It’s not a secret that Olivet attracts many students from multiple areas and countries, including United States territories and the only U.S. state located outside of continental North America, Hawaii. In fact, ONU prides itself on having such a large and diverse student presence.
Many of these students represent Olivet on athletic teams. This academic year, Olivet welcomed a new group of students to Bourbonnais as part of the Pacific Rim recruitment initiative. While this group of students includes many amazing students, I had the honor of being able to walk alongside the student-athletes and was able to learn from them.
The Pacific Rim recruitment initiative is led by ONU alumnus Bob Harmon in collaboration with the office of admissions at ONU. The on-campus support is housed in the Pacific Rim Student Service Office, with its director, Beth Ann Conway, taking the lead.
These students come from different backgrounds and some participate in a variety of sports and other activities on campus. The Olivet community was beyond thrilled to welcome them to campus and they quickly immersed themselves into the Olivet culture.
From a traditional student standpoint, it has been fascinating watching them mold into Olivet students while staying true to their culture. Their culture is extraordinarily different than what could be considered mainland American culture; the way we do things here on the “mainland” looks different than the way they do it on the beautiful islands of Hawaii and Guam.
I spent the majority of the semester getting to know the student-athletes that call Hawaii and Guam home. Throughout this process, I have learned so much and have been so inspired to live the way these students do. I loved learning more about what life looked like on the islands and how well they have adjusted to life here at Olivet.
The Hawaiian culture is a combination of many influences from far and wide. Each island has its own culture and diversity. Mainlanders, or those not native to the islands, are referred to as Haoles. They account for a majority of the population on the islands.
Japanese, Filipino and other Polynesian people groups also call the islands home. The majority of what we see in the media regarding the Pacific Rim is in fact all “paradise” that is used as a way to market and increase tourism.
What we see differs from life on the islands. Native citizens of the Pacific Rim have a kinship to the U.S. despite strong feelings of being under appreciated and misrepresented. The people of the pacific islands have developed a unique and ancient culture of their own.
Hawaiians have adapted their own foods, many of which take influence from other cultures. Freshman men’s volleyball player Collier Kahaku Marquez, who was born in Honolulu, stated that his favorite food is called “Loco Moco.”
He explained that it is an egg on top of a beef patty that is placed on a bed of rice. He also added that he loves eating his Loco Mocos when they are smothered in gravy — he made sure to add an emphasis on smothered.
Other popular foods amongst the Pacific Rim students at Olivet include mushroom chicken, hamburger meat with cream and mushroom, and SPAM and rice.
The students have found ways to implement their favorite foods into their diets while at Olivet. The Conway’s host the Pacific Rim students at their home, where Conway, affectionately known as Auntie Beth, will often cook the foods they request.
Freshman football player Kayde Mahuka, who was born in Oahu, explained that life on the island is very relaxed compared to life on the mainland. He stated that everyone is very relaxed and has a “go with the flow” mentality.
“Potlucks are a way to bring everyone together and the food is always good,” Mahuka said.
He noted that this is one of the main differences between the mainland and island. Everyone on the mainland is in a rush to get somewhere; on the island, there is no rush. You let life happen.
I know you might be wondering, why would a student from the Pacific Rim consider going to school in Illinois? For many, the impending cost of higher education was the top factor in deciding where to go for college.
With the help of the admissions team, many of our Pacific Rim students were able to weigh their options and choose Olivet as their home away from home.
Along with being able to play the sport that they love, they are also surrounded by a nourishing and loving Christian community. The Pacific Rim Association, a newly formed group on campus, was established to support these students as they transition to the mainland and the college culture. The PRA strives to support high moral and educational standards while integrating faith and learning. It strives to be a “home away from home” or “Ohana” for these students.
Watching the Pacific Rim students blend in with the Olivet community has been my favorite thing to do this year. They are an active part of campus but they have made sure to bring a little bit of the Pacific Rim to campus. I have been amazed by their force on campus and am excited to see what lies ahead for them and prospective Pacific Rim students.