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Aloha everyone, Jessica here again. So today I wanted to talk about graduation in Hawaii. Although it’s still mid-April, and classes are coming to an end in a few weeks, graduation is right around the corner for many of us. As this is my last semester as a student at Hawaii Community College, I wanted to share my experience with our local/Hawaiian graduations I have experienced as a way to conclude my studies here.

My very first graduation experience in Hawaii was actually in high school. Because I moved to Japan as a child, my first graduation from elementary was experienced there instead of in the islands. Being it my first graduation in Hawaii made me really nervous. I had seen some of my older and younger friends graduate at different times, but I never experienced it myself until that moment. The ceremony was very long as I was in a class of about 700 students or so at that time, so we had our ceremony at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium that could hold all of us seniors as well as our family members that came to watch our ceremony. After the ceremony ended, family members rushed to the graduates and gave them leis. Some were flower leis while others were candy or money leis. Others were maile leis while some were ribbon or crocheted leis. Either way, the graduates were bombarded with a stack of leis to the point where some of us couldn’t see because the leis were stacked way over our heads. It was a bit crazy but you could feel the aloha and happiness flowing from everyone. Luckily my family was more reserved and only got me a few leis to wear, which I appreciated a lot after seeing my friends struggling to walk through the crowd of people with all of their leis covering their vision and even having some dangling from each arm as well.

My second graduation experience in Hawaii was when I graduated from the University of Hawaii at Hilo. This ceremony was a bit different from my high school one. Instead of hosting it at the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium, it was held at our very own new gym on the University of Hawaii at Hilo campus. Because our graduating class was way smaller than my high school class, with maybe only about 100 graduates, it felt very fitting. Unlike my high school graduation, we were actually allowed to have leis around our necks during the ceremony. They said that it would look good when they take our picture when we receive our diploma. So a few of my friends gave me a lei, which in exchange I gave them one each as well. Everything went well and our ceremony lasted only a few hours compared to my high school one. After the ceremony ended, we all ran to our family members, then to the designated last name alphabet sections looking for our friends and classmates to take pictures with. As we tried to make our way through the dense crowd of people, we would bump into non-graduating friends, staff, and professors, who gave us leis as we continued to look for our graduating friends. By the time I finished circling around the gym, and meeting and taking pictures with all of my friends and professors, I was just like a typical graduate in Hawaii. The leis were stacked up all the way to my nose so I ended up having to carry the rest on my arm so I could at least see where I was going. It felt a bit heavy on my shoulders too, but was very aromatic with all of the sweet smelling flower leis given to me. It was such a happy day and a great feeling to have.

Now, for my third graduation in Hawaii. I am unfortunately not going to participate in the ceremony. Although I did accomplish a lot, and do feel extremely proud of myself as an older returnee student, I decided not to walk the line this time. It has nothing to do with the ongoing pandemic, even though it has somewhat died down, or Hawaii Community College or my excellent teachers/professors. It’s a personal choice I made when I first enrolled for classes two years ago. None-the-less, I would like to thank all of my professors, counselors, advisors, HINET office, scholarship foundation, staff, classmates, and everyone involved with my school life for the last two years. I really enjoyed your company, and even though it’s sad to part ways, I wish everyone a happy life here after. Thank you Hawaii Community College, and thank you Intensive English Program for having me join your team. I really enjoyed peer tutoring and teacher assisting for the past year. I’ll be seeing you all around some day. Until we meet again… Aloha and A hui hou~!

A YouTube video insert of a typical lei giving during graduation season. This video was filmed at the University of Hawaii at Manoa of the graduating Class of 2017. Enjoy~
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