7. December 2021 | Von Finnja und Matthies  

Student life/academics at Hawaii Pacific University

If you decide to spend your semester abroad at HPU, you should be aware that the university system here is quite different from ours in Germany.

Student life/academics at Hawaii Pacific University

Yes, HPU is a university on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific but even if it doesn’t always seem like it, Hawaii is part of the USA. So, it means that the American university system prevails here.

Requirements and grades

Personally, I have to admit that I didn’t really think much about what the university system would be like before I went abroad. That’s why I felt even more surprised on the very first day in class when the professors went through the syllabi for the semester with us.

Basically, you don’t have one big exam at the end of the semester like at Macromedia, such as a written exam or the submission of a project, but the grade here is made up of many different achievements. The university system is therefore similar to the German school system.

The very first big difference is that here you have a quasi-compulsory attendance at the lectures. This means that about 10% of the final grade is only based on the fact that you have attended the lectures. In addition, participation in class is also included in the calculation.

Another, initially daunting point, is the homework. Depending on the course, we have weekly homework assignments that we must hand in via the university portal. This homework can be small quizzes on the material covered during the week, or “discussion questions” that you are supposed to think about for class. Yes, at first homework sounds very daunting, however I can reassure you. If you take one day a week, you can do your homework and still have enough time to explore the island.

In most courses you don’t have only one exam at the end of the semester, but several of them. There is a distinction between “midterms” (exams that are written approximately in the middle of the semester) and “finals” (the final exam at the end of the semester). The exams here are also structured very differently than what we are used to in Germany at Macromedia. A few weeks ago, we had our midterms, and it was all multiple choice questions that we had to answer. I was very stressed beforehand because I had never written an exam in the U.S., but I can tell you that the questions are very doable.

In addition to the exams, we also have a lot of presentations that count towards the grade. Last but not least there are the essays. Depending on the course, you may have to write several essays (small term papers) per semester. In my one course, for example, there are three essays that I write during the semester and must hand in on different dates.

In summary, I can say that you have to spend a lot more time here during the semester, because you just have the homework and already do exams, presentations and essays during the semester. However, I can also say that the level here at the university is not as demanding as at home at Macromedia. So, you have a higher time commitment, but easier tasks.


Weeks before the semester starts at HPU, you must choose your courses from home. For us, Macromedia determines which courses we have to take. There are a total of four courses that we must take during our semester abroad. After that, you get your schedule right away. Depending on the course, you have different schedules, but most of the time you have Fridays off, so you have a long weekend to explore Hawaii.


We had been covering the general life during COVID here in Hawaii in our last blog. Those regulations had been slightly lifted, meaning that bars can be open till midnight again and more people are allowed to gather. In our daily life at school though, there has not been a lot of things changing. We are constantly required to take temperature scans before entering HPU premises (see picture), we must wear masks and are technically not allowed to drink and eat during classes, but most professors allow us to at least drink occasionally.
Some friends of mine have some online classes here at HPU but not as much as students at the University of Hawaii have, which is great for us here at HPU. To make in person classes less risky in regards of spreading COVID, the HPU put air purifiers in all the classrooms like you can see on the picture of the classroom above.

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