09/04/2013 03:13 pm ET Updated Nov 04, 2013

My Journey Toward Living With Aloha

My name is Alexa Lancendorfer and I'm currently a junior at Hawai'i Pacific University (HPU) studying international relations and political science, with a little bit of economics thrown in. Growing up in Michigan, I'm sorry to say I was one of those ignorant people who thought Hawai'i was nothing but grass skirts and coconut bras. I'd originally come to Hawai'i to study marine biology and chose my school for its excellence in the marine science programs. But, I realized I couldn't spend my entire life in a lab; I like people too much.

Then, it was time to choose a different major. I had wanted to be a marine biologist since I was 7, so veering away from science was one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do with my life and decided my favorite thing to do was travel. I love new experiences and being engrossed in different cultures. Pair that love with a passion for helping people, and that's how I came to the majors I am currently pursuing.

Living in Hawai'i definitely gave me a culture shock I wasn't expecting. Living with aloha is a concept I have to work on and remind myself of everyday. It's a matter of perspective and discourse. How do we define happiness and success? In the mainland, it's defined as power and wealth predominantly. In Hawai'i, it's the journey and enjoying the moment all wrapped into one. Going to school here has changed the way I view success and happiness. It's not about how much money I will eventually make or how many promotions I'm granted, life is about experiences and the people with whom we choose to experience it. Although my 20 years of life may make me an infant to some, living in Hawai'i has given me wisdom beyond my years. I can't thank HPU enough for the experiences they have let me participate in and I look forward to the coming adventures ahead.