Monday, July 25, 2011

How it All Happened

For anyone who wants to know  the story of how I ended up spending a semester studying in Hawaii, here it is:

It was my friend Tawni's idea.  She figured out how she could spend a semester at the University of Hawaii through the National Student Exchange program, which lets students from member universities attend other member schools seamlessly.  I found out she was going via Facebook, and decided to check it out because it seemed like a fabulous idea.  Because honestly, who wouldn't want to spend four months in Hawaii?

So I looked at UH's website and saw they have an Animal Sciences major.  Perfect.  It would be easy for me to take classes over there and still fulfill my requirements towards me degree I was currently working on at the University of Illinois.

I reported my findings to Tawni, and to my surprise, she was actually excited and wanted me to come with her!

My next step was to check out the National Student Exchange program.  There I ran into a roadblock:  U of I was not a member school to the program.  I called and asked if there was anything they could do so I could go to Hawaii.  I was borderline desperate, figuring maybe I could transfer from Illinois to Illinois State and go to Hawaii through the NSE from there.  Crazy idea, and looking back now, I was not thinking straight.  But there was nothing they could do, and I became stuck.

I was about to lose all hope and accept that I was going to stay in the miserable midwest until Tawni found a program through UH that allows students to spend a semester almost abroad, called A Semester in Hawaii.

This was gold.  I quickly found out all I could about the program and decided it was achievable.  Then all I had to do was run it by my parents...

Mind you that this was during spring break (end of March, let's say).  I approached my parents and told them everything.  They were hesitant, of course, but I tried to "explain my way in" (Dane Cook reference, anyone?)  Finally, I said, "The deadline for the paperwork is in two weeks.  If I figure everything out and get it sent in, may I go?"  I'm sure  they figured there'd be no chance in Hell I'd get all the paperwork sent in on time, let alone get accepted, so they agreed.

Ha ha ha.  They were wrong.

Let me tell you, this was no easy task.  The paperwork consisted of:
  • General application to the program
  • Application to the university itself
  • One-page typed paper on how I would benefit from spending a semester in Hawaii
  • Sending my transcripts from fall semester
  • Two letters of recommendation (Thank you so incredibly much Tracy Kotecki and Julie Fiers!)
Once I sent all that in, I waited (impatiently).  I engulfed myself with everything UH.  I creeped on their blog, their facebook page, and even their twitter account. I figured there were close to one hundred students in this program each semester, until I looked a little closer.  The spring '11 program had 7 students.  SEVEN.  I had lost a tremendous amount of hope.  Not only was I super close to the deadline on a rolling admission program, I wasn't sure whether it was difficult or not to be admitted to UH.

Nevertheless, I had already begun to send emails to my academic advisor and dean of my college from Illinois.  I still didn't know if there was going to be any sort of conflict regarding my class tranferrability or timeline towards graduation or something.

To make  this already super long story a little shorter, I (by myself) figured out most everything and smoothed everything out to make sure this would work.  I probably still have to work a few kinks out because I still need to wait to register for classes and everything.

Basically, what I'm doing is dropping my courses at Illinois, AKA "dropping out".  It seemed super scary but it should all be fine.  I am  transferring to UH and becoming a full-time student there, and then petitioning back to Illinois in the spring (which is the plan anyway).

I finally got my acceptance letter to the program, and eventually to the university!  I was really excited, but it was a little bittersweet at the same time, because that meant I would be away from my family and new friends for my first semester sophomore year.

On top of that, I had already signed a lease for an apartment with my friend Chelsea, that I needed to do something about.  After trying and failing to sublease it, we came to the conclusion that I was going to keep the lease but not live in the apartment the first four months. now I have to pay my parents $2,000+ for those four months of rent =/     ($2753 exactly, and that's including my round-trip flight)
Which my summer job at the airport has made it possible.  Thank the dear lord for that job.

And here I am 24 days away from moving to a vacation destination for four months with one of my best friends.  I couldn't be more excited =D

So for the first time, I get to say...

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