It has been almost five years since I first set foot on the campus of Kapi‘olani Community College. In a few months, I will begin my first year as a graduate student at the University of Hawaiʻi-Mānoa pursuing a master’s degree in English. My journey from community college to graduate school seems unlikely from an outsider’s perspective: How can someone start off at a two-year college and then decide to pursue a master’s degree? The answer is not as complicated as it seems. It does not matter where you begin in your academic career, but more so what you do with it afterward that is important.

Like many 18-year-old high school graduates, I was confused and terrified about my future. The uncertainties and pressures to succeed were overwhelming. I decided to take a shot and enrolled at Kapi‘olani Community College, and I am thankful for that decision.

There is a common misconception among young teenagers and even some adults that a two-year college is not valuable. Some people think that universities and companies will look down upon someone who took the community college route first. I would hear those negative noises through my peripherals during my time at KCC, but I ignored them because I knew what my goals were: to graduate and to move on.

My time at KCC helped me grow as an individual at a pace that was comfortable for me. I didn’t have to worry about any financial burdens or debts. I felt the pressure about my future slowly rolling off my shoulder. I took different classes that challenged me to focus on my interests. After two years at KCC and graduating with an associate’s degree, I felt at ease to transfer to the University of Hawaiʻi-Mānoa.

The transition from KCC to UHM felt smooth and natural. I understood what it meant to be a college student from my experience at KCC; I had no stress walking on the campus of Mānoa, and I fitted in seamlessly. The benefit from graduating at KCC was that I didn’t have to take any elective classes at UHM; I only had to focus on my core classes that pertain to my English major. In theory, I shaved over two years of electives and general education classes at KCC that when I enrolled at UHM, I only needed two more years to obtain my bachelor’s degree.

Next month, I will be graduating with my Bachelor of Arts in English, finishing off my career as undergraduate. After a three-month summer break, I will be right back in school embarking on my new journey as a graduate student in English. I never knew that I could get this far in my academic life. If you had told me that at 18 I could start at a community college and work my way to graduate school, I would think you would have been lying.

The lesson to my journey is that where you start in your academic career is not necessarily where you will end up. For those who are in a community college right now, do not be afraid that you have made a wrong decision, you are at a perfect place to further your education and maturation. For those who are hesitant if community college is the right path to take, there is nothing wrong with taking the safer and cost-efficient route. Wherever you are in your academic path and life, just remember that you are right where you are supposed to be.

Author’s note: Feel free to contact me with any questions regarding my personal experiences about transferring to UHM or the process of applying for graduate school. My email is