June 2020 graduate Sean Somoray reflected on the highlights of his academic journey, which he said he dedicated to his grandfather who supported him coming to BYU-Hawaii from the Philippines and who passed away the same year he started school here in 2016.
Somoray said his grandfather was very excited when he found out his grandson was going to study in the United States. He gave him a dollar bill, which Somoray said he has kept throughout the years. A month after he found out he was accepted to BYUH, his family found out his grandfather was struggling with cancer.
"I remember when he was in the National Kidney Transplant Institute hospital. In my mind, I was hoping that I [would] still get to see him after I graduate. While on our way out to the hospital, my mother and I talked about what might happen to him. She told me that if I ever got an award in school, to dedicate it to my grandfather."
While on our way out to the hospital, my mother and I talked about what might happen to him. She told me that if I ever got an award in school, to dedicate it to my grandfather.
So when Somoray graduated from BYUH summa cum laude, the highest academic recognition, he dedicated his degree to his grandfather.
Some of the other highlights of his college education included being part of RiceUp, a BYUH Enactus project to empower farmers in the Philippines, BYU-Hawaii Concert Choir, and meeting his wife, he said.
Somoray said his journey towards his bachelor's degree was long, yet it made up some of the best years of his life because he learned persistence and diligence. These two character traits helped him focus on finishing what he started. "I may not have started strong, but I was able to finish strong. The events that happened in-between made me stronger," he stated.
I may not have started strong, but I was able to finish strong. The events that happened in-between made me stronger
Back in 2011, Somoray said he started college in the Philippines. He was studying business at Fatima University, located in his hometown. "I remember in my first few days of class. I didn't like it because I wanted to study film.” But then he said one day “when my mother and I were driving on our way to school, we talked about applying for BYUH after my mission."
Somoray put his studies in the Philippines on hold in 2013 to serve in the Philippines Cagayan De Oro Mission. When he got back home, he said he applied to BYUH and got accepted. "I couldn't believe it. It was really happening," he recalled. "What I only thought about a few years back was now becoming a reality! I got to study in America, and I was so excited."
In July 2016, Somoray started his educational pursuit at BYUH. "When I came to Hawaii, I was far away from my family again. Luckily, I found another family with whom I feel like I belong. That family is made up of my friends."
Somoray said his friends made his life colorful. "They were there throughout the ups and downs of my life here at BYUH. Those moments, even the mundane ones, were the memories that I'll carry with me after my time in school."
Terry Tung, a December 2019 alumnus from Hong Kong, who majored in social work, said he and Somoray used to work together at the Polynesian Cultural Center's Hale Aloha as leads, where they met and became friends. "He invited me to be in his video project called 'The Freshman Short Film.’ Sean is not only a talented person, but he is also very humble and hardworking. Sean is strong-minded and does not like to give up.
"Once he has set his mind on his goals, he has the determination required to achieve his goals. Sean is honest about his dealings with his friends and other people. He is genuine and never talks bad about people. He is also a very grateful person. He knows the people [who] helped him along his difficult times, and he remains grateful to those people. All of these make Sean a very respectable and admirable person. I see him as a role model in many different ways. I am glad to be one of his friends," Tung shared.
Once he has set his mind on his goals, he has the determination required to achieve his goals. Sean is honest about his dealings with his friends and other people. He is genuine and never talks bad about people.
Joan Rey, a senior from the Philippines majoring in communications, said she met Somoray during RiceUp meetings, and since then, they became friends. "Sean is a hardworking person. I would say whatever task you assigned him to do, he will do it. You can count on him. Sean is also a very humble and kind person. I never heard him giving a negative criticism to anyone, even if it's just a social gathering with very close friends. He is a nice cook too."
Somoray said BYUH helped him stretch beyond his limits. He said he realized this when he joined Enactus in 2017. "We practiced early in the morning and late at night all in one day. It was very intense. But it is an experience I'm grateful for because I was able to do something hard and was able to achieve it. Those practices were in preparation for the Enactus World Cup, where my friends and I went to London to compete with other universities."
Somoray also was a part of the BYUH Concert Choir. He said it was one of the best experiences he had at the school. He joined the choir in his third semester but thought about quitting because it took a lot of time away from his studies.
"I talked to the choir president at that time and told him about my concern. He encouraged me to stay until we completed our performance for the semester. Oh, I would have regretted it if I really left, because when I was in the concert choir, I had the opportunity to sing for some of the apostles who would visit the campus."
He also said he had a chance to sing for the whole world. When one of the apostles came to BYUH, it was broadcast live globally. "I never imagined that I would be able to sing to an audience from across the globe. But it didn't stop there. Last year, we had the opportunity to travel to New Zealand and Tahiti to sing for the people in those countries." Somoray said he met many wonderful people that he will never forget.
While he was studying, he said he was working part-time to help pay for his education. "I'm forever grateful for the IWORK program, especially, to the generous donors of the program who helped me make it to this point."
He also credited his professors at BYUH for his love of business, saying how they cared about him and his progress. "Back in 2011, I thought business management wasn't something I would like to do in the future. Guess what? I learned to love it! My professors always welcomed me in their offices when I needed help or asked for feedback about my work. It's because of them that I was able to achieve my educational achievements."
My professors always welcomed me in their offices when I needed help or asked for feedback about my work. It's because of them that I was able to achieve my educational achievements
Jeff Cruz, a senior from the Philippines, majoring in marketing and human resources, shared he and Somoray came to BYUH at the same time. "I have known Sean for a while now, and we still keep in touch. Because we almost have the same view in business, we always used to talk about different ideas, strategies, innovations, etc.
"We often took the same class, and I worked with him in different presidency positions for organizations at school. He is intelligent, humble, understanding, and obedient to the Lord. One thing that I will never forget about Sean is his humility. He is an excellent listener. He applies those principles that he learned in real life. As a business major and enthusiast, this is the kind of person that you want to be in your organization. Hopefully, we will end up not just being friends, but also business partners in the future," Cruz said.
Somoray said his biggest blessing at BYUH was finding his wife, Anna Gomez. He met her in his senior year, he added, and she helped him to endure to the very end. "She made my last year in school the best year that I had."
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