5,321 miles. Yeah it’s a ridiculously long distance. It’s the distance from my home island of Kwajalein to where I live now, Phoenix, AZ. The most obvious question I get is how the hell did you end up in the desert. Well, let me tell you how this all went down.
I spent the first 18 years of my life in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. More specifically, I lived on an island that is 3 miles long, half a mile wide with of a population of 1,000 called Kwajalein. So small is probably an understatement. I lived my entire life up until then in a community where everyone knew my name and I knew everyone. I was highly involved with anything someone my age could be. I was in a community that supported me and encouraged me to do so many amazing things. And I had big dreams ranging from animal training to superstar actress to forensic anthropologist. Now, 2012 rolls around and I’m starting my senior year in high school. This means one thing: I have to go to college next year. It wasn’t really a thought in my head that I wouldn’t go to college. It was just expected of me and I wanted to go. I was ready to explore the “real world” as we called it. I wanted to experience life outside of the bubble I knew. Oh and we really couldn’t stay after graduating. Now it was just a question of where. Unlike many of my classmates, my entire life was on that island. Many people moved there from a state and had planned on going back to that familiar place the next year. I didn’t really have that since my parents had been on the island for over 20 years at this point. It was honestly the only home that I knew and I had to just pick up and find a new one. I was extremely grateful since I had offers from a lot of schools for scholarships and honor programs. I was receiving letters and calls from schools all over the country. I decided to focus on Hawaii, Arizona and California. My mom is originally from Hawaii and my dad, Arizona. They are states I’ve been to many different times and was the closest thing I had to a home state. However, there was still a thought of going somewhere completely different like Colorado, Texas or even New York.
I ended up applying to schools in HI, AZ, and CA and was accepted to all of them. Now, I had a huge decision to make. I needed to decide where I wanted my new home to be. I was absolutely terrified. I wasn’t ready to live by myself let alone in a whole new culture basically. But I didn’t have a choice. I had to go. So I did something absolutely insane. I went from my tiny little island in the Pacific to the largest school in the country, Arizona State University. I chose ASU for a number of reasons. First, they had a forensic program and it was the only school I was considering that had an actual forensic program. The others, I would be an anthropology degree (which I ended up doing at ASU). If I was going to start my life again, I wanted something different. I wanted to be able to experience what I thought a real college experience would be. I wanted the large university with football (something I never had growing up) and the diverse group of people. I wanted to go to the concerts and events. I wanted to live. But, the thought of a large university and all those people freaked me out. I was sure that I would be lost constantly and not have friends because there were so many people they could talk to. However, fate was on my side and granted me my perfect wish. My major was only on a small campus of ASU, West. ASU West was much much smaller. There were only 2 residence halls, and 2 classroom buildings. It was quiet and wasn’t as crowded as the Tempe campus (the largest campus but don’t ever call it the main campus). I went to visit and realized that this was more comfortable for me. It was a small, tight knit community where I would be able to come out my shell at my own pace. Living at West allowed me to adjust to living in a different culture slowly so that I wouldn’t be overwhelmed. I could develop a group of friends and be involved in the large organizations on campus.
Attending ASU West was the best decision I could have made. I had all the resources of a large university but I had a small community on a small campus. I wasn’t rushed into this new life and could slowly adjust to it. And my friends from my freshman year will tell you that I needed that time to adjust. They stopped taking me to the store because I would take forever marveling at all of the options they had, especially Gatorade. I was able to get involved and become a student leader on campus in ways I probably wouldn’t have been able to if I was at a larger campus. And I fell in love with ASU and Arizona. Yeah, Arizona is hot but you get over that quickly by spending time inside most of the days. But the winters were not too cold for the average person. For a island girl, I was basically a Popsicle in 70 degrees. However, now that I’ve been here for a few years, winters are great because they aren’t too cold. I wouldn’t survive in weather up north. I don’t worry about a lot of crazy weather or natural disasters. And I can get authentic Mexican food pretty much at any time. Phoenix is the 5th most populous city in the US so I can experience all that a city has to offer if I want and can go look at sand and cacti hiking if I feel like it (which I never do). I’ve been in AZ for 5 years now. I know that I probably won’t live here for the rest of my life but I can’t imagine starting my journey anywhere else. So thank you Arizona for making a place 5,000 miles from the island and ocean feel like home.