Study Abroad in Hawaii (USA)

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A Guide to Studying Abroad in Hawaii

Some 2,000 miles off the West coast of the United States lies the picturesque island archipelago of Hawaii. Often advertised as a tropical paradise to vacationers from around the world, studying abroad in Hawaii will allow international students to experience a different side of Hawaii – one rich in indigenous history, traditional culture, and ecological complexity. Studying in Hawaii will give students the chance to enjoy balmy beaches and some of the greatest outdoor adventuring in the world, while diving into their field of study.


The University of Hawaii system is the primary institution of college education in Hawaii. The system boasts three university campuses and seven community colleges spread out across the archipelago. The University of Hawaii at Mānoa, located in Honolulu, is the flagship school and also the largest and best ranked school in Hawaii. Other campuses are located in Hilo and West O’ahu.

Honolulu is by far the most popular city for study abroad in Hawaii. Located on the island of O’ahu, the state capital is also the primary educational, economic, and cultural hub of the island chain. Here study abroad students can experience a unique blend of outdoor adventuring, relaxing Hawaiian beach culture, and stimulating city life. Honolulu is host to a few other schools beyond the University of Hawaii, such as Hawaii Pacific University, a private school which is also nationally ranked.

Other popular destinations for study abroad in Hawaii include Maui and the Big Island. Although there are no major academic universities in either of these locations, they are popular destinations for adventure, exploration, and getaways when school becomes stressful. Many study abroad programs in Hawaii will also feature outside excursions throughout these beautiful islands. Active volcanoes, dense rainforests, and tropical coral reefs make for fascinating exploration all throughout the Hawaiian archipelago.

Subjects & Courses

Popular areas of study in Hawaii include Earth Science, Marine Biology, and International Business. The island system offers a unique ecological terrain, which is the perfect background for studying a wide variety of environmental sciences. The University of Hawaii at Mānoa is a premier research institution, which allows students to engage in many fields of interest and go beyond simple classroom study. This school boasts an extensive catalogue of over 300 majors and subjects to choose from. 

Even though Hawaii is distinct from the United States in many ways, its academic structuring remains fairly similar. Most schools in Hawaii run on the semester system from August to December and January to May. There are also a variety of summer study abroad programs, which allow students to spend generally two to six weeks earning academic credits and exploring the islands.

Tuition costs can be fairly expensive for non-residents of Hawaii, running up to $15,000 per semester plus fees. Honolulu additionally is one of the most expensive cities in the United States to live in, because it is such a popular tourist destination. Consult GoAbroad’s Scholarships Directory for more information on available financial aid opportunities to study abroad in Hawaii.

Life in Hawaii

Due to its largely autonomous history and Polynesian roots, Hawaii maintains one of the most distinctive cultures in the United States. It is also the only state completely comprised of islands and located entirely separate from the North American mainland. So although Hawaii is part of the United States, at times it may feel like an entirely different country. 

Individuals who study abroad in Hawaii are bound to benefit from the slowed down pace of life, which differs greatly from most bustling university campuses around the world. Popular student activities include hiking, surfing, and frequenting the beautiful sprawling beaches. The tropical weather and active volcanoes will certainly take some getting used to, but soon enough international students will be thriving in the relaxed flow of their new home.

Accommodation & Visas

Depending on the length of your stay, you will likely be given the option to choose between student dormitory housing or apartment living. Dormitory life is a fun and lively experience at any American university. Apartment living, on the other hand, offers a more independent lifestyle, though real estate prices in Honolulu can be somewhat expensive. Study abroad programs in Hawaii will typically help organize housing for you so accommodation costs will often be reflected in upfront program fees.

American nationals do not need a visa to study abroad in Hawaii, but international students coming from other countries will likely need to apply for a F-1 or J-1 student visa. Check out GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory to locate an American Embassy or Consulate in your home country to learn more information about the specific visa required for you to study in Hawaii.

Benefits & Challenges

Life is good on the islands. Yet while Hawaii is certainly one of the most beautiful and unique member states of the U.S.A., do not expect your time studying abroad in this tropical utopia to be one large vacation (even though it may feel that way while studying for your first exam on the beach). As a student you will have the obligation to advance your academic interests in between sessions of surfing, snorkeling, and soaking up the sun. Oh well - as they say, life is good on the islands (no matter why you visit).

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