online, but for many you have to officially apply for a permit (which, apart from Kauai, was not checked here). During my time in Hawaii I was able to intensively explore all the really large islands and can only recommend everyone to visit as much as possible, as each is unique.
Big Island: Here is the active Kilauea volcano, which is best explored by hiking or taking a helicopter flight. There are also great waterfalls (Akaka Falls), stargazing at Mauna Kea and great snorkeling beaches on the west coast. Other highlights were definitely the Black Sand Beach Punalu’u and night snorkeling with manta rays near Kona. I recommend a 4-5 day stay!
Kaua’i: Here you will find the approximately 12miles long Kalalau Trail, which is challenging but beautiful. You need several days and should have a tent with you and you have to get permission beforehand. Appropriate equipment is of course also recommended. You can also find the Grand Canyon of the Pacific on Kaua’i with gigantic views and great hiking trails into the canyon. The beaches in Hanalei are great for surfing and bodyboarding. I recommend a 3-4 day stay (with a complete Kalalau Trail more)
Maui: Most similar to Oahu in terms of nature. Everyone should have taken part in the Road to Hana and a trip to Haleakala is worthwhile for an incredible view of up to five islands and for sunrise (be careful, it’s cold). In winter, numerous humpback whales can be found in the waters around Maui, which we were able to observe incredibly closely from a whale watching tour with the Pacific Whale Foundation. In the north there are some of the best surfing beaches (Honolua and Ho’okipa) as well as the hippie village Pa’ia. The city of Lahaina is definitely worth a visit too. Snorkeling is actually a must on Maui – a boat trip to Molokini is particularly worthwhile. I recommend a stay of at least 5 days.
Molokai: As one of the small islands, it is very laid-back and little affected by tourism. The people are mostly locals and incredibly friendly. Sights are few and far between with Kalaupapa (former leper colony) and Papohaku Beach – so just lie on the beach and enjoy life in a relaxed way. I recommend a 2-3 day stay.
Lana’i: Is the smallest of the accessible islands and can be explored in one day. Shipwreck Beach is very impressive! Unfortunately, due to the poor road conditions, I was unable to visit the other attractions Valley of the Gods and Halulu Heiau. The Kaneapua Rock in the south is also worth seeing.
Of course, there are also many festivals and events in Hawaii. Highlights here during my stay were the Aloha Festival with Hawaiian food and dance and music as well as the Hawaii Triple Crown of Surfing, which takes place in late November and December on the North Shore of Oahu. Halloween is typically American and a huge party on Kalakaua Ave with great costumes. Also, New Years Eve in Waikiki was really great.
After the end of the semester, the F1 visa allows a stay of another 60 days in the USA. I spent about 40 days in Hawaii and used the opportunity to surf a lot and to receive friends from Germany and to visit my favorite islands again with them or to show them Oahu. However, many of my friends also left for Germany via Mainland USA (Las Vegas, New York, LA etc.). But I just found New Years under the palm trees on the beach was something special. Towards the end there are also many things to be clarified, such as selling things that you don’t want to take with you, returning an apartment, etc. After an unbelievable 5 1/2 months in Hawaii and an additional 4 days in Hong Kong on the way home, I arrived back in Munich at the end of January.