McCall Skalla, a graduating psychology major, was surprised to learn this was her final semester at BYU-Hawaii until her academic advisor surprised her with the news. “I went in [last semester] and talked to the academic adviser to sign up for classes, and they told me I was graduating the next semester,” she said. “I thought I was graduating in at least a year, probably more.
“I was so surprised. It was really scary, but the closer it gets the more exited I get.”
Skalla was born in Texas, but said she moved to the small town of Ridgway, Colorado when she was 12. Her graduating class consisted of 20 people. She played volleyball, basketball, and barrel raced horses on the high school rodeo team and said she has had horses her whole life. Her sister, Brynne, is a freshman political science major at BYU-Hawaii.
“My mom and dad met here at BYU-Hawaii,” said Skalla, “I never really thought I was going to get in though. I kind of thought it would be cool to go here, but my brother was going to BYU-Idaho at the time, and I thought I would just end up going there with him. [BYUH] took a long time to get back to me so I thought I was going to go to Idaho. I got in and was really excited, but I still wasn’t very sure if I was going to go. I prayed about it and eventually decided I was going to go to Hawaii.”
Skalla said she didn’t know anyone at BYUH when she came. She said, “It was funny because a lot of the people my parents came to school here with also had kids who were going to come to school here, so they set me up to live with them. It was like an arranged friendship, so that was fun.
“My mom and grandparents brought me out here and dropped me off. My mom was super exited as we drove up here. She would say things like, ‘That’s Chinaman’s Hat because it looks like a Chinese man’s hat.’ She was just pointing at everything so exited saying, ‘Everything has changed but it hasn’t changed at all,’ and things like that. She was just so excited to tell me all these random facts.
“I was nervous starting out because I wasn’t very social, but it ended up being really fun.” She first lived in Hale 9 with a South Korean roommate but moved out the next semester to live with her “really close friends” in the Canal House. She said during her freshman year, they would do hikes and go around the island. “We took the bus everywhere, which was an experience. We met a lot of weird people on the bus. Then one of our friends got a car and we didn’t use the bus anymore, which was nice.”
Throughout Skalla’s time at BYUH, she said she has had several different jobs. “For my first job here, I worked the same job my mother worked when she was studying here: a lighting technician. I got that job because my mom’s old boss was still working there and she emailed him saying, ‘Hey, do you want to hire my daughter?’ Then he hired me. That was kind of weird but cool. After that, I worked at the Seasider and at Turtle Bay doing the horse tours. I ended up tearing my ACL and meniscus and had to quit though. I work at Wili Wili’s Shave Ice right now.”
Skalla didn’t always want to study psychology. She said, “I was going to major in elementary education, but I went home one summer and my parents wanted me to homeschool my brother. It was not fun, so I decided I did not want to teach children anymore.”
Regarding the psychology program, Skalla said she liked how her professors had different specializations. “I especially liked my PSYC 490 class because I was able to choose my own topic and do all of my own research about it. Dr. Beckstead was our teacher and was super helpful and encouraging, even after all of the times we would go and bug him asking him for help.”
Aside from her education at BYUH, Skalla mentioned some spiritual benefits from studying here. “I really liked having the temple so close. I noticed when I started going on a weekly basis, it really helped. I also really like being at a school where there are a lot of people who have similar values. In my hometown, there aren’t really any other people besides my family who are of my same faith.”
When asked what her favorite adventure was, Skalla said, “Swimming with dolphins on the west side of the island was probably my best memory. I remember one time when we were swimming, and there were dolphins everywhere. It was such a cool experience. There were probably at least 100. It was amazing.”
Brynne was also there. She said, “My first Labor Day weekend here was super fun. I knew I went to the right school when my sister took me to swim with dolphins. It was so cool.”
A fear of the future is common among graduating seniors, but Skalla said she has firm plans. She explained, “I have an internship in Nepal that starts in September. It is three months and we are going to be working with women and children who have been rescued from sex trafficking. After that, I am probably going to go to Utah and try and get a job at a therapy clinic. There are a lot of recreational therapy programs where you go and do white water rafting or horseback riding and other things like that. After that, I have to take the G.R.E., and then try and go to graduate school.”
Skalla advised, “My dad tells me to study all day, and my mom tells me to forget about school. I don’t think either of those are great advice. I think there is a happy medium. Obviously school is important, but we are in Hawaii and a lot of us won’t get the opportunity to be here again, so take advantage of it! Do as many fun things as you can while you are here.”