Bringing the Aloha Spirit to USD

Bringing the Aloha Spirit to USD

Kapri Tulang-De Silva is a Liberal Studies major who is graduating May 2022.

Moving away from home at 18-years-old is hard. Moving from Hawaiʻi to the mainland adds its own layer of challenges. That’s why Kapri Tulang-De Silva knew it would be crucial to build community when arriving at the University of San Diego.

A native to Hawaiʻi, Tulang-De Silva knew she wanted to leave the island following high school and chase after new experiences and meet new people. Her cousin, who was already in college, encouraged her to search for clubs and organizations that would help her feel a connection to home.

“She was my role model,” says Tulang-De Silva. “She opened my eyes to what is available on college campuses and since I knew I was going to be away from home and my immediate family, I knew I needed to find a campus where I would be understood.”

Tulang-De Silva found USD and quickly became involved. 

One of the first clubs she joined was People of the Islands (POI), where she was able to connect with peers that understood the differences in her day-to-day language and customs.

“It was a culture shock [coming to the mainland]. We call flip-flops ‘slippers’ and people would say, ‘You’re wearing your house slippers out?!’ and I would have to explain, ‘No, they’re flip-flops.’ Everything that I thought was normal was different here.” 

The other culture shock Tulang-De Silva noticed was the lack of the aloha spirit on the mainland. The idea behind this is that people extend warmth and care to one another within their community, treating every person as if they are family.

“I was talking to a friend one day and we noticed we would hold the door open for people, but then no one would take the door from us, so we’d be standing there for a long time. It’s small things like that.”

Through her participation in POI, Tulang-De Silva has been able to share the aloha spirit with others and help create a warm and inviting space on campus for all students. Part of that includes POI’s largest event of the year, lūʻau. The spring lūʻau aims to teach students about pacific islander culture by showcasing traditional dances, food, activities, games, and good times with friends and family. 

As the club’s co-president of external affairs, Tulang-De Silva poured her soul into this year’s lūʻau, after the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to go on hiatus the previous two years. Needless to say, the event was a hit.

Tulang-De Silva has built a community beyond POI as well. She is a part of the Karen and Tom Mulvaney Center for Community, Awareness and Social Action’s Youth Engagement Initiative (YEI) Tutor Program. The program creates opportunities for students to become immersed in engaging with students in K-12 classrooms within the Linda Vista community. Tulang De-Silva tutored students at Montgomery Middle School, and before the pandemic, Kit Carson Elementary School. 

“The community that I have created at Montgomery is amazing. Everyone is so supportive and makes going to tutor so much more exciting.” 

Tulang De-Silva will be graduating with a degree in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Psychology and will be attending USD this fall to obtain her master’s degree in Education. Recently, she was awarded the Outstanding Academic Achievement and Departmental Honors for Liberal Studies at the 2022 Honors Convocation. The Outstanding Academic Achievement Award is the highest academic award offered by the program. 

If this weren’t enough on her long list of activities, Tulang-De Silva is also a member of the Women’s Club Volleyball team and an active member in University Ministry.

If she has one piece of advice to give first-year students who are nervous about finding their community at USD it’s this:

“I always think back to when I was super young and I was on the playground and would walk up to a random kid and ask if they wanted to be my friend. As crazy as it sounds, in college that’s what you have to do and I think that’s how I was able to find and create my community at USD.”

Kelsey Grey '15 (BA)