• Tess Varley

Class on Island Time

To say that I am jealous of one of my hometown best friends, Laura Hoy, for spending her online semester in Hawaii, is an understatement. At Colorado College (where she’s currently a junior), there’s a block where you take just one class for three and a half weeks, so Laura decided to enroll in online courses, did a two week quarantine, purchased a flight and an AirBnb and was on her way to Hawaii with her two friends. On her average day, she spends her mornings in class, then straight to the beach for an afternoon surf. On the weekends, you’ll find her exploring every square mile of Oahu. Laura knew that being on-campus for the semester with the uncertainty of whether she would have to pack up and go home to Maine, or potentially get sick, made this the right move for her. Since we were five, she was always looking for the next crazy adventure and it absolutely had to involve either being in the ocean or on the mountains. I owe almost every adventurous bone in my body to Laura, for pushing me to find my own love with nature. With Laura’s abroad program in Australia being canceled, she truly seized this opportunity and did not give up on her dream to travel. She has been basically tech-free besides her laptop for classes, but catching a word with her this semester has been far more difficult than last year. I asked Laura a few questions about her make-shift “study abroad.”

What was the biggest factor that drove you to spend the semester in Hawaii?

"After my abroad trip got canceled, I was set on figuring out a plan B. I had always planned on going and had even chosen my college based on the abroad program. So, in quarantine when we had endless extra time I brainstormed. I was trying to create an experience that would have been somewhat like Australia. The thought of being on an empty campus doing online school did the opposite of excite me."

What has being in Hawaii taught you about yourself?

"That I should always follow my gut decision and that good things can come from doing this. I have met new people who are different from me or who are doing something that I want to try. With this pandemic, we have all had to learn to just roll with whatever is going on which is exactly what I have learned to do. Doing this has turned into countless good stories and experiences that I have created here in Hawaii."

What are you most grateful for from this experience?

"First off, I am most grateful that I had two really awesome people who have shared this experience with me: Emmeline, my college roommate, and her friend Karley. The people I have met here as well have been insanely nice. I am also grateful for the simple ability to be here, be healthy, the opportunity, and to have a family that is supporting my decisions."

How has your love for adventure and nature formed you into who you are today?

"Being outside has served as a mental escape for me. Going for a surf, a hike, or diving or whatever else serve as mental outlets for me when school or regular life is chaotic. It’s a nice break from everyday life, especially being without my phone. It’s time where I can actually enjoy where I am and be separated from whatever 1,000 things are going on on my phone. I have learned that for my personal mental health doing this is necessary for me. Especially with COVID-19, these types of breaks have been more than essential."

This is the furthest you have been from home for this long, how have you dealt with any feelings of homesickness?

"I really do miss my family and I am excited to see them again but I have already been at a school that’s a long plane ride away from Maine, so it wasn’t too much of a leap. I honestly probably get more homesick in Colorado because the ocean is a big sense of home for me and is grounding for me. I actually get so antsy in Colorado, with it being a land-locked state. Don’t get me wrong, I love being there, but I could not have been in Colorado Springs for quarantine."

Due to time change, you have been more disconnected technology-wise, how’s that been?

"I have actually loved being a bit more disconnected. I fall into the rhythm more, even if this is not the most responsible thing to do. When I spend too much time on my phone I get into these mental funks. I think during quarantine in the spring I realized how toxic social media can be for me. So, I have just been dedicating time to my phone to keep in touch but otherwise stay generally off of it. Being here in such a new environment, I don’t really gravitate towards it as much as I would at school. For the first month here, I didn’t even take a photo. I was in such awe over the place I was in."

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