Semester Spotlight


The Semester At-a-Glance


13 Weeks

College Credits

16 Credits

Program Cost

$12,500 - $22,500 sliding scale


Mix of hotels, hostels, homestays (fall 2021), base houses, and student residences

Included Meals

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Anticipated Course Selection

  • Sociology of Identity
  • Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
  • Introduction to Environmental Science
  • Special Topics in Hawaii
  • World Literature
  • Rhetoric & Research

Upcoming Program Dates

September – December, Fall 2021 Semester


Location Focus


Spend eight weeks of your Verto semester on the Big Island of Hawaii and a month on Oahu. While studying Cultural Anthropology, learn how Hawaii’s history has shaped its unique culture. Explore Hawaiian values, customs, and traditions through interviews, field notes, and incredible local experiences. While taking a Sociology course focusing on Identity, learn from local NGOs and activists about how identity shapes activism and leads to positive social change. Get out and explore some of the island’s most beautiful coastal and inland locations including Waipiʻo Valley and Volcano National Park. Study Hawaii’s natural history and the impact of climate change on Hawaii’s natural environment during your Environmental Science course. Take part in projects rooted in preserving culture and aimed at conserving native species and their habitats through field work in stunning and vulnerable marine habitats.

Arrive in Hawaii

Week 1: Orientation

Aloha! Welcome to Hawaii. Arrive at Hilo International airport. Have orientation to the semester overlooking Hilo Bay. Settle into the beautiful bayside property that will be home for the next four weeks. Begin your environmental science course with a lab studying the evolutionary adaptations of birds and get acquainted with the geology of the island by visiting a nearby volcano and studying a lava tube at Kaumana Caves State Park. Set group norms as part of your Special Topics course. 

Week 2

Check out the famous Hilo farmers market on the weekend; grab fresh fruit or a smoothie and get to know your neighbors. In your environmental science course, dive into ecoagriculture with a visit to an organic farm. Come to understand the importance of avoiding monocultures as it relates to Hawaiian traditions, values, spirituality, and social structures, and study the physical and chemical nature of soils during your visit to the Waipio Valley. In your rhetoric and world literature courses, you’ll be considering the ideas of home and what it means to be a traveler.

Week 3

No better place than the big island of Hawaii to study climate, energy, and weather. Visit the Makai Ocean Engineering’s ocean thermal energy conversion power plant and the Natural Energy Lab of Hawaii Authority. Check out the gorgeous ʻAkaka Falls State Park or take a surf lesson during your weekend free time.

Week 4

Wrap up your environmental science course and your time in Hilo with a discussion on environmental ethics and sustainability. After four weeks in Hawaii, you’ll have gained a deep understanding of the respect for and connection with the land embedded in Hawaiian culture; conservation and sustainability have been core to Hawaiian ways of living since the ancient Hawaiians. Your environmental science course will have given you a solid foundation for your Cultural Anthropology course, which is next on the docket. 

Week 5

Move from the east side of the island to the west side of the island and settle into Kona, your home for the next four weeks. Shielded by Mauna Loa from the winds, the west side of the island tends to be sunnier and the waters tend to be clearer which makes for gorgeous views. Your anthropology course begins with a look at the concept of enculturation which you’ll examine by reading works of fiction. 

Week 6

Visit a coffee farm to see how the famous Kona coffee is made from bean to cup. Snorkel above huge manta rays as they become more active at night. In your anthropology course, interview local Hawaiians while you’re studying cultural constructs.

Week 7

Summit the tallest mountain in the world (if you start from underwater!), Mauna Kea, and check out the gorgeous black sand beach at Punaluu. Weave these experiences into your anthropology course, as this week’s focus is environmental anthropology. 

Week 8

Wind down your time in Kona and the big island as well as your anthropology course. Complete your culminating project in Anthropology–an ethnography– and share it with your peers, while beginning a unit on research in your rhetoric course. Have one more beach-side BBQ before you transition to Oahu.

Continue on to Maui

Week 9

Welcome to Oahu! Settle into your accommodations on the famous Waikiki beach where the sand and the surf are just steps away. There are few places that combine an urban skyline with such spectacular natural wonders like Honolulu. While on Oahu, you’ll study the sociology of identity. This course begins with an overview of sociology as a discipline and an introduction to sociological research methods. Learn how Hawaiians traditionally managed their lands using a system of equitably dividing resources called Ahupua‘a.

