It has almost been one month since we went to Hawaii. It already feels so long ago and I miss it too much. I have learned so many important things during this trip and met wonderful people who have welcomed us with love and smiles on their faces. I will never forget them, especially Payton and her family, I‘ll be forever grateful to you.
My first impression when I got to Hawaii was the weather; it was a lot warmer than the climate in Sweden but many of us got used to it as days went by. One of my biggest impressions during this trip was Punahou School. It was huge and I was really impressed that the school had so many different buildings. Well, most of them were classrooms but they also had an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a gym, a small school shop and a lot more. The students were so polite and nice to hang out with. I also got to met my pen pal that I have had throughout 8th grade and we were both surprised but very happy to see each other. I felt like the atmosphere was very good at the school and I could be myself when I walked around, safe and happy.
As soon as I met Payton’s family they immediately embraced me with kindness and consideration. They took good care of me and always made sure to ask me if I wanted anything or what I would like to do or see in Hawaii. They also knew that English was our second language and something we may struggle with during the trip so they were understandable and didn’t really care if I said something wrong as long as they understood what I said. That made me relax more and they helped me enjoy the visit to Hawaii without thinking about smaller problems.
I can come up with many differences between Sweden and O’ahu but similarities are hard to find. One difference that all of the Swedish students and the Punahou students could find was that the American students were driven by their parents wherever they were going. It was new to me because in Sweden we usually walk, take the bus or bikes to get to places. They were also surprised that we could ask our parents if we could hang out with friends and they would say yes easily (if it’s not a no). Payton told me it was harder to just ask that anytime since they all live very long distances apart.
If I was to give a piece of advice for the next group if they get the chance to travel to Hawaii, I would want them to know that people they are going to meet will know and understand that English is our second language. Don’t be afraid of saying something wrong because they will understand you, also they’re already very impressed that we speak two languages fluently. It’s very important to bring a positive atmosphere to the group so everyone feels safe during the trip and don’t forget to bring a lot of sunscreen. You’re going to feel like a burned potato on the plane back home if you don’t use sunscreen, it’s not fun at all. But one think I know is that this trip is something that will last in your memories forever.
Last year when students from Punahou School came to visit VRS Vasastan they held a presentation about their school and Hawaii. I got completely amazed by how they lived and told my parents about the wonderful place Hawaii. This year, I got the ability to be a part of the exchange-project between VRSV and Punahou. First, we got our pen pals, then students from Punahou came to visit Stockholm in March and about a month ago we went off to Hawaii in May. Ever since I was little I have wanted to go to Hawaii, so I told my parents that I thought we should travel there sometime. The answer I got was not what I wanted to hear, my parents told me that the trip was too long trip for something you can experience somewhere else. Now, after this trip, I have realized, and told my parents, that Hawaii is completely unique and something you can’t experience somewhere else.
One interesting thing about Hawaii is that people come from all over the world which means there are a lot of different cultures. Although there are different cultures most people have welcomed and adapted to the Hawaiian culture and the spirit of aloha. I saw signs that encouraged people to live with aloha at shops, restaurants and even in the streets. The culture is also a big part of the school. Everyone we met was very friendly and welcoming, meeting us with an open mind. I learned that the students at Punahou have a yearly project where they work with different Hawaiian words and values. My guess is that this creates an open environment at the school and brings students together. Another thing I found interesting is that they call adult people, such as teachers, auntie or uncle. In Sweden, those words mean you are a close family member. From my perspective, this is a good example of how people see other people, that everyone means something to them, being a part of their family.
I also got surprised because in Hawaii, school is way more than just different classes and learning. In Sweden, we go to school, have our classes and then we go home. But after school at Punahou, most students have activities at their school. If we in Sweden want to play an instrument for example, we do that outside of school. I also noticed that they have other classes and more projects than we do. One day we visited outdoor education class which is something we don’t have in Sweden. I have also heard about May Day which, sadly, took place only a couple of days before our arrival. May Day is a big project at Punahou School where the students perform different Hawaiian dances and songs. It seems really fun. Of course, we have some projects at our school but not that big, probably because we don’t have enough time or space.
Most people want to go to Hawaii to experience the islands and because it is a really nice trip. But our trip is definitely unique because we stayed with host families. I want to thank my host family for making this visit the best. Without you, this once in a lifetime adventure wouldn’t be as great. To stay with a host family makes you experience someone else’s lifestyle and it makes you feel like you actually live in Hawaii, not just visiting as a tourist. It makes you encounter everything. We got to see what it is like to live in Hawaii and of course, we did some typical tourist things as well. My family took me around the island, we went snorkeling, had poké, plantation ice tea and boba which I am extremely grateful for. This made me find my new favorite food, poké. One day we went to school for my host sister’s award. To go there with my host family made me feel like a part of their family even more. It also made me experience another part of school and culture. I loved living in a host family, it made everything a little bit better, funnier and more exciting. It also made me feel very calm and taken care of, especially when I became sick the last day. My family took great care of me, not only when I was sick, they always made sure I was pleased and talked to me a lot. During car rides, which we had a lot of, we talked about everything but mostly differences and similarities between our lives and countries.
