How to Pack for College

Sandy Toes
Sandy toes are now a thing of my past…

Here’s the thing: I hate packing. I hate the finality of my possessions being boxed up and put away. I hate the either/or game I am forced to play with each new item. I hate having to break down everything I own into two suitcases that must weigh no more than fifty pounds. But mostly, I hate what these things all signal: my time at home is coming to an end.

To make matters worse, and because I love to put things off until the very last minute, I generally start packing a day or two before I leave. I have clothes strewn across every couch, chair, and stool, my suitcases are empty, and I have music blaring in the background in an effort to drown out my dramatic thoughts.

Mom's Packing Fun
Always remember to pack your mother…

It never works. Usually, it ends with me crying in the middle of the living room until my mother steps in with a giant hug and says, “It’s all right, Katie.”

This time though, there’s something different. I started packing early to avoid the usual chaos. I made a list of things that go back, things that stay, and even things to buy. I promised myself that there was no reason to panic. But mostly, this time, more than any of the others, I don’t mind packing.

Bridging the Gap
“Hey there!”

When I leave home, I have somewhere to go back to. I have people and places that I can’t wait to see. This time, I’m not flying into the unknown.

Welcome Home Saints 2018
I left one home to return to another…

I’m a college sophomore this year, and I don’t pretend to know all of the answers, but I do know some. I know the cafeteria schedule, I know my classes, and I know something else that is very important: I’m not alone.

For one, I know that everyone at Saint Martin’s is supporting me on my adventure. Each student has each other’s back, and as cheesy as it sounds, we really are in this together. Professors and faculty members wish to see students succeed, and so they too become an integral part of our journeys. Families far and wide are also rooting for each and every one of us. This outpouring of love is what keeps me going when I’m away from home. But there’s another type of support that I’m feeding off of more than ever…

Freckles Baby
“Don’t go Mommy!”

You could say that teaching is my natural calling. After all, I was only five when my parents started walking in on me conducting reading lessons with my dolls in the living room. But teaching is about more than just lessons and drills. Being a teacher means caring for your students, body, mind, and soul. It means being a provider of what I believe to be a most basic human right: education. And I’ve never been more motivated to pursue this career path than now.

Katie's Sisters
Snack time was an important part of our school day…

This summer, I worked for Maui County Summer PALS as a Leader. I was charged with an average of 15 children per day, and though I often went home exhausted, I absolutely loved it. Now, I have a list of children who are wishing and hoping they make it into my classroom in the future, and boy, is the pressure on. I also have a band of high school students who are holding up signs of encouragement from my volunteer work at my old high school. They too, were ecstatic when I told them that I wanted to become an educator.

In total, I have an army of people who are behind and in front of me, cheering me on, wishing me well, and standing at the finish line while I run the race of my education. And I do this all so I may turn around at the end of my race and encourage others on their own. To some, this may be daunting, but to me, it is the very thought that is accompanying me back home to Saint Martin’s.

Sunsets Over the Ocean
“Off to another adventure!”

Smile! 2018
Don’t forget to pack a smile…

So yes, when one is packing, one must pack more than just a suitcase… Clothes and keepsakes can only get you so far, and so, you must also pack your mind. Stow away all the well-wishes, the good times, and the laughs, and keep them close. Time at home is precious, so do not forget it, but at the same time, do not lose sight of the future. Each time I come home, I return as a new, better version of myself. I have learned not just to speak for myself, but to speak for others. I have learned determination the likes of which I’ve never known before. I have learned kindness in ways that I cannot convey without becoming emotional. All of these things from Saint Martin’s. All of these things that multiply each time I pack up my things and move back to Lacey for another semester. All of these things that keep me going each time I want to give up and throw in the towel.

For all those at Saint Martin’s University, fellow students running the race with me, faculty and family members cheering us on; for those at home, my own family, my kiddos far and wide, everyone who put an ounce of belief in me; for everyone reading this as I start my sophomore year at Saint Martin’s. I want you all to know that I’m packing away a piece of your spirit and taking it with me wherever I go. You are what keeps me going. You are the reason why, a year after I started, I am committed to seeing this thing called college through. It may be hard, it may be messy, but this time, I am ready.

