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Former Hawaii Honolulu missionary returns to BYU–Hawaii as a student

Seina Hamano smiles wearing a blue-flowered dress with a yellow lei with a black missionary name tag with her sister and brother-in-law standing on either side of her with a bamboo wall behind them.
Seina Hamano with her sister and brother-in-law.

While serving in the Hawaii Honolulu Mission, Seina Hamano said she fell in love with the kindness and spirituality of Laie and decided to attend BYU–Hawaii. Now, in her sophomore year, she said she learns from her friends and coworkers and tries to give back to the university by tutoring students in Japanese.

Destined to be in Laie 

Hamano, a sophomore from Japan majoring in intercultural peacebuilding, said she was happy she was called to serve in the Hawaii Honolulu Mission as a full-time missionary. She explained her sister served in the same mission and was a student at BYUH. “Me and my sister share a deep connection with this university,” Hamano said.

Saaya Hamano Knight, a BYUH alumna and sister of Hamano, said, “When Seina read it was the Hawaii Honolulu Mission, I couldn’t be happier for her. I had just finished my mission there and absolutely fell in love with the mission and the people. I was so excited and happy because I knew they would take really good care of her.”

Hamano shared, “When I arrived in Hawaii for my mission, my sister was just about to get married. On the fourth day of my mission, my sister got married in the temple, and she eventually flew to Utah with her husband, and we only just met for a few days. It was so cool I was able to attend her wedding.”

Falling in love with Laie  

When Hamano arrived as a missionary to Laie, she said she enjoyed the people. She explained, “Of course the place is very beautiful, but I feel more impressed with the people, how selfless they are and how warm they are to us. Through them, I understood the meaning of ohana by the way they live their lives.”

Hamano said Laie is very different from Japan, where she said most people do not believe in God and do not have religion. She continued, “Laie is a gathering place for the members and there are a lot of people who have a strong faith. I was surprised how big the Church is in the community.”

Knight echoed her sister’s love of the people of Laie and said Laie is full of energy and a good spirit which, she said, is contagious.

“That special spirit and energy becomes part of you as you live in the community,” Knight said. “I have so much love for the people [in Laie]. Many of the greatest people I have met were from the Laie community and BYUH campus. And for that, this community will always have my heart.”

During Hamano’s time as a missionary, she said she served in many YSA wards where she had many opportunities to serve among the BYUH students. She said she loves how the school has a blessed environment for the students where the people always help each other.

“Serving with the students increased my desire to want to come to the university because there is such a great example of service amongst them. I know they are busy, but they still feed us, help us and work with us missionaries.

“I wanted to be like the students who continued to do missionary work even after their missions. They made a great impression on me.”

Surrounded by great friends

Hamano said she has met a lot of great friends while attending BYUH. She said her friends have inspired her to be kind and compassionate to others, to work hard, to do her best and even to get out of her comfort zone.

“Because this is a Church university, I knew I would have great friends and great spirituality while I am studying as a student,” said Hamano.

MeLisa Oaks, a sophomore from Utah studying graphic design, said, “Seina is a good friend. She is very sincere, gentle, understanding, and I feel comfortable in her presence. She always says nice things about other people.

“She sees the good in other people, [gives] people the benefit of the doubt and also acknowledges good qualities about them,” Oaks added.

Hamano said she wants to be better at serving the people around her while attending BYUH. She said, “I am still learning, through my friends’ and coworkers’ examples, on how to support the people around me and how people around me can support me.”

Kanoko Yonei, a junior from Japan majoring in psychology, said, “I think [Hamano] is a very energetic person and she works hard in every aspect of her life. I am not a very outgoing person, but because of her example, I came to try to interact with other people like my classmates and roommates.

“She taught me to do my best in everything I deal with. She also taught me to be myself just the way I am.”

Contributing to the BYUH ohana 

As a Seasider, Hamano said she feels she contributes to the BYUH community in her own simple ways. She said one of her contributions is by being a Japanese tutor for students who want to learn the language.

“I am a Japanese tutor for Japanese 101 and 102. BYUH has a lot of international students. People who are learning different languages can get help from native speakers. I have no formal training on being a tutor, but I am grateful I can help the students who need assistance in learning the language.”

Hamano added she is also contributing to the campus by being part of the Relief Society presidency in her ward. “I have a lot of opportunities to go out and reach out to people in the ward, and it is a great experience for me.”