ANN ARBOR, MI — As many University of Michigan students prepare for another remote semester due to the pandemic, one student has decided the perfect place for spring semester classes is — Hawaii.
Bella Malatesta, a junior communications major at UM, was looking at flights a couple of weeks ago and saw how cheap they were to Hawaii, so she made the snap decision to spend the spring semester in the sun and sand.
“I just booked it and figured everything else out from there,” Malatesta said.
With all of her classes being conducted remotely, Malatesta didn’t have to worry about being on campus this semester. The university is having fewer undergraduates on campus this semester and implementing more remote learning, as well as mandatory COVID-19 testing for undergrads who have to be on campus.
After booking her flight, Malatesta needed to find someplace to stay. She secured a few affordable hostel options.
She also had to consider traveling during the pandemic. The policies when entering the island are strict, she said.
“I have to get tested right beforehand. Everyone has to be tested before they fly, and coming to the island, you have to test negative twice,” said Malatesta, who already came down with COVID-19 about a month and a half ago. “So, that kind of eased my stress a little bit.”
Malatesta saved money she earned working at a restaurant over the summer, but when she had to move home to Rochester Hills in November, she was also able to save money by not paying Ann Arbor rent.
Although some people might get distracted with all of the extracurricular activities to do on the islands, Malatesta says she’s the kind of person who is very focused on schoolwork, regardless of whether she is on campus or at home. It helps most of her courses — the communications major is also minoring in digital studies and creative writing — can be done remotely.
“I think it depends on the type of person. I don’t think everyone would be able to do (classes) successfully at home or on a vacation or something and get all their classwork done, but I think you have to know yourself and whether or not you can balance work and play,” Malatesta said. “I think I’m one of those people.”
That doesn’t mean she won’t be having her fair share of fun, though. While nothing is set in stone, Malatesta wants to learn how to surf, but she also wants to play her schedule out day by day because she isn’t sure how intense her courses will be. She’s taking more credits than the fall semester, but online classes have been significantly more relaxed than in-person instruction, she said.
One thing she plans to do is continue blogging. Her blog “iam.becoming” on Instagram has amassed more than 18,000 followers and documents some of her travels, including places like California, North Carolina and Spain. There’s nothing specific she wants to write while in Hawaii, Malatesta said, because a lot of her posts come from real-life experiences.
Malatesta departs for Hawaii on Jan. 13 and she plans to stay there until April, when her final exams are done. After that, things are up in the air, though, as she only booked a one-way ticket.
“With all of the uncertainty and challenges that have been reality in 2020, I decided I have to make the most of the situation I’m in,” Malatesta said. “That’s when I realized I have an amazing opportunity to continue school while being able to live someplace new.”