High school foreign exchange students from places like Russia, Israel, Yemen, Ukraine, and Lebanon spent the day at the Legislature as interns learning about the legislative process and shadowing state representatives.
Safiya Ismael, 16, from Israel, shadowed Representative James Tokioka, a Kauai legislator. She is living with a local family in Kalaheo, Kauai and attending Waimea High School.
I spent some time with Safiya, a bright, energetic and outgoing young woman, who described herself as "the coolest person ever!" After admiring my black calf boots, she excitedly dove in to explaining a few of her culture shock moments. The tolerant dress code in Hawaii schools, especially in Kauai, surprised her. Everyone on Kauai wears slippers, she said. Everyday. If we dressed like that in Israel, we would be reprimanded and sent home immediately to put on nice dress shoes.
Q&A with Safiya Ismael:
What do you want to do in the future?
"I wanna make a difference in the world in anyway. I want to travel more because I think that any travel is good travel. Medicine and psychology, or economy…something like that. "
Are you interested in politics?
"Not really. It's very hard to be in politics. I don't like having to make rules that may affect people in a negative way."
What's the biggest difference in politics that you noticed between your home country and Hawaii?
"It's not easy to enter the Capitol in Israel. I think we have more security."
What did you learn while interning at the Legislature?
"As a wise man (Rep. James Tokioka) said to me, 'If you want to be a good leader, don't ask others to do something you will never do.'"
What was your favorite part about interning at the Legislature?
"Meeting all the representatives of Hawaii and watching how the process works."
What's the biggest difference between your home country and Hawaii?
"Hawaii is very beautiful. It's very different than any other place I have ever seen. Israel is very cosmopolitan and the lifestyle is very fast, unlike Hawaii.
Now that you've spent 5 months in Hawaii, if you were to leave tomorrow, what about the experience would you take with you and what would you say you have learned?
"I will take all the nice memories I made in this amazing place, and I learned to understand and respect other people's culture."
Photo (top): Foreign Exchange Student Interns at the Hawaii State Legislature after sitting in on the third day of the 25th Legislative Session.
Photo (left): Safiya Ismael stands up in the chamber gallery to be introduced by Rep. James Tokioka to the members of the House of Representatives.