Marieke Renz, a native of Frankfurt, Germany, is one of several international students who joined the HPA community for her sophomore year. Coming from a public high school, where she was a strong student, Marieke came to HPA looking for a challenge.
When you were looking for an international experience, why did you pick HPA in the end?
When I was as young as sixth grade, I’d been thinking about doing an exchange year, and by the time I was in ninth grade, my parents really supported the idea. I wanted an experience of being independent, doing things by myself—doing things for myself. Actually, I wanted an adventure.
How do you think you’ve changed as a result of your experiences here?
Everything was a challenge at first—living in the dorm, getting used to a new school, speaking a different language I didn’t always understand. But I gradually figured out how to approach things. But the biggest change? I’ve learned it’s okay not to be perfect all the time, that you can make a mistake and start again. That’s how I’ve grown, letting myself make mistakes and learning from them.
You’ve accomplished a lot as an artist this year. What drew you to art?
I didn’t really think of myself as an artist before I came to HPA. In Germany, all students take art once a week. It isn’t focused or intense, as it is here. What I love about these classes is that even though the work is challenging, there is room for fun, for experimentation. I had this one painting project that wasn’t going well. We had to use found tools, like sticks, to create texture. But experimenting with different tools, I became much happier with it. With my art, you can tell if I had fun making it. It’s in the work.
What will you bring back to Germany from HPA?
In Germany, students are graded for how well they speak, so sometimes they’re afraid of saying something wrong. But here, we can express our thoughts, our ideas. You get more out of school and learning if you’re having fun, being creative, and trying. Another thing I’ll bring back—so many memories of what I’ve seen on the Big Island. Once, when I was swimming with a friend off a beach near Kona, we found ourselves surrounded by dolphins, hundreds of dolphins. It was really magical. HPA has so many opportunities for adventure. The only place I haven’t gone yet is up Maunakea. I’ll have to come back for that. And I will be back.