Maui surfer turns to traditional education with all odds against him

Written by: 
Mason Cole
Alec Alberdi spent most of his time at BYUH in the library.


Graduating senior of hospitality and tourism management, Alec Alberdi from Maui, is more than aware of the difficulties of pursuing a higher education. He shared, “No one should be afraid of pursuing their dreams of earning a university degree. With enough hard work and time management, anyone can achieve graduation. Even I did.

“Everyone comes from a different background, but that doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish the same thing as the next person. It is all a matter of what your priorities are, and how much work you are willing to put in.”

He continued, “For me, I had to spend twice as much time in the library as most students to get the material down. It is never a matter of if you can do something, just if you’re willing to sacrifice enough for it.”

Geneve Ashworth, a recent HTM graduate from Washington, said of Alec, “He works harder than any other student I know to constantly improve himself and help those around him to be more successful.”

Alberdi said of himself, “I didn’t really go to school growing up. Most of my time from third grade to high school was spent surfing, free diving, or hanging out with friends, which I feel was really important towards my development. At the same time, transitioning to a strict academic program was also more of an adjustment.”

Shannan McDevitt, a senior in English from Connecticut, and a friend of Alec’s commented, “I met Alec when he first came here. He was intimidated by school and was in the library all the time. He still is in the library all the time, but because he is passionate about his studies.”

Alberdi supported McDevitt’s comment as he shared, “My first semester I was a shut-in, living in the library. Studying every day… Not every term went smoothly, but learning time management makes all the difference in college.”

He explained finding time to surf and dive, usually on weekends, was extremely important in staying healthy and on track in school. He also emphasized how putting school first was of necessity, even at the loss of free time.

Alberdi sacrificed for years to earn a place at a university. “I had worked for two years doing manual labor before coming here. I needed change, so I applied. The transition was an interesting one based off of my background. It was life changing.”

Alberdi initially came to BYU–Hawaii with low expectations. “My freshman mindset was, ‘I am just going to try it out and see what happens.’ I had gotten my GED after not attending school for a decade, so college was a daunting idea to someone who had never dealt with structure before.”

Compensating his lack of a regimented education with self-study in the local library was one of the most important factors in his development. He explained, “I learned how to learn by following my interests in the library. Anyone can self-educate and become better.”

As for plans after graduation, they are loosely outlined, Alberdi said. “I want to reward myself and spend the next one to two years surfing, enjoying a break before I dive into the professional world.

“One of the main drivers for my major was relevance to the kind of lifestyle I want to live. Hawaii is dominated by tourism, and this is where I want to be.”


Date Published: 
Thursday, January 3, 2019
Last Edited: 
Thursday, January 3, 2019