Goddess mug shot The Goddess Speaks

Nicole Tajima

Going away to college
helps students grow

Soon my sister will have to make one of the most important decisions of her life. She will decide where she will attend college. As I think back on what it was like to make that decision, I feel confident that I made the right choice.

I encourage my sister and all other high schoolers to further their educations on the mainland if they have the opportunity. College is more than just academia. It's about life.

In college you learn that it doesn't matter what club you were president of, what ranking you had in your class, or what you got on your SATs. In many ways, you are a carbon copy of all of the other club presidents that graduated in the fifth percentile of their classes. This jolt of reality forces you to search inside yourself for what really makes you unique. You harness a balance between the comforting sense of belonging and the empowering feeling of individuality.

Going away to school also gives many the chance to experience dorm life. You learn the truth about whether you really snore and talk in your sleep. You learn that late night runs to the supermarket can be the best bonding experiences. You learn to shower in five minutes or less as a means of survival.

Only in the dorms will you be able to hear people wrestling, laughing, playing XBOX, and yelling all at the same time. You find that you are not the only person who can quote entire episodes of "Friends." You find that there is no such thing as personal space. You will find that you don't like shoes on the bed, people touching your ears, or the noise your beanbag chair makes when it rubs against the wall. But you will find that you love the unexpected notes of affirmation on your dry erase board, the fact that you're not the only one who's named the squirrels that live in the tree outside, or the way that you're never without a shoulder to cry on, a neighbor to laugh with, or a partner in crime.

LIVING ON YOUR own without parents around is the greatest means of gaining independence. You develop the ability to choose which is more important: your real boyfriend or your cubicle boyfriend in the library.

Being away also plunges you into an environment where you meet a plethora of individuals. You will be told that you have a "Hawaiian accent." Very few people know what it means to "talk story." The word "pau" elicits confused expressions. And you share an unspoken camaraderie with anyone who understands "mauka" is a direction.

You also learn "mainland speak." Soda is called "pop." Slippers are called "flip-flops" or "thongs." Port-a-potties are called "honey buckets."

Granted, leaving the islands is not without it hardships and heartaches. Going to school on the mainland can be like being on an episode of "Survivor," except you're the only one on your team and all the others don't seem to notice you. But truth be told, the old cliché is right. Whatever doesn't kill you only makes you stronger.

I don't want to belittle the University of Hawaii or any of the other schools in the islands. I know people who have developed happy and successful lives, but their paths have been very different from mine. Not better, just different. Now the choice is yours. Will you dare to be different?

Nicole Tajima is a graduate of Hawaii Baptist Academy's class of 2001, attending Seattle Pacific University.

The Goddess Speaks is a feature column by and
about women. If you have something to say, write
"The Goddess Speaks," 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813;
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