Saint Martin's Banners



Tropical Adventures

One of my best friends in the whole wide world is someone I have known since the beginning of time, Miss Kamaile of Kula, Maui. Over the past few years, we’ve gone on countless adventures together, laughing all the way. We’ve trekked across our island, visiting beaches, lavender farms, and even jungles. We’ve decorated cookies and cupcakes, shopped until we dropped, and shared cups and cups full of the best homemade hot chocolate imaginable.

This summer marks the first time that Kamaile and I have both been working full-time, but despite our busy lives, we still make time for a few wild adventures of our own. This time, we chose Maui Tropical Plantation on the west side of our island home.

Maui Tropical Plantation
Picture courtesy of Google Images…

The Plantation has been a part of Maui’s history for a long time; before it became a tourist destination, it was a sugar plantation. Today, the land is still used for agriculture as it is leased to growers of papaya, coffee, and even hosts some of our own family’s cattle. The Mill House, the Plantation’s locally-sourced restaurant, often uses these and other local resources to form their daily menu.

Kamaile and I started our tour of the Plantation with the gift shop, where we found jewelry, tropical-scented candles, handmade goods for a local kitchen, and an amazing assortment of stuffed animals. Our next stop was the Plantation’s resident allspice tree—and yes, allspice really does come from a tree. The leaves, when broken, smell just like pumpkin pie, or, for the Saints out there, just like the Monk’s Bean’s spiced latte served around Thanksgiving.

We enjoyed leaves and petals all around, and even met a few geckos along the way.

One of the coolest things about the Plantation is the animals found amongst the blooms. When Kamaile and I were young, the Plantation was home to monkeys in large enclosures all around the park. Today the monkeys are gone, but in their place, dozens of ducks roam free! These guys and gals are the tamest birds I’ve ever met, and enjoy bread sticks thrown to them from restaurant customers and other sightseers.

We rounded out our tour with a little exploring, and found a gazebo tucked away at the far end of the property. This, my friends, is my new favorite spot.

Kamaile and I said our goodbyes to the ducks, the geckos, and the trees, promising to come back again one day. Another adventure had gone by, another day spent with a friend, and another hidden corner of Maui explored. Where will the wind take us next time?

Home Is Where the Heart Is


Beautiful SMU
Saint Martin’s University on the last day of the school year

Going home is one of the most amazing feelings in the world. It means an end to finals, an end to tough classes, and an end to the rain clouds. It’s incredible to know that you will soon see sunny skies and fields of green; but going home also means saying goodbye to you new friends, your Saint Martin’s family members, and even the rain clouds that you have come to enjoy. But how can you say goodbye to such an adventure?

Perhaps the first step is packing up your dorm room. You gather your belongings into plastic bins and then put them into storage until they can be used again. Baskets and containers are stacked in the corner of your room, clothing, dishes, and knick-knacks are scattered everywhere, and suddenly, it is all too much.

Dorm Pictures
Pictures on the wall…

How can one year, a solid slice of your life, amount to a few storage bins, a couple of stray boxes, and a bag full of bedding? You look around and think, “This can’t be all!” but at the same time, you know it’s too much. How will all this fit into your friend’s car? How will it fit into your small share of the storage unit that you’ve rented out with your friends? It’s a strange dilemma… you’ve accumulated too much stuff, but at the same time, it cannot be enough to account for each experience you’ve had at Saint Martin’s University.

Ahinahina and Mocha
Theses two are always the last to be put away…

This hits home, especially for the students who cannot take the bulk of their belongings with them. So, we, as the students from states far and wide, play a game where we must toss items between storage, suitcases, and donation boxes. We must make a choice with every possession: Which box will you choose?

But guys, gals, Saints far and wide…

It’s not about the amount of stuff, or even the stuff itself—It’s about the memories that happen within all of it. The care packages, the late-night snack runs, all the adventures that made the year amazing—those are what matter. The life lessons are the things that we should be holding on to, and though they do not fit in a box, they fill our heart just fine.

