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Domestic students share Hawaii feels like home and gives them a place to stay during pandemic

Three students sit underneath a tree on campus.

Domestic students who decided to stay in Hawaii during the COVID-19 pandemic said consistency and independence are of the reasons they decided to stay and a desire to grow both personally and spiritually.

Deylan Gudiel, a sophomore from Oregon majoring in intercultural peacebuilding, shared why he decided to stay in Hawaii in the midst of a global pandemic. “I just love Hawaii so much, and it is the only place that actually feels like home to me at this point.”

After moving every couple of months since graduating from high school in Oregon, Gudiel said he wanted to stay in Hawaii because it “is the only consistent place where I have a community and friends and a life.”

Toni Shipp, a junior from California majoring in communications, shared what she is able to gain by staying during this time. “I think that by staying here, I am really challenging myself to be more independent.”

With more time on her hands, Shipp said she hopes to be of service to her friends who have also stayed in Hawaii. “We have been more like family to each other since we are all in similar situations.”

Jackie Morris, a junior from Virginiamajoring in social work, explained herreasoning for staying in Hawaii. “I decided to stay in Hawaii during this time for multiple reasons, one of which is I already changed my flight ticket home one time, and I was not capable of changing it again without getting a fee.

“I also decided to stay for safety reasons. Everyone going home at one time had me thinking that airports would not be very safe. And not only it being a risk just to myself, but also me going home and potentially being a carrier for very high-risk, vulnerable people in my home.”

Morris explained the process of making her decision to stay. She said, “I had to make this decision in about 48 hours. I prayed, and I asked my mom and sister to fast and pray with me as well, and ultimately it was ... my own decision.”

A graphic of students sitting around a coffee table.


Gudiel said he hopes to gain more experience in his job at the Media Productions Center during the coronavirus pandemic. “I like what I am learning, and I want to continue developing my portfolio with art and film.”

Shipp explained she feels as though she made the right decision for herself because “everything has worked out for me to be able to stay here. To me, that makes me feel like I made a good decision and the right one for myself in the situation that I am in.”

Morris shared what she hopes to gain personally by staying in Hawaii. She said, "[I] want to be more spiritually inclined since we, as saints, know that a time like this is just the beginning ... We have to be able to cultivate our revelation and our spirituality in all senses, so that is what I am trying to focus on more."

Online classes make it easier to prioritize the things Gudiel wants to get done, he said. This allows him to gain experience at work while also growing personally. “In some ways, this has made this easier to make the most of my time and enjoy Hawaii,” he said.

Shipp shared how she has been making the most of her time in Hawaii amid the restrictions. She commented, “This is forcing me to call home a lot more than I used to, which is great because I am talking to my family much more. I have been able to do random things, such as painting, drawing and writing. I’ve been getting to know my roommates better and even myself better. I have also learned how to create a routine for myself that is healthy.”