BYU–Hawaii students shared their expectations about going to college and how the reality of BYUH exceeded them in many aspects. They highlighted learning about new cultures was unexpected, yet they said it was the best part of studying at BYUH. They also said BYUH is a rigorously academic and spiritually nurturing environment.
Emily Eastwood, a senior from Washington majoring in elementary education, said attending BYUH went beyond her initial expectations. “I’d never been to Hawaii before I came for school, and I had a very ‘touristy’ idea of what my life would be like. I thought I would be living on the beach and live off of fresh mango and shave ice.
“In reality, I’ve definitely spent my fair share of time at the beach, but I was disappointed to find out eating mango for every meal gets old pretty quick,” Eastwood said.
Mungunsor Otgonbayar, a senior from Mongolia majoring in cultural anthropology, said he already predicted his experience in Hawaii would be very different from his home country before he came to Laie.
“I knew that culture, society, traditions and lifestyle would be very different, so I prepared myself mentally and avoided creating high expectations for myself. That helped me to adjust to the new environment without much culture shock.”
Otgonbayar explained how the only tough thing to adjust was the weather. “Because I came from a cold and dry Mongolian winter to a hot and humid Hawaii, it was hard.”
Discovering new cultures
Eastwood said she has been blessed in every aspect of her time here, but she believes the biggest blessings she did not expect was how Hawaii would teach her to love and respect other cultures. “I’ve learned to see Hawaii for what it is, instead of its tourist face.
“I’ve also learned so much about cultures around the world that I never could have at any other school.” Eastwood explained, “I’ve become a much more well-rounded and culturally aware individual, even though four years ago I had no idea that would be my favorite lesson from my time here.”
Otgonbayar shared living, working and studying with students from different nationalities helped him learn new things every day and see things from different aspects. “Everything was so new at the beginning, but I adjusted little by little. Now, I feel like I am at home at BYUH, even with over 70 different countries represented.”
Peyton Seiuli, a junior from Idaho majoring in cultural anthropology, said she did not know about Polynesian cultures before she came to BYUH. “It was amazing to learn about other cultures, and it is my major now. I also met my husband here. I never thought I would marry a Samoan.”
Lkhagvajargal Dalaichuluun, a sophomore from Mongolia majoring in business management supply chain said she also never expected to learn about the cultures of the islanders.
She said, “When I visited the Polynesian Cultural Center, I felt the aloha spirit from everyone who worked there. I was impressed that almost every Polynesian can speak English fluently.
“I love their dance and music. I was amazed when I learned their performance represents the nature of the Islands, like the ocean, mountain, flowers and more,” Dalaichuluun added.
Dalaichuluun shared how the United States’ educational system was very different from Mongolia’s education system. “In my home country, the education system is more focused on teachers. However, the U.S. college system is focused on students. As students, we are required to be more independent.”
She explained, “We have to explore, research and obtain knowledge by our own efforts with little guidance from professors.” She said at the beginning, it was difficult for her to get used to it. “In my first year, I struggled, but soon I adjusted to it and loved it.”
Seiuli said she is very satisfied with BYUH academics. “The classes are not so hard they would overwhelm me and make me quit. It is rigorous enough, and I am challenged in every class, but they are perfect for my growth. BYUH has so many resources that can help us. If you try, you can get the best out of BYUH.”
Eastwood said she thought she would have the same classroom experience as she did at BYU–Idaho. “I imagined huge, boring classes where you never talked to the professors, but I’ve been consistently excited about my classes and spent a lot more time working hard than playing outside.
“I’ve also had an amazing experience getting to know my teachers and having hands-on classroom experiences.” Eastwood added, “The small classes help me remember information better and make me feel more comfortable asking questions when I’m confused.”
Dalaichuluun said her spiritual expectations were also exceeded when she came to BYUH.
“The temple was the first building I saw when I came to the campus at first. I saw the temple picture many times, but the temple was so gorgeous and whiter than I ever thought. I couldn’t wait to enter and even serve there as an ordinance worker,” Dalaichuluun said.
Dalaichuluun shared that soon after her arrival at BYUH, she started to serve in the temple. “I felt that I have to be more obedient and virtuous to be a good guardian of the sacred ordinances. I feel so honored to wear my temple worker name tag every time. It feels like it is my other mission.”
Otgonbayar said he has never lived with so many Church members in close proximity, so it was very interesting and satisfying for him. “I loved all my religion classes. The professors’ lessons were spiritually very nurturing.”
Seiuli said she used to go to the temple for baptisms every day with her friend. “I heard many stories that people travel for many days to go to a temple. We are so blessed to have a temple right next to us. Attending the temple ordinances is very calming and uplifting.”
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