I realized this last week while standing in an endless TSA line: I’m going home, but to do so, I must leave home. My mom left me a gift on my dresser, something else to add to my collection, and as soon as I saw it, I immediately ran outside to hug her and said, “This is coming home with me.”

When did SMU become home? Well… I guess you could say it was in those little moments. I found where I belong when I wasn’t looking for anything more than an adventure. Now, I have two places where my family resides. One is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by tropical plants and loved ones. The other is in the Pacific Northwest, full of evergreen trees and friends who I couldn’t imagine life without.

The bunny always comes home with me

Home is not a landmark, it’s not a place you can put your finger on. Home is a feeling. It is the safety of family and the fun of friends. It is stable and yet full of surprises at every turn. It is laugher that rings out around you, smiles that beam out at you, and unconditional love. Home is not in a structure… Home is in your heart.

Shania and Jimmy-Bob
And so does the monk…

At each semester’s end, I am happy to say that I come home. But at the start of each semester, I return to my home as well. While I go back and forth, I miss the other with all my heart, and yet, I savor each moment in both places, both homes, because my home is not a place, it is a feeling. Something deep inside that guides me when I need an extra push. Home is where my heart is, neither here nor there, but both instead, and with both, I am whole no matter where I go.

Maui on my first day back

How to Enjoy the Springtime Sun

I am here to announce that SPRING HAS SPRUNG!!!



That’s right folks! Bring out your shorts and t-shirts, slather on your SPF, and grab yourself a pair of shades because the golden, springtime sun has finally come to Saint Martin’s!

I like to joke that the sun follows me everywhere, but, you see, it’s kind of true… We had an easy winter in Washington, it wasn’t too cold, we didn’t get too much snow, and the sun made an appearance for a few hours every day. Back on Maui however, locals are still facing winter weather and tropical storms! When I went home for winter break, the sun came out again, but the clouds reappeared the week after I left, and when I visited my brother in Montana for spring break, the temperature went all the way up to 60 degrees!

I love the sunshine, but I haven’t seen very much of it since I’ve been in Washington. That is… up until a few weeks ago.

sunny studying


The glorious sun has finally appeared and with it, temperatures have reached all the way up into the 80s! That’s right everyone—it’s time to break out the shorts and t-shirts and enjoy an iced beverage while sitting outside and enjoying the wonderful weather!

Here are some fun ideas on how to enjoy the sun on these, the last few weeks of spring, and the first few weeks of summer vacation…


Steal a snack like this little buddy!



Find some artsy inspiration right in Mother Nature’s back yard!



Give your plants some TLC with photosynthesis!



Take a break from studying and enjoy the sun with some friends!

Frisbee Gang


This Maui girl is enjoying her tan for now because the day I fly home, there’s a 100% chance of rain. But with smiling faces, family and friends, I’m bringing some sunshine home.

How To Choose a Meal Plan

Hey guys! Katie here with another “How To” of Saint Martin’s University…

One of the first questions we get from incoming students (and incoming parents) to the SMU family, is which meal plan to choose. There are a lot of options, but hopefully with some seasoned help (no pun intended), we’ll get you folks up and running with the right meal plan for you.

First, let’s look at what each meal plan has to offer…


Bon Appetit

Flex Cash, Saints Cash, and Meal Credits:

Each meal plan is broken up into two systems of credit: flex cash, and meal credits.

Flex cash uses real money values that are preloaded into you account to pay for your meals. Basically, if I want to buy a slice of pizza for lunch that costs $3.00, I pay $3.00 out of my flex cash. In addition, flex cash can be used on other spots around campus, such as the Monk’s Bean café, or the Parson’s C-Store to buy coffee, smoothies, and the all-important Ben and Jerry’s ice cream for a late-night snack. So, flex cash is sort of like a debit card. It’s actual amounts of money being paid for by your meal plan.

