Adjusting to a new school can be difficult. New classes, new bell schedules, a new set of social norms–nothing seems familiar. But being a dorm student, a pupil who has to relearn everything, from the language to the customs of a different country, is even harder. In an effort to integrate the new dorm students this year, ‘Iolani offered a residential life program for ‘Iolani and Keio University students. Students from 5th to 8th grade learned about island culture by taking classes in Hawaiian cooking, and lived in ‘Iolani’s dorm or paired up as roommates with Keio students, just like the regular dorm students throughout the school year.
According to Sissi Lyu ’23, a Residential Life student from China, dorm students often struggle with tasks that most take for granted.
“My biggest problem is the language barrier. I am still trying to understand the question, while everyone else is worried about solving it,” said Lyu.
Besides having to take tests and do homework in a language that is foreign to them, boarding students must also adapt to Hawai‘i, navigate a new school, and make new friends, all while balancing a different academic curriculum.
However, being a dorm student has its upsides. Moving to Hawaii has allowed Lyu to escape China’s excessively rigorous education system.
“It [my experience] will get better after three months, so I am not afraid of it,” said Lyu.
Before coming to ‘Iolani, Lyu took math, history, English, biology, chemistry, and physics classes all in the same year. Music and the arts were not emphasized. Additionally, the college entrance exam in China, analogous to an especially stressful SAT, is the only measure that Chinese universities use in the admissions process.
Lyu, like many others, chose to attend ‘Iolani largely because of the opportunities it offers. With its Fabrications Lab, beautiful dorm facilities, and extensive academic programs, ‘Iolani has something for every student. For Lyu, her motivation was science, exclaiming “I like science. Having the opportunity to study it where everyone works together is a good environment for me. ” This is one stark similarity between international and day students at ‘Iolani: both want to succeed in a competitive school and prepare for college.
Besides an extensive education with challenging curriculum, ‘Iolani students, international or otherwise, can always look forward to welcoming “One Team” atmosphere. International students make an effort to preserve their peaceful environment, just like day students, who welcome new people into their grade every year with open arms. Over the summer, some students learned even more about what it is like to be a dorm student.
“I loved it [summer dorm program], it was a great experience and it definitely increased my appreciation for the challenges the dorm students face,” said Ellsha Johnston, ‘23 who participated in the program during the summer. During the summer the students participated in cultural classes and cooked food native to the places where dorm students are from. They also developed a sense of self- dependence which dorm students experience every day.
Dorm Students have problems that day students do not have, but the opposite is true as well. Day students may struggle with the monotony of daily life and the feeling of being stuck in the same place. Thus, both day students and dorm students will benefit from ‘Iolani’s Residential Life program. Dorm students can learn about Hawaiian culture by experiencing the food, music, and vibrant history of the islands while improving their English fluency, while day students can discover foreign cultural practices and learn to accept people no matter where they come from.