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Graduate Winston Lee advocates taking full advantage of BYU–Hawaii’s opportunities

Winston Lee sits at the entrance of BYUH on the sign that reads "Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve."

As Winston Lee wrapped up his last semester before his graduation, he expressed gratitude for BYUH, he encouraged students to take full advantage of the blessings of the university through dedicated study, and looks forward to future goals for his career and his family.

Lee, from Cebu City in the Philippines, said he began studying at BYUH during Fall Semester 2016. He graduated with an accounting degree, which he called “the most fun major,” with a laugh.

Lee explained he tried a few different majors before deciding on accounting, but he realized accounting plays to his strengths and satisfies what he is looking for in a career that will provide for him and his family. For Lee, “If you’re happy in what you do, if you’re satisfied with it, then that’s good enough. I’m pretty satisfied with my life so far.”


Something on Lee’s mind were the privileges students have when they attend BYUH. “We’ve been given a lot of privileges here, [such as] being able to go to a university that’s not expensive,” he said. “A lot of the students here are IWORK students, [including] me, and so I [have been] thinking about being grateful for the privileges given to me.”

Lee urged his fellow students to make the most of these opportunities by applying themselves to their studies. “There are other kids out there who wanted to finish college but don’t have the means to do so.” He said he hopes all students with this privilege can “[take] advantage of those privileges and be thankful for them.”

“[Since] I was given the privilege of studying here, I think I should do my best,” Lee asserted. He encouraged everyone with whom he shares this opportunity to do their best, whatever that looks like for them. “The best for [one person] isn’t the same as for another. So it’s up to each individual to identify what are the best means for them and be consistent in working towards them.”

The best for [one person] isn’t the same as for another. So it’s up to each individual to identify what are the best means for them and be consistent in working towards them.
Winston Lee

During his time at BYUH, Lee said he sought to do his best by setting a goal to graduate with honors. “There are some classes that are really hard. Even though I put in so much time, I still couldn’t get the grade I wanted,” Lee said.

He shared he is proud his perseverance in his studies are reflected in his grades. “I feel like I could have done a lot better, but I’m still proud of myself. When you overcome hardships, [whether] they’re big or small, you should celebrate those. I celebrate every time I get a good grade.”

Professors who’ve had Lee in their class said he has set a good example through his persistence and love of learning.

One of his professors said, “Winston is an excellent example of one who has fully taken advantage of his opportunities at BYUH. In addition to majoring in accounting, which is one of the most challenging majors, Winston will also earn four minors. He is not on the Holokai GE program, so the minors are not required for his graduation. He simply has chosen to earn the minors because he loves to learn and wants to take advantage of everything he can while he is here.”

Professor Jennifer Chen, in the Faculty of Business & Government, expressed similar sentiments. “Winston takes responsibility for his own education, studies to learn and incorporates the material instead of just for passing the exam,” she said.

Lee also noted how an important part of taking advantage of the blessings of BYUH is regularly attending church meetings and the temple. He said he feels gratitude for the ease with which they can be accessed.

As he works towards success in his career, whether in accounting or in the areas he has studied in his minors, Lee said he has in mind a long-term goal of creating a business that will share these blessings with people who need the same help.

“I was so inspired by the IWORK program. My mom is a teacher. She teaches in a public school with really poor kids who want to go to college but can’t afford to. I want to implement something like an IWORK program to help [students like them].

“I want to build a company and then hire some kids who can work part time there, and I can support their studies. That probably won’t happen for 10 or 15 years, but that’s the goal. I want to give back to the community. It’s great to help other people achieve their dreams.”


Lee plans to return to Cebu City after graduation, though he is open to opportunities that could take him to new places. He said he hopes to find a job in a well-known company where he can apply what he’s learned and gain skills he can apply to future endeavors.

A driving motivation in Lee’s studies and many of his future career goals center around his desire to earn enough to provide for his family, both at home and the family he plans to build in the near future.

“I come from a family who’s not very well off. So, one thing that inspires me is [wanting] to make my current family and future family’s financial situation better,” he said. He also shared how video chats with his family each week have meant everything to him while he’s been at school, and he looks forward to using his education to make their lives better.

As Lee looks forward to his future family, he added how thoughts of his long-distance girlfriend come to mind. He explained how being in a long-distance relationship while in school has been both a blessing and a struggle. “When you’re in a long-distance relationship, you maintain the relationship [through] calling almost daily, video chatting, or giving gifts. It’s really limited how you can show affection in a long-distance relationship, and it’s hard because you can’t see each other.”

Despite the struggle, Lee expressed how looking forward to starting a family has motivated him throughout his time in school as well as taught him patience. “Usually here at BYUH, people get married really early, at 21 or 22. I am a little bit older than that, I’m 26, turning 27 this year. It’s a good age to get married ... We have plans, and it’s what we look forward to. That’s what you hold on to in [a long-distance relationship], the plans you have for the future.”

Tips for current students

Lee left a few words of advice for current and future students. “Make a lot of friends while being here,” he encouraged. “It will help you in many ways. Friends help you get out and do fun things.” He said making friends with people of different cultural backgrounds and taking time to learn about and experience different cultures has helped him “be more open to other people and how they think.”

In one instance, he explained how he tends to get stressed out sometimes, but the Hawaiian Islands and their people have taught him to slow down and appreciate the beauty around him.

Lee also advocated for “[making] your teachers your friends. Not a lot of universities have the student-to-teacher ratio [we have here]. You can [build] close relationships with your professors. When you make them your friends, then you can be comfortable asking them questions when you need help. I did that, and I think it went well for me.

You can [build] close relationships with your professors. When you make them your friends, then you can be comfortable asking them questions when you need help.
Winston Lee

“Clean your room,” Lee exclaimed. “When you have an organized and clean room, it will help you in your studies and help you focus.

“For international students, develop your English and, if possible, learn another language. The more languages you know, the better you can communicate with people and express yourself.”