Thank you Davina for letting me be such a big part of your life and thank you Alli, uncle Billy and auntie Gail for making me feel like a part of your family. I am forever grateful that I got the chance to be a part of this fantastic project which made me create memories that will last a lifetime.
Mahalo and a hui hou! Sigrid
t was about a month since we went to beautiful Hawaii, but I remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday and I am never going to forget because this has been the best trip of my life so far.
To live with a host family was super fun, you get to experience the island in another way than traveling to Hawaii as a tourist. I am very grateful that my host family welcomed me into their family and let me be a part of their daily lives, it was so interesting to find similarities and differences and compare their life with the life I have in Sweden. For example I realized that everyone was much more friendly there than in Sweden. In Sweden everyone is pretty much in their own bubble but in Hawaii they seemed to care for other people than themselves. People were very open minded and welcomed other cultures so it felt like they always thought the best about people. It was like a big family, I think it’s because they live with the word aloha which means so many different things like love, caring for other as well as hi. They also call adults that they know for aunt and uncle which makes it even more like a big family. In school all the students said hi and welcomed us with open hearts, it was really nice and heartwarming to see and experience. I am going to try to bring this caring heartwarming feeling to Sweden and welcome people with an open heart and try to bring some aloha home.
Another thing that really hit me was how much they cared about culture and not just their own culture but also other cultures, which really embraced the thought that everyone is unique and have different opinions. I think that that is because they have a big mix of people from all over the world which influences life in Hawaii. You can see that the food is a mix of American, Japanese and Chinese and also that the people have a mix of cultures and have many different ethnicities, I think it is very nice. At Punahou School they learn a lot about the Hawaiian culture especially in third grade. We got to visita class from third grade and they learned about Hawaiian music. We got to have a little presentation about Sweden’s culture and music and you could really see how interested they were learning about a culture that is from a country so far away from where they live. They really wanted to learn about it and thought it was interesting for real.
I also really liked the school, in the mornings all of the students came to school one hour before first class to hang out with their friends and some of them ate breakfast at school like me and Jodi. It was a good time to meet new people and hang out because no one had anything else they needed to do like sports or something. They always change classes when they have different lessons like we do in high school in Sweden, then you get to know more people which is fun and you get a closer relationship with others in your grade and not just in your class like it is in Sweden.
Another reason to why I liked the school was because it was so big, they had a swimming pool, a big yard with lots of plants and even a fish pond!
I have learned so many things from this trip, being that far away from home made me appreciate the things I have in Sweden, like my family and friends and the life I have here. But at the same time I didn’t want to leave because of the life I had created there. I also feel a lot more comfortable speaking English, I have learned so much by speaking English for a whole week and I hope I have developed a bit of an American/Hawaiian accent know haha:))
My host family showed me what it really was like to live on Oahu and I am truly grateful that they let me be a part of their lives. I miss them a looooot! I just want to thank you and especially you Jodi for everything you did for me, taking care of me and making this trip the best by taking me to so many different and beautiful places and letting me get to know you and be a part of your family. I will always remember the memories we created.
Mahalo and a hui hou. By Vilma
When thinking about Hawaii a lot of people usually think about the beaches, palm trees and surfing but after I have been on this trip I have learned that Hawaii is so much more than just that.
This was my second time in Hawaii but this trip was so different from the first one. This time I stayed with a host family instead of at a hotel and I did a lot of things that you don’t get to do as a tourist, as an example we got to attend an American school.
One thing I noticed in Hawaii was that the parents are driving their children to school and basically anywhere they want to go. This is very different from here in Sweden where we are more independent. Almost every child in our age in Sweden get to school by themselves by walking or using public transport, such as bus or train.
Punahou school ‘s campus looked big from the pictures I saw before the trip, but it was so much bigger than I imagined in real life. Most of the students in Punahou stay within the school area after the school day to do their sport activities. The school lunch was very different from the food that we have in Swedish schools, in Sweden we can eat how much we want for free while in an American school you had to pay pretty much for a really small portion of food. It was also very different that the American students got to eat candy and snacks to get energy during the lessons.
One thing I learned from this trip is the Aloha spirit. Everyone that we met in school said hello to me and spread positive energy all day long which made a really big impact on me. I was also surprised how interested everyone was in our culture that we have in Sweden. When we visited Hawaii it was mother’s day which me and my host family celebrated with a smorgasbord, together with other family members. In Sweden we also celebrate mother’s day but we don’t celebrate it as much as they did in Hawaii. I think that the celebration of mother’s day is an example of the Aloha spirit.
I want to thank both schools and mostly Mrs. Andersson at Punahou School and Monica at VRS Vasastan for starting this exchange project. I’ve learned so much from this trip and I won’t forget this experience.
The trip to Punahou School in Hawaii was the most exciting trip of my life!
