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UMD in Hawai'i

Communication Practicuum: Preserving the Land and Culture

Below: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (National Park Service)

This year, UMD offers a Study in Hawaii opportunity during winter break from Dec. 27, 2005-Jan. 12, 2006. The trip is also offered during May Term. Each two and one-half week trip includes visits to Oahu, the "Big Island," and Kauai. The focus of the course is on intercultural and international relationships: Students are immersed in the many cultures of Hawaii by meeting many locals, learning from them, and living as they do.

The exact itinerary varies from year to year.

The first three nights are on Oahu on Kaneohe Bay at a 10 acre camp-style compound where students stay in bunkhouses. While on Oahu, the group will visit significant spiritual sites, the Bishop Museum, and may get in some ocean time. One primary goal for the first three days is to produce strong group bonds. They will also get their first contact with the many Hawaiian and local friends who will spend time with the UMD group while on the islands.

The next five nights are spent on Kauai, the Garden Isle, seeing the ocean and the Coconut Beach Market Place. While on Kauai the group will spend time with Hawaiian's dedicated to preserving their land against development and working to preserve their culture. Many local friends (several are college age) will spend time with the group and help them experience the aloha, humor and music of these islands.

The next nine nights will be spent on the Big Island, first in Hilo. They will visit a rainforest, several waterfalls and a natural thermal spring in Hilo. More Hawaiian friends will meet the group in Hilo and take them deeper into the culture, explaining still more about the Hawaiian culture and situations facing Hawaiians. After the few days in Hilo, they will travel to a Kilauea Volcano to walk through a lava tube, see the huge crater, visit steam vents, walk in another rain forest, and - if conditions are right - see the lava flow.

They will then travel on to the old plantation community of Pahala for four nights. This sleepy little town is not a typical tourist site but there is lots to do. It is cited as most UMD students' favorite spot. In and around Pahala the group will see many sacred sites, visit black and green sand beaches some may swim with sea turtles, visit a Hawaiian friend's coffee farm and roast coffee, and visit Ka Lae (the southern most point in the U.S. and perhaps the first landing point of the first Hawaiians). One of the most popular contemporary Hawaiian bands on the islands, Ka'u, will play for the group and the community one evening. Locals will prepare feasts and a party for their UMD visitors.

On the way to Kailua-Kona, they will stop at Puuhonua O Honaunau National Park. The three final nights in Kailua-Kona will be the most touristy. From there they will visit the most sacred and one of the most beautiful valley in all of Hawaii: Waipio Valley with its waterfalls, black sand beach, rain forest and wild horses.


Michael Sunnafrank (instructor) and Donna Sunnafrank will be leading the trip. Donna considers Hawaii her home, having developed close ties to the people and culture of Hawaii during her middle and high school years at Leilehua High School. Michael has been involved with Hawaii and Hawaiian peoples for four decades. He has been involved in workshops at the East-West Center on Oahu focused on cultural issues involving the Hawaiian community and has lectured on these topics at the University of Hawaii. Both Michael and Donna are currently involved with Hawaiian groups in developing a Center on the Big Island to provide educational resources for local children and to provide eco-culture tours to educate tourists on Hawaiian history and culture as well as the current difficult issues facing Hawaiians and other local communities. Michael is the former Director of International Education at UMD and is currently a UMD Professor in the Communication Department. Michael and Donna have led this trip every year since 1999.

Michael warns students that the class may well change their lives. Five former students now live and work in Hawaii. Another eight to ten are planning to move there within the next two years. Several of these along with other former students are working with Michael, Donna and Hawaiian groups on the Education and Eco-Culture Center.

The trip is also offered during the May session

Study Abroad
Study Abroad-Short Terms
Hawaii Communication Program

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