Inspiration, family and friends are reasons students choose to come to BYU–Hawaii
Written by
LeeAnn Lambert and Comm 211 students
BYUH students walk to their classes
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Keyu Xiao

Personal revelation, recommendations by family and friends, and the benefits of attending a Church university are reasons BYU–Hawaii students said they decided to attend school in Laie. More than 20 BYUH students interviewed on Sept. 5, the second day of the Fall 2019 Semester, shared how they each found their way to the university.

Bea V. Suyod, a sophomore from the Philippines majoring in accounting, said it is a miracle she is here at BYUH. Suyod said she didn’t complete the BYUH application on time, so she thought she wouldn’t be accepted. However, she said someone from the Admissions Office contacted her and asked if she wanted to continue the application process. She said yes and then later found out she was accepted and would be in the I-WORK program.

Makenzie Richey, a junior exercise and sport science major from Chimacum, Washington, said, “If you’re supposed to be here, the Lord will get you here.”

Suyod said another reason she made the choice to study at BYUH instead of a school in her own country, was she had friends who went to BYUH and they shared their experiences here with her. She said she wanted to have great and uplifting experiences like her friends as well. She added she likes the I-WORK program because it is helping her gain an education and to become more independent.

She said she also hopes to “accomplish the impossible” this semester because she is taking an ukulele class and she will have to play a solo and sing at the same time. Suyod said this will be a challenge for her, but she hopes to gain confidence by completing the class and doing the solo.


Personal revelation to come to BYUH

Hong Bin Lee, a junior from Korea studying information systems, said he came to BYUH to take advantages of the blessings and opportunities of going to a Church school. “BYUH helps students grow the ability to find opportunities in any field.” Lee said he wanted to study at a college with a great culture and the campus culture clubs help him build connections with his friends and have helped him to make more friends. Lee said BYUH also provides a wholesome environment to help him keep the Word of Wisdom. “It is hard in Korea because drinking alcohol is a common norm,” he said.

Lee said had no dreams and goals before he came to BYUH, but his sister, who graduated from BYUH, recommended this school and helped him apply. This semester he said he is looking forward to taking 18 credits, strengthening his weaknesses, and becoming more of an expert in what he studies.

Lindsey Cardon, a junior majoring in graphic design from Seattle, Washington, said she also felt inspired by the Holy Ghost through personal revelation to come to BYUH. “I went on my mission, and when I came back, I felt the priority should be BYUH first on my CES schools application list, even though I had planned on going to Idaho. I felt prompted to change my essays to better suit Hawaii, even though I was sure I was going to Idaho. I went to the temple, and I had a strong realization that I needed to be here at BYUH.” She said she is looking forward to “learning as much as I possibly can and maintaining a good relationship with my husband despite my busy schedule.”

After serving a mission in New Zealand, Austin Zacher, a freshman majoring in exercise and sport science from Billings, Montana, said he decided to come to BYUH.  On his mission, he said he “fell in love with the Polynesian culture, and when I got here, it felt like home.”

Zacher said the university is also important to him because “this is where I met my wife. So BYUH will always hold a special place in my heart.” He said this semester he is “looking forward to growing in knowledge and balancing school and marriage."

Another returned missionary, Anndi Marks, a freshman applied math major from Oregon, who said she came to BYUH because of the Japanese culture on campus since she is a returned missionary from the Japan Tokyo South Mission. Not only did she serve in Japan, but also she said her mother went to the exact same mission. “My mom also served on the Tokyo South Mission so I grew up with the culture. Before my mission, I was just admiring it from afar.” But she said on her mission she “got the chance to actually learn the good and bad of it."

Marks said her decision to come to BYUH was also influenced by her mother. “My mom went to this school, actually to all the BYU schools. She started at UVU, then transferred to Provo. She decided she didn’t want to be in Utah anymore, so she transferred to Hawaii but got homesick, so she transferred to BYUI where she had friends.”

Marks said this semester she is looking forward to her Japanese class and “remembering math” again after taking time off from school to serve a mission.

Richey said she applied with one of her mission companions to both BYU and BYUH for different semesters so they could try out both schools. She said she first attended Provo, but did not like it. While her companion did not get accepted to BYUH, Richey did.

She said she “immediately felt like she gained surety in [her] decision [to come to BYUH] from going to Provo.”

Richey said she is excited for this semester because “I get to study what I want because I'm further along in my program,” and will be able to select her own a research project topic for her exercise and sports science major.

Shelby Moore, a freshman majoring in graphic design and minoring in marketing and web development, said she is from Bowling Green, Kentucky. Moore said she felt BYUH was the school for her to go to and that it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. She also said she wanted to meet new people and experience living in a different place.
This semester Moore said she is looking forward to meeting new people, getting to experience the beauty of Hawaii, and taking her classes. Moore said one of the favorite things she has done thus far is hiking on the island. She said she lives in the dorms, and while it is great to be close to campus and easy to meet people, she said there are a lot of rules and there isn’t a kitchen in her dorm.

Alexis Branscomb, a junior from Utah majoring in history, said coming to BYUH was her second choice since she didn’t get into BYU. “I had applied to a few other state schools, but wanted to go to a Church school.” She said at one point, she “was actually set on going to Utah State University. It wasn’t until I watched General Conference when I realized that I needed to go here. I felt that I needed a Church school to be part of my education.” She added, “Hawaii sounded fun too.”

Branscomb said this semester she wants “to make friends with more international students. It is so diverse [here]. We are so lucky to have people from everywhere.” She continued, “I also want to try to do my homework before I go and play with friends, but we will see how that goes.”