I stayed with Aidan who had stayed with me and my family in Sweden in March. It was nice to meet him again and to meet his mom Cortney, dad Paul, little brother Tristan and their cats Mimi and Cali, their dog Duke and three carps. My room was on the second floor and it had a bathroom, a snug and a balcony. The door had a cat hole so each night Mimi came in to my room to check on me. Their house was located in Kailua which is on the north-eastern side of O’ahu so to get to school we had to take the car over the mountain to Honolulu. I loved the car rides to school, it was amazing to see the view on the way up and from the top of the mountains. On our way to school we bought breakfast at Starbucks and ate it in the car. In the evenings my host dad Paul made the dinners when we didn’t eat out. The food he made was noodles with chicken and rice, hamburgers, pizza and sushi and it tasted really good. Before dinner Aidan, Tristan and I played games on the Xbox and sometimes we went to the beach.
The biggest differences between Sweden and Hawaii/O’ahu was the nature and the temperature. I have never before experienced that kind of temperatures in my life, so the first days were rough. I love being outdoors and I can’t honestly think of a better place to do so than in O’ahu. Aidan and his family took me to amazing places which I will never forget. One early morning we went down to the beach and saw the sunrise. That was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
I also think that the people of Hawaii seem to be more aware and interested in their history than people seem to be in Sweden. At Punahou school the school spirit felt the same as at Viktor Rydberg School; at home – welcoming and inspiring. They had study halls like we do but in the middle of the day and not in the end of day. All the pupils had lockers like we do and they did not have school uniforms. The classes were about our size and they also had mobile phone rules. So at a first glance it looked much the same as in Sweden but a lot of things were different.
For starters the boys and girls did not have P.E. together. Furthermore they had subjects like Latin and Japanese which we don’t have. They also had different schedules for each day which shifted every week. When they talked to the teachers they called them Mr and Mrs and their surname. Most of the times they ate their school lunch outside the canteen and they never left campus during their lunch breaks.
What surprised me the most about our stay in Hawaii was probably that I had to to go to the clinic and experience American healthcare after hurting my head on a trekking expedition with Aidan’s family. It was nothing serious just a few stitches then we could go home. It was interesting to see an American clinic in real life. I was also surprised that we got the opportunity to go on a school dance which was really fun – just like in the tv-series. Other interesting and new experiences were our excursions to Diamond head, Moana falls, Dole plantation and Pearl Harbor.
The thing that touched me the most during my stay in Hawaii was the care that Aidan, his parents and his brother and their pets gave me throughout the week. They made me feel at home and I felt like I was one of the family members. I miss being with them a lot. Hopefully we will meet up when they come to Europe next summer.
The trip of my life, by Clara.
Ever since I heard about this exchange in 7th grade I knew that I wanted to participate in it. If I knew all the wonderful things I would have the opportunity to do a year ago, I would not have believed it.
To go to the other side of the world without my parents was both terrifying and exciting. I think the fact that all of the students from Sweden were being hosted by the same students from Hawaii that visited us in March, played a big part of how well the exchange trip turned out. Since we already knew each other pretty well this trip gave us the opportunity to get even closer.
Hawaii was and still is the most beautiful place I have ever been to. The environment and the people really make the island have a special place in your heart. Being able to experience the life of a teenager on the other side of the world was exciting and I think that the homestay and the school really helped us get the full experience. I loved the homestay and I really enjoyed to get to know the family better. I also really liked to go to Punahou School since I loved to meet all the students and teachers.
During this trip I also discovered a lot of differences and similarities. One of the big differences is that students on Hawaii are more depending on their parents than most of the kids in Sweden are. I remember when we were about to get dropped off and there was a long line of cars waiting to drop the kids off. In Sweden the students seem more independent and pretty much every single one of us get to school by bus or subway. One of the similarities I found was that our life looks pretty much the same. We go to school, after school we go to different activities, we get home and do our homework. I feel like this is what the life of a teenager looks all around the world but I still feel like it might be a little bit different. For example I noticed that they often don’t do things without their parents, if we would go to the mall with some friends the parents would go with us. That was something I never had experienced before.
One thing that surprised me during the stay was how similar but still so different our lives where. We are the same age and do pretty much the same things but our lives are still very different. I feel like this might have something with the climate to do. Because Hawaii has a hot and beautiful climate that allows the students to go surfing during the weekends and after school. I think this whole trip was pretty surprising since I already had an idea about what Hawaii would be like but I experienced that Hawaii was SO much more than that.
The thing that touched me the most during this trip was the wonderful people we had the opportunity to meet. Not only did we get to meet amazing students that are now some of our closest friends, we also had the opportunity to meet amazing parents and teachers. The amazing people we met had an impact on me and I feel like their way to spread the Aloha really made us feel welcome and also taught us a lot. I can truly say that the best people I have ever met I met during this exchange and I think the fact that I now have friends so far away is pretty amazing.
When we are to present our exchange for students and teachers at VRS Vasastan I feel like it’s important to mention all the amazing things we got to experience there. I also feel like we have to talk about the exchange since this exchange gave us friends for life and made us meet so many amazing people on the other side of the world. I also feel like we just have to tell the what an experience this was and how fun and educational it was.
This exchange has been the best thing I´ve so far done in my life and I’m so grateful for this experience. I can’t even describe how much this meant to me and I would like to thank all the people involved and especially my host family for taking care of me so well.
A hui hou and Mahalo!