Video by: UH Hilo student Sycamore Mitchell
Nikki Erece shares her personal journey as a transfer student and Administration of Justice alumna, and how coming home to #UHHilo was one of the best decisions she ever made.
Joshua Tarbox, Communication Alumnus
Alumnus Joshua Tarbox was attracted to the beauty of Hawai‘i Island and its slower-paced lifestyle that allowed him to focus and thrive. A graduate in Communication and a former Global Vulcan, he describes how being immersed in UH Hilo’s diversity and spirit of aloha, set a foundation for learning unlike any other place in the world. #VulcanVIBE
Mikolaj Walczuk, Japanese Linguistics Alumnus
What is your name, title and relationship to UH Hilo?
My name is Mikolaj Walczuk, but everyone calls me Miko. I’m a Sr. Creative Producer at Tesla. And I went to UH Hilo and participated in study abroad programs.
Where are you originally from (your hometown)?
We moved from all over the place so we didn’t really have a place to call a hometown. We moved from Pukalani, Maui before coming to the Big Island.
What attracted you to UH Hilo?
The ability to study abroad and all the diversity at campus.
What’s your favorite memory or story that you’ve experienced here at UH Hilo?
On my second day of school I picked a random table at the cafeteria to sit at. It turned out it was full of Japanese students. After talking with them, I signed up for Japanese class, studied abroad in Japan, and got a degree in Japanese linguistics. When a butterfly flaps its wings…
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned in life or at UH Hilo?
Life isn’t necessarily about happiness. Life is about vitality. Because if you are healthy and energetic you can tackle any ups and downs that life throws at you.
What are you passionate about?
Art and design. You don’t need language to communicate all the time.
For future UH Hilo students, is there any wisdom you would like to pass on? What would you want them to know?
Study abroad if you are able. Don’t worry about missing a semester or two, life isn’t going anywhere. This time will transform everything you know about yourself and is the ultimate time to do it.
What are your dreams and what does your future hold?
My dream is to help the community. I hope to create a makerspace or studio to give accessible design and art to all.
How would you describe your personal journey in life?
It is a mix of exploration and de-programming.
What is your personal motto?
Trust that the dots will connect.
How did UH Hilo impact your life?
Lifelong friends, and a career doing what I love.
What do you feel is UH Hilo’s niche – what makes us special?
So much diversity, really like a melting pot. And the diversity is full of Aloha.
Did UH Hilo prepare you for the workplace and your current career?
What does “journey” mean to you?
Throughout the ups and downs, you still put one foot in front of the other.
If you could say one thing to a prospective student who is undecided about coming to UH Hilo, what would you say?
If you want to be surrounded by diversity, aloha and an amazing culture look nowhere else.
#UHHilo Vulcan V.I.B.E. presents a special edition sent from alumna Vijaya Singh in New York to all members of our UH Hilo ‘Ohana, past, present and future. #VulcanVIBE
UH Hilo alumna, Megan Escalona, talks about her experiences at the School of Education. She is currently a second grade teacher at Waiakeawaena Elementary school. #VulcanVIBE
Ariel Moniz, English Alumna
Degrees: AA in Liberal Arts (HCC), BA in English, with a minor in History (UH Hilo)
Graduation Semester/Year: Summer 2016
High School: Connections Public Charter School
Hometown/State: Maui, Hawai‘i (or Kalapana, Big Island)
Job Title: Freelance Writer, Editor, and Blogger
What was your path to UH Hilo?
I attended Connections Public Charter School for my high school career, where I was able to apply to take several courses at Hawaii Community College through the Gear Up Program. This was a great opportunity for me to get an idea of what life in college would be like, and allowed me to earn college credits before I officially entered college in the Fall of 2011. I always knew that I wanted to attend university, so I went straight from high school to Hawaii Community College, where I earned my Associates Degree in Liberal Arts before transferring to the University of Hawaii at Hilo to pursue my Bachelor’s degree.
Why did you choose to attend UH Hilo?
I chose to attend UH Hilo because they had an English program that appealed to me and because it allowed me to stay near my family, which was very important to me at the time. I’m thankful that I was able to complete my dream of earning a degree while remaining in my home community.
What were your favorite things about UH Hilo?
The opportunity to connect with others who shared my love of learning and literature was a great gift for me, not only through the English classes themselves but also through extracurricular opportunities like the English Club, the Board of Student Publications (BOSP), and the tutoring centers.
What are some extracurricular activities or clubs that you were a part of while attending UH Hilo?
I wanted to be a part of everything English or literature related while I was in university. This led to me working as an English tutor for The Learning Center through Hawaii Community College, and as an English tutor for the Kupa ʻĀina Summer Bridge Program in the summer of 2017, the year after I graduated.
