As a member of a military family, moving is second nature for incoming Illinois State University student Maylee Demling.

Demling’s father has been stationed all around the country, from her birth state of Virginia to North Carolina to her current home in Ewa Beach, located on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, where she has lived for the last seven years. So, it wasn’t anything new for Demling when she packed up and traveled over 4,000 miles this August to Normal and to begin her first year as a Redbird.

“Over here, everything is a lot more relaxed. Everyone is kind of on their own time and doing their own thing,” said Demling. “Growing up here was really nice, but I’m so ready for a change.”

Demling is one of only five students from Hawaii entering the University this fall, but she has been to Illinois before; her parents grew up in Lincoln, 35 miles south of Illinois State University’s hometown of Normal. Her grandmother still lives there, and Demling plans to visit her on the weekends, especially when laundry day comes around.

“I’m excited to be near family that I haven’t been able to see,” said Demling. “It’ll be nice to be around people I know to have that support system, but still being far enough away to be independent.”

Demling’s decision to come to Illinois State was largely due to the School of Kinesiology and Recreation’s strong exercise science major. Demling’s neighbor in Ewa Beach, an Illinois State alum, mentioned the program to her.

Demling had planned to join the University’s gymnastics team before suffering a severe knee injury this year that prevents her from participating in that sport and another one of her favorite activities, surfing. Although this experience has been far from ideal, it helped Demling find her passion for physical therapy and inspired her to pursue a career in athletic training.

“I did physical therapy for a very long time. I’ve seen the process, so I wanted to do something with physical therapy but still be involved with sports,” said Demling. “I would love to be an athletic trainer in the NFL one day.”

Now Demling plans to get involved at Illinois State by joining registered student organizations (RSOs) and is looking forward to exploring campus.

“The Quad was really beautiful to me, and I’m from Hawaii so that says a lot,” said Demling. “I’m just so excited for the student life, to be on my own and meet new people.”

Demling will miss Hawaii and her parents; her two younger siblings; and her German shepherd, named Kekoa, meaning “the brave one” in Hawaiian, which Demling thinks is funny considering her dog’s personality.  

“He is not brave, he is not brave at all,” said Demling.

Demling believes that going to Illinois State will make her appreciate home even more when she returns for breaks and when Illinois winters get especially cold. She also thinks that anyone who is considering attending college far away from home should give it a try, no matter now nervous they might be about making the move.

“I wish I had this advice when I was getting ready to leave, because I was so hesitant to do it, but just do it,” said Demling. “I think that now is the best time to go because you will still have your support system and you’ll have people on campus looking out for you. It will be a good experience, and you’ll be able to look back and think, ‘Wow, I moved across the country for college,’ and that’s so cool to me.”

Read about all of the students featured in our “Newest Redbirds” series at