‘Ohana

Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others. [Revised]

My grandma thought I was going to die. By studying abroad in France, away from her care, I learned that I must be the one to make the most out of an experience, even if it’s not what I expected it to be. Coming from Hawai’i from a single parent family, going abroad helped me gain a more coherent view of working with diversity, as well as establishing and maintaining positive relationships with friends and family. Most of all, the importance and value of ‘ohana in my life – of a value that defines my home culture – became clear to me.

‘Ohana translated from Hawaiian means “family.” In Hawai’i, ‘Ohana goes beyond blood relations. It is a true connectedness to one another, where relationships are deep and genuine, and the assurance that you’re cared for. It is the concept of a larger family—a school, a community, and the island as a whole—even strangers feel the warmth and aloha.In Rennes, I expected the warmth of a host family and country, for it’s French tradition to give bisous – kisses on the cheek. However, I found an emptiness. They were very kind and opened their home to me, but I often felt left out. The large family of six engaged with each other. I was an observer in someone’s home, not a true part of the family. My need for personal relationships became the catalyst for my growth. And so, I ventured to build my own experiences. To make a connection to my place, I learned how to utilize the public transportation, where at home I had never taken the bus, nor traveled anywhere without my family.

A need for direction, both literally and figuratively, had never been more glaringly evident to me. Additionally, at first, my limited French was a challenge, but I strived to communicate with the community around me. Over time, I built my connection with the city and made it my home. By finding my way, I also discovered more about myself and my abilities. I now speak French fluently, but even more so, I have confidence in my self-reliance.Despite my connection to Rennes, one thing was evident: I was missing that tangible feeling of inclusion that exists in a close island community, an ‘ohana. And I discovered it with my newfound friends. Although my classmates came from different parts of the world and were shaped by different experiences, I learned who they were as individuals, but also their importance to my ‘ohana. In studying at school and exploring the country with them, we each brought our own views and competencies. Within our group, there was unwavering acceptance and support. They gave me my own sense of belonging and “family” found within them. Moreover, from this incredible journey and time of growth, I realize that my experience in France will be similar to college.

Living in a new environment will offer its own set of challenges, and I want to be challenged like I was in France. I will build an ‘ohana with members in my dorm community, classes, and various clubs by taking the time to meet and develop relationships with people who support and respect me. Additionally, I know that studying in a big city will provide me with new perspectives through the many internships and career options available, especially in comparison to the possibilities that Hawai’i can offer. I am seeking a college experience to further prepare me to positively contribute to a global market. In addition, I look forward to ample opportunities to step out of my comfort zone and to push my limits, as well as give me the chance to develop and nurture my personal and professional networks with an extensive community. I have tested myself by understanding my needs and capabilities; now I am ready for the next big step. And although I may not have initially found my sense of belonging, I know that I can go out and create my own ‘ohana.

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