A meal credit is a credit only to be used for AYCE (all you can eat) meals. This includes dinner every night and brunch on weekends and holidays. You pay one meal credit for each meal you purchase during these times, and you can go back for seconds or thirds to the infinities at no extra charge. For example, at another time, a burger with add-ons of fries and grilled vegetables might cost about $5.00 (and note that I’m totally making these numbers up). If you were go back for a salad later, this would likely bring your total up to $8.00. With flex cash, you would pay the $8.00. With a meal credit, you would be paying one meal credit instead.

Saints cash is NOT paid for by your meal plan. Saints cash, unlike everything else on this list, is money that you load onto your SMU ID to be used in much the same way as flex cash, except it is NOT included in your meal plan. This is money to be used on the SMU campus that comes out of your pocket.


Meal Plans:

Before we get into plans and how to choose, I want to explain a few things…

  • Each meal plan is paid for per semester and is due at the same time as tuition.
  • Each meal plan is divided two ways: meal credits and flex cash. So, you pay by semester for the plan that you want, and with it, you have a set amount of both flex cash and meal credits to spend.
  • Your meal credits and flex cash will roll over from the fall semester to the spring semester. Say you only use 50 of your 100 meal credits for fall, well, that means that you’ll have 150 meal credits to use during the spring semester. However, the commuter plan does NOT roll over.
  • With each academic year, however, whatever you do not use of your meal plan expires. So out of those 150 meal credits, if you only spend 50 during spring, you have 100 left that you will not be allowed to use once the school year has ended.

Meal Plan 101


(Amounts based on 2017-2018 School Year) 

The gold meal plan is generally a go-to for incoming freshmen. You pay $2,880 for each semester, and this money is divided into 100 meal credits and $725 in flex cash.

This is the meal plan that I have, and I will admit that it is very hard to run out of 100 meal credits, even after eating most meals in the cafeteria. However, flex cash is used for the bulk of your purchasing, so for people who tend to do more shopping outside of AYCE meals, this may not be the plan for you…

The silver meal plan is a good balance to strike, costing $2,725 per semester. Students receive 75 meal credits and $925 in flex cash.

This plan is good for people who tend to use the coffee shops more often, as well as those who enjoy a good browse at the Parson’s Store. To use up all of the meal credits, one would have to attend most of the AYCE meals during the week, and in the event that you do run out of meal credits, you have more flex cash to pay for the remainder of your meals. The silver meal plan is my own recommendation for incoming freshmen. Since it allows you more flexibility to eat and shop to your own discretion, students may figure out their own needs without worrying about running out of either flex cash or meal credits.

The bronze meal plan, costing $2,575 per semester, is divided between 50 meal credits and $1,050 in flex cash.

This plan is wonderful if you do not intend to go to many AYCE meals and gives you a cushion of flex cash to be used for any meal, along with the Parson’s Store and the Monk’s Bean cafe. Students who live near campus, frequent off-campus dinning, or go home for the weekends and holidays, are very happy with this plan.

The commuter plan is divided between 30 meal credits and $325 in flex cash and costs $950 per semester.

If you are a campus apartment resident, or a commuting student, you are eligible for this plan. If you don’t eat much on campus, or if you cook a lot of your own food, then this may be the plan for you.


 A Few Things to Consider While Choosing:

  • What are your normal eating habits? For example, you don’t want to stop eating breakfast if you suddenly run out of flex cash, and you don’t want to waste meal credits if you don’t intend to use them.
  • Where do you live? Will you be going home frequently? If you spend the bulk of your weekends away from campus, you probably will not use up as many meal credits as this Maui girl.
  • Will you use your microwave? Guys, each room at SMU comes with a minifridge and a microwave combo. Are you going to stock up on microwave meals for most of your eating, or are you going to rely on leftovers while you study all night long like me?
  • What are your classes like? This may sound like a weird one, but trust me, if you have an 8 a.m. class, you’re going to want breakfast. If you have a lab from 5-8 p.m., you’ll miss dinner. Plan for this and chose a meal plan that you can make the most of.
  • What’s your social life like? If you plan on eating out for most of your meals, you won’t need the same meal plan as someone who stays in more often.