Calvin Eastwood, a junior from Bothell, Washington majoring in business, said he works a marketing job in Honolulu which supports his major. He said he started his schooling at UVU in Utah, but after praying and receiving inspiration, he decided to transfer the Summer of 2019 to BYUH. In-state tuition in Utah was available for him at UVU, he said, since he served a mission in the state. However, he said the cost of an education is “ultimately cheaper” at BYUH. His goal for this semester is to “survive.” Eastwood and his wife just had a baby, he said, so they are just taking things one day at a time.


The influence of family and friends
Megan Peterson, a senior biology major from Washington, said a visit to Laie with her family helped her choose to come to BYUH.  "I made the decision to come here after coming here on a family vacation. My brother was out here for school, and I fell in love with the island."
She continued, “I'm really independent so I always wanted to come here. I influenced my decision to come here more than anyone else. However, my brother also influenced my decision since he was the first out of my family to come here for school, and he had a great experience.”
Peterson said while her “classes are really tough, I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”

Lostika Vaka, a freshman math major from Tonga, said she has wanted to come to BYUH most of her life. “Ever since I was a little girl, I knew BYUH was my future.” She said her family members have come to the university, and “my parents prompted me to go here.” Vaka said the I-WORK program and being close to a temple also helped her make the decision to come to Laie.

Melenaite Samani, a second-semester freshman majoring in accounting from Tonga, said the reason why she decided to attend BYUH is her father graduated from the university and he was a huge influence in helping her to make the decision to come here. She said she is mainly looking forward to Food Fest this semester and is excited for her classes. 

Quaid Westerlund, a freshman majoring in business management from New Zealand, said he decided to come to BYUH because he wanted to live in a community with members and feel the spiritual atmosphere. He said his father and friends from his home stake also told him about the school and encouraged him to come here. Westerlund said this semester he would like to make more new friends from other countries.

Useong Park, a sophomore majoring in computer science from South Korea, said his older sister graduated from BYUH and had a good experience, so he also decided to come here. Like Westerlund, Park said this semester he is “looking forward to making new friends from all over the world.”

Forrest Christensen, a sophomore majoring in graphic design from Alaska, said he was unsure about going to college right after high school, but his father helped motivate him to apply to BYUH. Christensen said he didn’t want to go to a big university. “That’s why I wanted to attend BYUH because it was a smaller school where I could feel comfortable talking to the professors.” He said the thing he is most looking forward to this semester is Food Fest.

Leroy Reed, a sophomore majoring in elementary education from Hawaii, said he knew exactly what to do to further his education and career. He was influenced by his family members as they were elementary teachers as well.

“Working with children for about 15 years, I figured this was the right direction I should head into,” he said. Starting his second year, Reed said he is looking forward to learning how to assess himself as a teacher and how to assess the students on what they’ve learned.

Ellen Ligaliga, a sophomore majoring in psychology from New Zealand, said her journey was inspired by three of her brothers and divine inspiration from God assuring her BYUH would be the right fit for her educational pursuits. She said she is looking forward to new experiences this semester and meeting new people. 

Seth Thomsen, a freshman majoring in business from Mililani, said he decided to come to BYUH because it’s convenient and “close to home.” Mililani is about 30 miles away from Laie. He said friends from high school helped him decide to come here, and he is hoping to pass his classes and make new friends this semester.

Moia Layne is a graduate of BYUH in psychology and is a Finnish-American who has dual citizenship and graduated from high school in Sweden. She said the warm weather was a factor for her choosing to come to Laie and that she was accepted to go to school here.

Layne said she has a good friend named Charlotte who was already going to BYUH. Layne said she had been talking to her friend and she recommended Layne come here too.

Now that she has graduated, Layne said she is most excited she can work 30 hours a week and she now has more time to plan her wedding, which is scheduled for Dec. 28. Her last semester at BYUH she said she was taking 20 credits and working 19 hours a week.


Additional reasons students came here

Jeremy Hawkins, a sophomore majoring in social work from American Samoa, said he came to BYUH because he wanted to go to pursue an education while staying in the Pacific Region.

“To study in Hawaii is a great opportunity that profits students from the South Pacific,” he said. Hawkins added his own life experiences, plus knowing friends from Samoa who attend school in Laie, also influenced his decision. He said he hopes to build better relationships and have a new beginning this semester.

Madison Smith is a senior from Seattle who said she loves to teach and is majoring in TESOL education. She said when she was 18 years old, she joined the Church. She said she decided to come to BYUH because it is a culturally diverse school. She did research, Smith said, and applied to the school on her own. Her parents helped her to pay for some of her tuition, she added. Smith said she loves learning, and she enjoys working in Aloha Center’s office.

Beretemwa Ieru, a sophomore majoring in biomedicine from Kiribati, said, “Normally people from Kirbati prefer going to school in Australia or New Zealand, but I always wanted to study in the U.S.”
She said her high school counselor helped her decide to come to BYUH. This semester Ieru said she is “looking forward to accomplishing my goals. If I fall down, I’ll get back up again.”

Emigo Zed is a junior majoring in elementary education from the Marshall Islands. She said she came to BYUH because “it is the only school that accepted me.” She said she applied to other schools in the islands, but none of them accepted her. She said she is studying here in part “because my parents want me to get a bachelor’s degree.” This semester she said her goal is to “get good grades, hopefully.”

Date Published
October 2, 2019
Last Edited
October 2, 2019