Aloha! My name is Chandler Bridgman, and I am a first-year student from the island of Oahu in the State of Hawaii. As you would imagine, my transition to Pomona and the city of Claremont has been exciting. Although the much drier climate and less lush environment are very different from my home across the sea, there are many similar cultural experiences both on and off campus. I find that the diverse student body has been extremely welcoming and many of the people I have met demonstrate the gift of Aloha (love, compassion, respect) which I too have been raised to share. In fact, the diversity of the students is also reminiscent of my island home and quite comforting.
The biggest part of my culture is ohana which means family, but also so much more than just blood relatives. I liken the sponsor group system here, which is awesome, to an ohana as this has really eased my transition. In my group alone I have made friends with many international and local students. As you can imagine, we Hawaiians are a bit isolated from the rest of the mainland. We can’t just get in a car and be in another state by morning, so it has been nice getting to know other “Americans” too.
My move has not been without its challenges, however, and being away from home, getting used to a college-level workload, and taking sole responsibility for my time management has been tough at times. Fortunately, the faculty here are incredibly supportive. In fact, there is no shortage of support for any endeavor. I find the student-led study groups particularly beneficial. I have also been able to find a “taste of Hawaii” in the Claremont village. Since Hawaii has a strong Asian influence, and I am particularly fond of the Japanese culture, I have discovered Kazama Sushi and Bua Thai restaurants. They’ve helped with comfort food when homesickness looms. But I am happy to say that I am so at ease here, I haven’t missed my paradise as much as I had feared I might! All in all, being a Hawaiian in Claremont feels like a perfect fit.