A Last Word of Advice:

Parents, guardians: I know sending your kiddos off to college is scary, and one of your main concerns is making sure that they always have options for eating. Let me assure you, I have never gone hungry at Saint Martin’s University. There’s always something open, and college students are scavengers by nature. Any one of these meal plans is a great choice, it all depends on how and when your child plans on using it.

Students: try it out! See what meal plan works best for you. It will take a while to get the hang of it, and each semester your eating habits will change, but you will be better at juggling your meal plan with your stomach’s insistent demands. When ordering from the cafeteria, always get something fresh, always take something back with you if you can, and if you ever get hungry, come find me! I always keep snacks!

And one last thing, if any of you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please feel free to put them in the comments! They are always reviewed, and if there’s anything I can do to help, I’ll do my very best!

How To Host a Lu’au at SMU

Okay, so maybe we should start with how to pronounce that… LOO—ow. Loo as in Louis, and Ow as in… well… Ow? Lu’au. And if we’re being technical, lū’au.

Hui O Hawaii is hosting its annual lu’au on April 7th, just a few days away, and it is sure to be an event full of laughter and the overflowing sense of community that is a patented part of Saint Martin’s.

Traditionally, a lu’au is a time for a family to come together and share their Aloha with one another. But “family” in Hawaii is about more than just those people who share your blood. We call all elders either “aunty” or “uncle”, and because we come from such large families, nearly everyone is a “cousin”. For us, as well as at Saint Martin’s, a community is a family, an ‘ohana united as one body, one spirit, one tradition of sharing everything we have with each other. To this end, a lu’au is more than just a party or an event, it is the coming together of people who share whatever they have with whomever they can. They pass on their food, stories, and traditions, and this sharing is what we call Aloha. More than a simple goodbye or hello, Aloha is about spreading your kindness, your loving spirit, to everyone you meet. Never is Aloha or ohana more present than at a lu’au.

Hui O Hawaii
Members of Hui O Hawaii, out and about in Down Town Seattle



Saint Martin’s annual lu’au can be traced back to the 1960’s, when it was hosted in the campus cafeteria. The club itself, however, dates back even further, although no record was kept of its earliest days. Among one of Hui O Hawaii’s most active members, both then and now, is Mr. Art Fillazar.

Hawaii Club w Fillazar
Art Fillazar sharing his Aloha with the Hawaii Club in March 2018

This is Mr. Fillazar, or Uncle Art, as we call him, as he shares his Aloha with us earlier this year. Some of his favorite times at Saint Martin’s involve preparation for the lu’au, and when serving over 600 people, it’s a given that times are busy for Hui O Hawaii



At a lu’au, as well as any local party back home, the food is spectacular. Laulau, kalua pig, lomi salmon, pohole salad, haupia, fresh pineapple and papaya and mango, and of course, poi. I realize that many of you reading this have no idea what I’m talking about, so take a look at this:

Hawaiian food
Traditional Local Food. From left to right (kind of…) POG (Passion-Orange-Guava) Juice, Coleslaw, Lomi Salmon, Mixed Fruit, Mac Salad, Rice, Chicken Long Rice, Poi, Teriyaki, Kalua Pig, Shoyu Chicken, Butter Mochi, Haupia (Picture Courtesy of Google)

Among this year’s selections are a plethora of dishes that remind we locals of home. Here are some of my favorites:

Guava fruit
This is an actual guava

Lomi Salmon, a sort of cold salad consisting of smoked salmon, onion, and tomato.

Shoyu Chicken, cooked with ginger root, soy sauce, and brown sugar.

Guava Cake, made from a fruit that grows wild throughout the Hawaiian landscapes.




