Ron - Photo by Zhihai Huang
Ron – Photo by Zhihai Huang
Zhihai Huang

Stay or leave after graduating?

Journalism student Zhihai Huang captures different student perspectives about them staying behind and leaving Hawaii after graduating.

I read a news article about how 50% of the students leave the island when they get their BA degrees. I started thinking about what reasons made them leave the islands, so I interviewed four friends from different backgrounds. Two of them are going to stay on the island while the rest will move to the mainland after graduation; just like the article stated! People who chose to stay had their family and friends and were more connected to their roots, hence, they did not want to leave. The other two students wanted to leave because they hoped for better opportunities on the mainland, and felt that the cost of living in Hawaii made it difficult for them to stay.

See what Zac, Tyler, Ron and Camilla had to say.

Zac’s Perspective: From the Big Island, born and raised in a small town called Kohala. He moved to Oahu after high school in 2016. His major is art studio. Zac is really passionate about art. He thinks he will stay here after graduation because this island is his home. He feels that Hawaii is very mixed; he can try different foods, experience different cultures and go to the beaches!

Zhihai: What do you think about people leaving the islands?

Zac: It is expensive to live here, and to get more jobs. Big island is more country, not built up like Oahu. I prefer the lifestyle of the Big Island.


Tyler’s Perspective: Born and raised on Oahu, Tyler grew up in Pearl City and lives with his mother and two sisters. He majors in  music. He will stay on the islands as well. Tyler feels fortunate in the sense that he already owns property in Hawaii and would not need to worry about the rising costs of living on the islands. Instead he can capitalize on the increasing value of his property.

Zhihai: Why do you think 50% of students with a BA degree leave the islands after graduation?

Tyler: They just they want to  support themselves, and buy their own property. The cost of buying a house in Hawaii is so high, that it would be hard for even college graduates to be able to afford supporting a family.

Zhihai: What you think the government can do to address this issue?

Tyler: First thing come up his mind is there are so many empty houses in Hawaii.  Investors buy houses here and don’t even live here. So the house is vacant. They should limit the amount of land investors can buy.


Ron’s Perspective: Hailing from China, Ron is a first generation immigrant. He came to Hawaii in 2017 with his family. His major is second language studies. Ron moved here because of the good natural environment, air quality and for health reasons. He has decided to leave the islands after graduation because he wants to explore more career opportunities. The things he will miss about the islands are his parents. He thinks people are leaving the islands because the lifestyle is slow.


Camilla’s Perspective: Camilla was born in California and her family is from Denmark. She lives here because her school in California did not have the art program she wanted. Camilla majors in oil painting. She really likes it on the islands because of the natural beauty and diverse cultures but she has decided to leave because she likes big city life and her art style does not fit well with island life. Camilla will leave for better opportunities. Another reason she wants to leave is because the islands are small and she likes to travel and go to new places. The islands are too far away and traveling there can be expensive.

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