Week 10

During week 10, you’ll be studying socialization, stratification, and deviance in your sociology course. You’ll learn more about inequality and the criminal justice system in the US broadly and in Hawaii specifically through meetings with academics and local organizations. Outside of class, hike nearby Diamond Head, trek up the Nuuanu Pali lookout, or grab a surfboard and surf Waikiki.

Week 11

Studying social institutions like the education system and religion means opportunities to interact with Hawaiian educators and visit sacred sites. In rhetoric class, begin the culminating unit where you’ll be forming your own writer’s statement and sharing your semester’s work in a celebration of writing. Outside the classroom, head up to the North Shore and visit the surf village of Haleiwa, beaches of Banzai Pipeline, Sunset Beach and Waimea Bay.

Week 12

Your courses will wrap up this week. In sociology, you will be taking a hard look at the tourism industry that you’ve been a part of for the last 11 weeks. You’ll dive into the good and the bad of Hawaiian tourism to the local economy and culture, using site visits to highly touristic sites to conduct your research. After classes end, spend the weekend celebrating all that you have accomplished. Take one last rainforest hike or ocean swim, express your gratitude to Hawaii and each other, and head back home with your mind full of new ideas and wonderful memories.



College Readiness Curriculum Seminar

In collaboration with Verto faculty, Program Leaders will facilitate workshops to help students develop study habits to help them be a successful college student. They’ll learn how to manage their time, study efficiently and effectively, read academic text, prepare for exams, and build confidence in their academic capabilities. Activities in the College Readiness Curriculum are hands-on and directly related to creating strong academic habits that will serve students well beyond their Verto semesters.

Purpose-Finding Workshop

Throughout the semester, Program Leaders will facilitate small group workshops to help students discover their purpose and create an action plan for how to follow through on their goals. Each student is assigned an individual Program Leader mentor who helps students set goals for the program and meets with the student regularly to provide feedback and support around the challenges associated with being abroad. This workshop will help students understand culture shock, cross-cultural communication, mindfulness, and help put their semester abroad into the context of their life and the future.

Community Building

Verto Program Teams will create purposeful activities to build a strong community amongst Verto students. The connections you make during your Verto semester will last a lifetime! In addition to the College Readiness and Purpose-Finding workshops, Program Teams will cultivate a community of acceptance, connection, openness, and support amongst Verto students. There are built-in opportunities for students to learn and grow together as a group with an emphasis on peer relationships and teamwork.

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Important Information

Details about Verto Hawaii Semester:


Students will live in a mix of hotels, hostels, homestays (fall 2021), base houses, and student residences. All accommodations are approved through Verto’s thorough vetting process and deemed safe and appropriate for students.


3 meals / day are included in the semester fee.


Students are responsible for booking their flights to and from their homes at the beginning and end of the semester.

Verto will book the flight between the Big Island and Oahu in order to secure group pricing and allow students to travel together.  Please note though, that the cost of the semester does not include internal airfare and families will be invoiced for this expense.


Excursions built into the semester include taking part in Hawaiian traditions and cultural practices like wayfinding as well as snorkeling, surfing, hiking, waterfalls, plenty of beach time, coffee plantation tours, and a lot more. Your Program Leaders will make sure you know your itinerary at the beginning of each week.


Recommend ~$100 per week. Because all expenses are covered in this semester, students should not need much spending money unless they wanted to purchase snacks, souvenirs, or personal items.

The Cost of Your Semester Includes:

  • 3 meals per day during the semester
  • Drinking water
  • All accommodation while overseas
  • All scheduled events
  • Park entry fees

The Cost of Your Semester Does Not Include:

  • Internal Airfare
  • Snacks
  • Fruit shakes, soft drinks, additional drinks at mealtimes
  • Souvenirs and gifts
  • Medical insurance and treatment
  • Laundry
  • Visa fees
  • Optional activities and associated equipment
  • Food, travel, and accommodation when traveling to, from, or between programs
  • Airline change fees or new tickets for flights to and from programs
  • Any costs associated with early departure from the program
  • Books and other course materials


Classes delivered in Hawaii are, in no particular order:

  • Sociology of Identity
  • Introduction to Cultural Anthropology 
  • Introduction to Environmental Science
  • Special Topics in Hawaii
  • Rhetoric and Research / World Literature (full semester)

Safety & Covid-19

The health and safety of our students is always our top priority. We’ve developed stages of planning to address the specific concern of Covid-19. Please read about our Covid-19 safety plan here.

We remain committed to the highest quality programming and success of our students. Please see Verto’s Programming Scenario Plan and Enrollment Guarantee for more details.

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