A big part of the Hawaiian culture that is shared through a lu’au is tied to dance, namely, hula. This graceful style of dance found in Hawaii is about telling a story through your hands. Hula dancers follow the music, often sung in Hawaiian, with hand motions and gestures to represent the words. This means that even if one does not understand the Hawaiian language, one may understand the story. There’s even a song about “Lovely Hula Hands” often sung around the islands. Hula is such a big part of Hawaii that we have an entire festival dedicated to it every spring. And one that I am very sad this year to be missing…


Here at the Merrie Monarch Festival, dancers come from all over the islands, and all over the globe, to share their song and dance with the people of Hawaii. They honor their ancestors by their chants and honor the tradition of hula by their grace and beauty.

(Here’s a link to last year’s Merrie Monarch highlights. Enjoy!)


At Saint Martin’s, just as for the Merrie Monarch Festival, students and faculty members gather from all across campus to share their Aloha through their dance. New this year, I am excited to report, is a co-ed Haka, a Maori warrior chant traditionally performed by the men.




With food, family, and wonderful entertainment, this year’s lu’au promises to be an amazing time filled with love, laughter, and plenty of Aloha. There will be opportunities for some ono grinds for us locals, and a chance to try something new and exciting for many of our friends across the sea. There will be a keiki booth for youngsters, bringing fun to the whole family, and a chance to connect as one community, one ‘ohana, one Saint Martin’s University. I hope to see you all there!


How To Survive Midterms

It’s midterm weeks. Yup—that’s right. Plural. Because at Saint Martin’s University, midterms are set up by each professor. This means that some people will have weeks, and others, like me, will have days…

By now, hopefully, you all are sitting somewhere on a nice, warm beach for spring break. It’s got beautiful sand, clear blue water, coral reefs teeming with sea-life, and maybe…just maybe…it’s on Maui…

Enjoy it now, folks, because once you get back to SMU, the second round of midterms will begin. But it’s okay! You got this, Saints! And here are some tips to get you through.


Study, Study, Study

All right, so this one works differently for each person, but generally, it’s a pretty good rule.

Make some flashcards for when you’re waiting in traffic. Rewrite your notes a few times. Use a website that creates games out of your flashcards too! All these strategies work very well come test day.

And here’s some of my own advice: Make a plan.

First off, you need to understand when your tests are to know when you need to start studying, and second, you have to know what you’re studying for. For example, if you have an essay test for HIS142 and a multiple-choice test for PSY101 on the same day, you need to switch up your technique.

For essays especially, write an outline, come up with a thesis, and try talking it through in your head. Use Quizlet for almost any subject and make studying fun! Or—and this may be my personal favorite—find some friends in class and study as a group. It makes a difference when you’re not going through everything alone, and besides that, peer learning is one of the best ways to Git-R-Done.

Coffee at the Monk’s Bean… The best study buddy there is!


Try a Tutoring Session

Seriously, guys, we’ve got tutors for almost every subject that I’ve come across at SMU and they are all amazing. Visit your professors during office hours if you can or ask to schedule something if you can’t. Take a walk down to the lower level of the library and see if they have a tutor available who can help you. But do not wait until the day before! Many of these tutors are by appointment only, so plan ahead, and plan for success.


Take a Break

My friends, stressing about a test is not the way to succeed. I know it sounds impossible NOT to stress about a test, but believe me, the more you stress out, the more unprepared you will be. That’s not to say that some people don’t work well under stress, but for the most part, we all need a relaxer every now and then.

Last week, we had ice cream, pancakes, and pizza in the dorms for late-night study sessions—and all for free!!! We had Dr. Seuss Day in the cafeteria, and boy was that fun! There’s also the baseball and softball games, Karaoke Night, and Campus Ministry. But that was last week…

This coming week, we’ve got a magician! And Casino night! And St. Benedict’s day! Yup, a whole day in the middle of the week to sleep! And just as you get back from break, don’t forget about Coffee with the Monks on Tuesday!

Casino Night
Casino Night 3/24/2018


One Final Word…

Saints, you’re more prepared than you think. Set aside some time to study a little bit each day. Take a much-needed break whenever you get a chance and rest up! We’ve got a few more weeks left until summer, the sun in shining, and we are almost through with tests…at least for a while…