While family and friends congratulate them for going to school in paradise, students said the education and environment were their primary reasons for coming to BYU-Hawaii.
“I was very excited because, I mean, it’s Hawaii,” explained Moses Rodrigues, a freshman from Mexico majoring in communications. “When I told people I was coming here for school they thought it was just for a vacation or something.”
But Olive Yee Mon, a senior from Burma studying political science and communications, said she cares more about the social environment than the elements of paradise.
“When you say Hawaii, [people are] like ‘wow,’ but after living in different countries, I just don’t really care about the fact that it’s Hawaii. I like it here because it feels like home. The weather, the people, the culture, the interactions–everything is similar to home.”
Mon studied at BYU at Provo before transferring to BYUH. She said Provo “was really nice but very competitive.”
Mon said that when she looked into BYUH, she thought it might be a more comfortable fit for her, weather included. “I like it warm and hot, not dealing with the snow. That’s one of the main reasons I transferred.”
But not all students come here for the climate. “I was never too fond of the beach or the heat when I came here previously,” said Noelani Cruz, a freshman from Oregon studying business. “When I received the notification that I had been accepted I figured, ‘Okay, why not?’... I told myself that this opportunity was given to me for a reason so I might as well take advantage of it.”
And for another student, the opportunity to come to BYUH was a surprise when other plans fell through.
“Ever since I was little, my mother had this dream of me studying at Provo,” said Mariana Rudyk, a sophomore from the Ukraine studying political science.
But before she could fulfill her mother’s dream, Rudyk had to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language, which is required for international students to study at English-speaking universities.
Rudyk said she got sick right before the test and didn’t do as well as she had hoped, but it ended up working in her favor. “I’m happy that I didn’t get into Provo and I got into BYU-Hawaii because this place is so amazing!”
Not only do students have different reasons for coming to BYU Hawaii, they also have different reasons for staying.
“It had a lot to do with the program that I wanted to go into,” said Mon. “I love the school environment and people are not competitive. I don’t like to compete because we all have our pace in life and I just want to enjoy it.”
Rudyk said, “I thought when I changed my major to political science, I would transfer [to Provo]. But Hawaii itself is a better place to live and at the same time, I think that people here are more understanding and kind.”
While some students have found a permanent place to complete their education, others still aren’t positive they want to stay.
“As of right now, I am not sure if this is the place I want to stay until I graduate” explained Cruz. “For me personally, I like being on the move and not being in the same place all the time, and the fact that we’re on an island makes that difficult for me to do.”