While attending UH Hilo I also served as a literary editor for Kanilehua, which is UH Hilo’s art and literary magazine. The following year I was honored to become Kanilehua’s Editor-In-Chief.
These experiences allowed me to use my writing skills and my interest in the English language in ways that helped others and which gave me the opportunity to prepare myself for my future professional goals.
My love for English and the community committed to it at UH Hilo also motivated me to help spearhead the English club during my time at university. Many of my fondest memories were shared with others who also benefitted from these extracurricular activities.
What were your experiences with the UH Hilo faculty like?
Some of the highlights of my time at UH Hilo were the interactions that I had with the staff of the English Department. Kirsten Mollegaard, Seri Luangphinith, and Mark Panek had a large influence on my writing and how I perceived writing as a craft. They encouraged me to hone my writing skills, challenged me to expand my literary horizons, and they all made me feel like a valued member of the UH Hilo community.
What was the best thing about your time at UH Hilo?
One of the best things about my time at UH Hilo was entering the English degree, which allowed me to meet so many people who shared in my goals and life dreams. I had never been surrounded by so many people passionate about literature and the written word before my time in university. It was the English program that helped me create a community for myself, and nearly all of my closest friends to this day are people who I bonded over literature with in an English class.
How did your time at UH Hilo benefit you?
UH Hilo benefitted me in many ways, both in my personal and professional life. Besides its valuable role in helping me improve my writing and expand my social circle in a meaningful way, my time at UH Hilo also expanded my horizons and helped me discover new passions and goals that I had not thought feasible previously. The most influential of these I discovered in my last semester of my time at UH Hilo, when I was a part of a study abroad program through Hawaii Community College which took place in Ireland. This was my first time traveling outside of the country, and it was through this that I realized how much more of the world there was out there to see. I have been traveling regularly ever since, and I have now been to eleven countries and hope to visit many more.
Do you have any advice for current or future UH Hilo students?
I feel like the best advice I could give to anyone entering or currently attending university is to enjoy your time as a student. Be passionate about your studies, but also embrace and make time for friendships and meeting with like-minded people, pursue moments of personal happiness, and truly care for yourself and pay attention to your needs. Your grades and your future are important, but so is this moment and these memories that you are creating.
What has life been like for you since graduating?
Since attending UH Hilo my life has gone in a much different direction than what I expected when I was first began attending university. After discovering a love for travel I made it a priority to see more of the world. By working at two bookstores in Hilo for a year and a half I was able to save up enough money to travel through Europe, where I had many wonderful experiences and met some of the most amazing people, including the man who is now my husband. I now live in Germany— still traveling when I can, blogging, editing, writing, and currently attending a German integration course which will allow me to speak a second language and hopefully enter the field of translation in the near future.
What is your personal motto
My personal motto is to try your best in all that you do, especially in the pursuit of your passions. Regardless of the outcome, when you try your best you are investing in your best self.
Who are you most influenced by in your life?
I am most influenced by those for whom I have great respect. This includes great figures whose footsteps I hope to follow in, such as the writers Maya Angelou, Neil Gaiman, and Ray Bradbury, as well as those closer to my heart but no less impressive, such as my grandparents who instilled in me the values of hard work and kindness, and many of the teachers who made school and later university such a refuge for me through their dedication and passion for education.
What are your greatest accomplishments? What are you most proud of?
I was honored to be awarded the Matthew Therrien Award and to win the Droste Poetry Competition during my time at UH Hilo. I am also thankful that I was published in the Kanilehua Art & Literary magazine as well as the Hohonu Academic Journal. These publications gave me the confidence in my writing which allowed me to pursue and achieve other publications later. All of these accomplishments made me feel like a valued member of the UH Hilo community and also instilled in me the belief that the goals I was reaching towards were in fact possible. This is why I consider them some of my greatest accomplishments.
What are your passions?
I have always been happiest while I am writing, reading, spending time in nature, or studying one of the things I’m fascinated by, which include ancient history, anthropology, many branches of psychology, the occult and other esoteric studies, and of course, literature.
What causes do you care most about?
I am very passionate about social justice, nature conservation, and mental health awareness, and I like my writing to be reflective of that. Some of the causes that are particularly close to my heart include the protection of the rights of the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community, women’s rights, body inclusivity, the LGBTQ+ community, and raising awareness about the struggles of mental illness.
How would you like to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered as someone who loves deeply, smiled often, and who created works that touched the hearts of people who needed it.
What are your dreams?
My dreams are always evolving, but remain the same at their core— writing, traveling, and helping others are the bones of the life that I want to live.
What does your future hold?
My current professional goals for the future involve entering the publishing industry—possibly through translation or other editing services— and one day publishing my own books as an author and poet. I am also interested in pursuing a Master’s degree in an English related field.
My personal hope is that I will travel extensively, see my writing in many more publications, and become an inspiration to those who need to be reminded that dreams are worth pursuing.