Photo caption: Tahitian dancers at this spring’s UW Luau. Photo credit: Patty Dukes.
Hui Hoaloha Ulana (“Hui” for short) is a Hawaiian home away from home for students attending the University of Washington (UW). It’s where they find their closest friends, extracurricular activities and leadership roles.
Hui – also known as UW’s Hawaii Club — offers activities throughout the school year and a community that students can turn to (especially when feeling homesick). Hui sponsors trips to Mariners’ games, the Woodland Park Zoo and even adventures around the University District.
Ryan Yanagihara, the club’s historian, joined as a college freshman a couple of years ago after receiving an invitation to the UW freshman orientation at one of Oahu’s YMCA locations. It’s an event that is held every year for the Hawaiian students.
“The people are the best thing [about Hui]. … It’s such a nice group,” he says.
It’s always reassuring to be around people that have similar interests and experiences. However, he sometimes finds it hard to step outside of his comfort zone.
He first started as a fairly involved member in the Hui intramural soccer team and on committees for the luau, an annual event that happens mid-spring quarter. The event combines Hawaiian food, hula and music at the Husky Union Building, and nearly 600 people show up each year.
Since he always enjoyed taking photos at meetings and events, Yanagihara decided to take his involvement to the next level by becoming the official photographer of the club and simultaneously gaining a leadership role.
Like many other members of Hawaii Club, the historian joined already knowing other people who were in the club so he came in having a sense of familiarity — a very comfortable feeling for those missing their family and friends off the mainland nearly 2,000 miles away.
From time to time, UW freshman Alex Chun, who is comfortable with his Hawaii transplant friends, finds it difficult to branch outside of the Hawaii Club.
“I knew I wanted to hang out with Hawaiin people [when arriving at the UW], and the club was a good segue,” says the Maui native.
This was partly due to the fact that he is from a neighbor island. But it’s not a downside for Chun because he knows that this group of people will always be there for him. He says he will cherish the relationships he has developed with Hui members because many of them will eventually return back home to the “Aloha” state just like him.
“Don’t only hang around with Hawaii people.” It’s a piece of advice that Hui faculty advisor, Alejandro “Val” Espania, tells the club members.
Espania, a Hawaii-born-and-raised UW alumnus, strongly believes that if you come to the mainland to study but only hang out with locals of Hawaii, then you should’ve gone to University of Hawaii.
“If [Hui] is your totality, I also wonder about your scholastics,” adds the club’s advisor.
But don’t get him wrong; Espania loves the Hawaii Club.
He was a member of Hui throughout his days as a Husky after transferring here in 1993 for his junior year. Fast forward to 2013, and his favorite aspect of the organization is the Ohana Program, which was established last school year to provide mentors for freshmen from Hawaii in transitioning into college on the mainland.
Nick Luna has been lucky enough to take advantage of the Ohana Program this past year. The first-year college student has been enjoying all the activities and events that the program and the club offer. He took part in the program’s scavenger hunt at the beginning of this school year. It gave him a chance to familiarize himself with the campus, explore “the Ave.” in Seattle’s University District and interact with other members. He has also become involved with volleyball and soccer intramurals through the club.
“It creates a niche I can rely on. … [There is a] certain tie you have with people from Hawaii,” says Luna.